Overdue top five finish for Simona de Silvestro in Baltimore

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Simona de Silvestro secured a needed and well-deserved fifth-place finish in the Grand Prix of Baltimore on Sunday. Yet her two IZOD IndyCar Series career top-five finishes could not be more different in terms of magnitude. If her first was about her star potential, this one was a sigh of relief after a challenging two-and-a-half year period.

Her first, at the 2011 season opener in St. Petersburg, heralded her as a star of the future in dragging an overmatched HVM Racing Dallara up to a place it had no position being. She nearly beat Tony Kanaan for a podium as Kanaan was racing with a new team, KV Racing Technology-Lotus, and an engineer, Michael Cannon, who had served as de Silvestro’s during her 2010 rookie campaign.

Flash forward to Sunday, and honestly, this was one earned by survival rather than outright pace. But it’s funny how things came full circle. Good luck finally fell on de Silvestro on Sunday, her 25th birthday. Since that first top-five she has had to endure several bad oval accidents, a full year with the woeful and underpowered Lotus engine, and has moved to KV this year as Kanaan’s teammate but not had a great season.

De Silvestro started 17th in the No. 78 Nuclear Entergy Areva Chevrolet and was into the top 10 for the first time on Lap 13, at the first caution. From there she largely ran anywhere between eighth and 12th but more importantly, never had major damage from any of the contact instances that popped up in the second half of the race. She was up to sixth on the final restart on Lap 66 and passed the ailing Marco Andretti to secure the result.

“I’m definitely really happy with P5. It was kind of a crazy race. I don’t think we had the fastest car out there, but we had a pretty good call on the pits when we got stuck in one of the wrecks,” she said. “After that we were able to move forward and had some pretty good restarts. The Nuclear Clean Air Energy car was really good at the end, so I’m pretty happy with it for sure. Not a bad way to celebrate my birthday.”

Throughout the entirety of the struggles she has maintained her composure and sunny disposition in a way few have been able to do. It was nice to see her break her duck on Sunday, but it would be even better if she could replicate the result in a race that isn’t such a lottery.

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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.