Strategy, not speed, bites Hunter-Reay and Power

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Flashback the calendar to 2012, when Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power were engaged in a weekly chess match as their pit strategists Michael Andretti and Tim Cindric contemplated the best way to go about a race.

Sunday in Mid-Ohio, in what has been a rarity this season, last year’s title contenders had the lead from the outset but opted to stick to a planned two-stop strategy. The Honda Indy 200 race distance was upped from 85 to 90 laps this year, and without a yellow, making a two-stopper work was going to be a challenge.

So as Hunter-Reay and Power, two of the best in the IZOD IndyCar Series at saving fuel and hitting their number, and their teams stuck to their guns, they were quickly outsmarted when other teams and drivers pitted sooner and were able to run flat out for longer stints. Hunter-Reay and Power were committed to 30-lap stints apiece; in the end, they fell to fourth and fifth on the day, with Power ahead at the finish.

“I guess you could say we won the two stopper (pit stop) race today at Mid-Ohio,” said Power.  “It was a disappointing day for the Verizon team, we had great pit stops during the race and at the end of the day we did our best. We got stuck on a two pit stop strategy for the race and it was too late by then to make it up. It would have been great to get a win but I’m happy for the top-10 finish and we’ll move on to Sonoma in a few weeks.”

“We picked the wrong strategy today, we went with what we thought. If we had one yellow in there it would have been our race – it would have been between Will (Power) and I, I think,” said Hunter-Reay. “Will and I were on the same strategy and we both worked really hard to save fuel, I know I worked my tail off. It is some of the hardest work in a race car to save that much fuel and to have nothing to show for it, that sucks. But we’ll pick up and head to the next one. It’s frustrating; things just aren’t falling into place right now… we can’t be finishing fifth.”

Hunter-Reay still has a shot at the title but is now 75 points back in third place, with five races remaining. Power, meanwhile, fell outside the top 10 after Charlie Kimball’s first win vaulted him from 11th into a tie for seventh.

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.