Wilson enters Texas ready to defend, and brimming with confidence

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It says something about the caliber of driver Justin Wilson is, and the caliber of team Dale Coyne has put together in the last few years, that Sunday’s second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit was disheartening.

“We’re looking for more. We were disappointed with Race 2, only getting one car on the podium. It was a big disappointment. That was a nice way to look at things,” Wilson said Wednesday in an INDYCAR teleconference.

A double podium finish in race one, with Mike Conway following up on Sunday, has seen Coyne’s team at stratospheric heights it hasn’t been anywhere previously in its 30-year history in the sport.

So Wilson enters this year’s race at Texas not as an underdog, but as the defending champion. His oval game has improved, as has Coyne’s, thanks to the work of engineers Bill Pappas and John Dick.

The win last year did wonders for Wilson’s confidence and validated both team and driver on ovals, thanks to IndyCar’s technical adjustments that made the cars tougher to drive.

“It meant a lot, not only with the recognition but in the confidence,” Wilson said. “That’s the biggest thing, is having the confidence on an oval.  I felt like I knew what I was doing, but I still wasn’t classed as an oval driver.  I was kind of disregarded.  From that point on, I felt I had the confidence to go out there.  I knew what I was doing, knew what I was trying to achieve with the car in the race.”

Come this year, the aero is again slightly different, with the speedway aero configuration as used at Indianapolis and Fontana on for Texas, not the hybrid package as was used last year. Wilson explained what that can do.

“It’s going to be interesting.  They took the downforce away, made it harder to drive,” he said.  “But that was good because we weren’t flat out.  This year, I’ve been told they’ve taken even more downforce away, so I think we’ve lost another 300 pounds, if I’m correct.  I think that’s going to make it challenging again. It’s having that balance that saves the tires, and you can run longer in the stints.  That’s what we’re looking to do. We weren’t the quickest car outright, so people would pull away at the start of the stints, but we tried to manage it and be quicker over the full stint.”

Wilson will have his third different teammate in the No. 18 car in as many weekends, with Pippa Mann following Conway and Ana Beatriz.

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.