Conway’s bid for IndyCar sweep in Detroit comes up short

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Starting from pole in the second Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit race today at Belle Isle, Mike Conway once again appeared to have the car to beat after destroying the field in yesterday’s first doubleheader race. But a potential sweep in the Motor City – which would’ve also earned him a $50,000 bonus – was not to be for the Dale Coyne Racing driver, who had to settle for third place behind race winner Simon Pagenaud and fellow Englishman James Jakes in second.

Nonetheless, Conway, in a one-off role for DCR this weekend on Belle Isle, showed just how much of a dynamite road/street racer he is. He insists that he’ll never again race an open-wheel machine on an oval – something he gave up shortly before last year’s season finale at Fontana, California – but when it comes to racing on IndyCar’s twisty tracks, he’s now thoroughly established himself as a force to be reckoned with.

Conway momentarily lost the lead to Will Power while A.J. Allmendinger crashed on the opening lap, but got it right back on the next restart and maintained it through the ragged opening stages of Race 2. He and Scott Dixon pitted from first and second positions during the caution after a 10-car pileup on Lap 28, and Conway would eventually cycle back to the front on Lap 40 when Tristan Vautier abandoned the lead to come to pit road.

Six laps later, Conway was passed by Charlie Kimball just before he made his final stop of the day on Lap 47. When everything shook out following the stops, Conway was left in third position behind Jakes. As Pagenaud widened his insurmountable lead in the closing circuits, the two Brits battled for the runner-up spot before Jakes won out narrowly.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Conway. “It didn’t quite go our way today though. The right rear tire went down on reds, and I lost spots to Kimball and later Pagenaud. On the blacks, I pushed as hard as I could. I passed like six cars in one lap at one point. We didn’t quite have enough at the end; used our last push-to-pass too early.”

His IndyCar work is done for now, with his next likely appearance at Toronto’s doubleheader in July – Conway all but confirmed it during the post-race press conference. In the interim, Conway will shift focus back to his full-time sports car duties in the FIA World Endurance Championship. He and his No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca/Nissan teammates Roman Rusinov and John Martin make up one of 22 LMP2 entries slated for this year’s running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 22.

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
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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.