Despite crash last year, Hinchcliffe looks forward to Detroit return

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If anybody got the worst of the deteriorating track conditions that overshadowed last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series event at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, it was Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe. Problems with the track surface had been noticed very early in the race, but the event proceeded along until Hinchcliffe slammed the Turn 6 tire barriers on Lap 39 (pictured) after a large piece of sealant that had been pulled up from the track got stuck in his No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet.

The incident left the normally cheerful Canadian extremely agitated.

“The [expletive] track just came up,” Hinchcliffe yelled over radio communications with his team that were captured in last year’s TV broadcast. “They leave that big piece of track just sitting there, and look what happened! What the [expletive]?”

However, Hinchcliffe maintains that he is looking forward to a return to the Motor City this weekend and has been pleased with the effort by Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit organizers to revitalize the Belle Isle circuit – which includes a longer re-configuration of the track. He visited Belle Isle earlier this season to check out the improvements for himself.

“Obviously, last year wasn’t the best race for us, but having visited the site earlier this year and seeing the renovations and the updates, I really can’t wait to get back,” he said.

“The organization there has done an incredible job revamping the place after the event last year and the new configuration, I think, is going to suit our cars and our racing a whole lot better.”

As for the matter of taking on IndyCar’s first-ever doubleheader weekend – the series will stage 70-lap events this Saturday and Sunday – Hinchcliffe admitted that while he wasn’t sure how it would work out, he recognizes the need to provide more excitement and value for the fans.

“When you put [the track improvements] together with the fact that it’s the first doubleheader, it something that we know nothing about,” he continued. “I’d be lying if I didn’t have some apprehension about it, but at the same time, new things bring excitement. Looking forward to getting there and seeing how this new format unfolds.

“More than anything, hopefully it’s a good show for the fans because that’s what it’s all about.”

Hinchcliffe currently sits fifth in the championship, 40 markers behind teammate and new IndyCar points leader Marco Andretti.

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

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.