Davison, Luhr debuts add some flavor to tail end of IndyCar season

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As the championship battle intensifies as the IZOD IndyCar Series season progresses, it sometimes becomes easy to look away from the back of the field. Still, there’s something cool about seeing fresh faces get an opportunity toward the tail end of the season.

There were only two one-off entries the second half of 2012, and neither was originally planned. Giorgio Pantano deputized for Charlie Kimball at Mid-Ohio, and Bruno Junqueira for Josef Newgarden at Baltimore. Kimball and Newgarden had injuries that cost them one weekend apiece.

Now, at Mid-Ohio, James Davison will make his debut for Dale Coyne Racing while Lucas Luhr will do likewise for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at Sonoma. Davison’s story is one of perseverance and persistence; Luhr is a sports car ace who should adapt fairly well to a car close in performance to his HPD prototype, and has the opportunity to race more than a handful of cars in the same class.

Said Davison of his opportunity, “It’s an incredible feeling to finally realize my dream of becoming an Indycar driver after 4 years of adversity on the sidelines. I’ve had to work overtime for this opportunity and can’t thank Dale Coyne and all my supporters enough for their continued faith in me.”

There may be two more. Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star has linked Luca Filippi, who was slated to run Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s second car in 2012 before budget failed to materialize, to potentially replace Alex Tagliani in the Barracuda Racing team run by Bryan Herta and Steve Newey.

Coyne, meanwhile, may have a second debutante if Stefan Wilson is able to match Davison in being able to turn a test into a race drive in one of the remaining races.

Either of Filippi or the younger Wilson would also be another welcome addition to the field. For now, we have at least two new first-timers who will be keen to make an impression.

My hope is their debuts go better than a trio who made their first starts in 2011. Ho-Pin Tung (Sonoma), Joao Paulo de Oliviera (Japan) and Dillon Battistini (Kentucky) all made their debuts in succession, and in each case, it’s been their only IndyCar start.

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.