Pagenaud seems primed for first Indy win in Long Beach

Leave a comment

Long Beach has featured many magical moments in its near 40-year race history, and in the last few years, Simon Pagenaud has delivered some new additions to that race log.

In 2010, Pagenaud pushed a down-on-power HPD prototype past a Lola Aston Martin V12 driven by Adrian Fernandez for the overall win in the American Le Mans Series race. Just last year, Pagenaud ran a three-stop strategy to near perfection in the IndyCar race, all but hunting down Will Power with a series of laps at qualifying pace and coming up just shy of his first series win.

It’s not the results for Pagenaud – he finished just behind third-placed James Hinchcliffe in his first North American race, the Formula Atlantic event in 2006, and has another ALMS win in 2009 – but the atmosphere and nature of the track that makes Long Beach so special.

“Long Beach is a very special place to me,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but I know I love the rhythm, how it feels with my race car. I love the level of attack you need to have. I don’t love it because of the results, but I do with how it feels.”

Pagenaud’s 2013 has gotten off to a mixed start; exhaust issues sidelined him at St. Pete but he and the Schmidt Hamilton team bounced back in Barber with sixth. There’s been less testing compared to last year, but the addition of Tristan Vautier has aided his progress with more data.

“I’m enjoying his data,” Pagenaud said. “From how he drives, it’s similar in many ways, but the differences will make me stronger. It’s the same for him. He’s a really good driver. The big thing is Tristan doesn’t want to focus too much on setup, but I think he’s plenty on the pace.”

The competition level is pleasing too, but in Pagenaud’s estimation, could be further enhanced if IndyCar adopts more horsepower for its engines. Honda and Chevrolet, too, are razor close.

“You really have to be on the whole time, because one little mistake and you’re 20th on the grid,” he said. “At Barber it happened to a few of us.

“What I take out of it, is we need more power to differentiate a little bit of quality. At the moment, it’s so close in part because there’s not much power as there should be. The ratio of grip to power is too small.”

Power – Will that is – is a guy Pagenaud will need to get through to secure his first IndyCar win, but I wouldn’t put it past him to do so on a circuit where he has enjoyed so much success in years past.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
2 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.