Pirelli World Challenge primer: Detroit

Leave a comment

The Pirelli World Challenge heads to the Raceway on Belle Isle in Detroit this weekend, as the GT and GTS classes prepare for the Cadillac V-Series Challenge doubleheader event. Race live streaming begins on Saturday at 9:45 a.m. ET on www.world-challengetv.com, with the race broadcast on the NBC Sports Network Sunday, June 16, at 5 p.m. ET.

Detroit is a hotbed for manufacturers, particularly GM, whose headquarters is on the other side of the street across the river. Cadillac swept the weekend last year with Johnny O’Connell.

This weekend, the question is whether the hometown brands can hold serve against the marquee manufacturers not based in Detroit.

So far Audi has taken three of five wins in GT with James Sofronas, the thus far dominant points leader in the No. 14 GMG R8, with Cadillac (O’Connell) and Volvo (Alex Figge) adding a win apiece. Besides the two Cadillacs, Mike Skeen’s CRP Racing Corvette could capture a win in the shadows of GM HQ. Otherwise, the selection of contenders from Audi, Volvo, Nissan, Porsche and Mercedes will fight it out for honors in the 12-car class.

GTS has a wide-open field between its 28 cars. Still, like in GT, one driver dominated the doubleheader a year ago: Andy Lee of Best IT Racing, in his Camaro. Lee got on the scoreboard for 2013 two weeks ago at the Circuit of the Americas, and has leapt to fourth place in points.

The other contenders include points leader Jack Baldwin in the GTSport Racing with Goldcrest Porsche Cayman, the Blackdog Camaro driven by Lawson Aschenbach, the RealTime Acura TSXs of Peter Cunningham and Nick Esayian, the pair of Kinetic Racing Kia Optimas and the fleet of Ford Mustang Boss 302Ss, which seek a solid run for the first time this year. Other manufacturers in the GTS field include Nissan, Lotus and Scion FR-S.

The full entry list is linked here.

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.