Seven IndyCar teams get testing underway at Sebring

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After two seasons driving with a Chevrolet power plant, Andretti Autosport driver James Hinchcliffe ran his first laps with Honda’s new twin-turbo engine today during IndyCar testing at Sebring International Raceway.

According to the Canadian, he was “surprised” by the difference.

“It’s really cool to see how the two manufacturers approach things and solutions to certain problems that everyone is going to have,” Hinchcliffe said this morning. “It was a cool experience. For a driver, being part of development is a lot of fun.

“Having spent two years with Chevy, we have some insight that we can bring to the table and we’re obviously learning a lot from the Honda guys as well. Hopefully, pooling all that knowledge together, we can build a good product for the race season.”

Andretti Autosport is one of six Honda teams that are taking part in the Sebring test, which will stretch into tomorrow as well. Also involved is the Chevy-powered Ed Carpenter Racing, with its 2014 road/street course driver, Mike Conway, in the cockpit.

The test is particularly important for the Sam Schmidt camp, which will feature Russian newcomer Mikhail Aleshin next season along potential championship contender Simon Pagenaud (pictured, from this past season).

“There are a lot of items, a lot of experimental things we want to try and hopefully understand what direction they could take us and apply it to the race car in the future,” Pagenaud said of the test.

In addition, the test is also a way to simply keep from getting complacent according to Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden.

“It’s nice to get a couple days [of testing in], keep everyone flowing well and get the guys back out here working together,” the American said.

“I think it keeps everyone on their toes throughout the off-season. I think there’s a chance to get a little out of rhythm if you’re off the track for too long.”

Outside of Andretti, Schmidt and SFHR, the Honda contingent at Sebring also includes Rahal Letterman Lanigan, Dale Coyne Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing, which confirmed the return of Takuma Sato to its team yesterday.

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.