Realistically, it’s win or bust for Will Power this weekend in Brazil

1 Comment

It’s not worth mincing words: Will Power needs to win this weekend in Sao Paulo (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Power has gone more than a full calendar year, albeit only over by a few days, since his win at Brazil last year. That was his most recent win in IZOD IndyCar Series competition. The Verizon Team Penske driver has also gone a perfect three-for-three in winning at Sao Paulo, so that helps.

This year, a cartoon anvil has seemingly chased him around the first three races.

JR Hildebrand made a goofy mistake in St. Pete, crashing into Power’s right rear wheel guard under caution.

Power dropped like a stone in Barber on the start and only restart of the day and wound up a disheartening fifth, and needed a caution to make his strategy work.

Then in Long Beach, he was running fine before contact with Tristan Vautier in the pits cost him a right rear wheel guard again, and affected his straight line speed.

Earlier this year, Power described the competition level as “phenomenal,” because “one session you can be first, then you don’t gain enough in the next and you’re 16th.”

That it may be but if Power doesn’t get the job done this weekend, you’d think his next best chance would be the doubleheader weekend on the streets of Detroit, June 1-2. The oval stretch of the schedule comes after Brazil, with Detroit the only interruption.

Of Power’s 18 career wins (IndyCar and Champ Car combined), only one (Texas 2011 race 2) has come on an oval. He is the acknowledged road and street course master and until he breaks his duck on ovals, he’ll still have that stigma attached.

Or, for all we know, he could turn into an oval demon and win three or four oval races in the stretch between Indianapolis and Pocono, and pretty much turn the IndyCar world on its head.

Given the way this year has transpired, where there have already been two first-time winners and eight podium finishers of a possible nine, none of whom named Will Power or Dario Franchitti, would that be so far-fetched after all?

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
3 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.