Schumacher’s accident the latest shock in a cruel 2013 for racing

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One of the words I saw perusing my Twitter feed yesterday regarding Michael Schumacher was “invincible,” and it struck me for a few reasons. Schumacher – the most decorated and statistically successful driver in Formula One history – wasn’t supposed to get injured in a skiing accident. One thing I could barely reconcile growing up was when he broke his leg in the 1999 British Grand Prix, and was forced out of action for most of the second half of the season.

But, unfortunately he has been injured, and we can only hope and pray for his full recovery from this accident.

What isn’t disputable is that this is the latest shock to the system in what has been a brutal, cruel 2013 for the racing community. The month of October 2011 was the only time in recent years that could compare, when two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon, MotoGP rising star Marco Simoncelli, off-road racer Rick Huseman and “Iron Man” Michael Wanser, six-year-old son of Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Barry Wanser, all perished within several weeks.

The end of the year usually brings about an “in memoriam” piece, and unfortunately this year’s is longer than most.

Andy Granatelli

Innovator, promoter, and a huge fan of the sport of IndyCar racing, Granatelli passed away at age 90. Our brief recap is here but a much deeper reflection, from Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti can be found here from Robin Miller at RACER.

Paul Walker and Roger Rodas

Actor, star of the “Fast & the Furious” franchise, philanthropist and a part-time racer in his own right, Walker, 40, was killed with his friend Roger Rodas in a road accident earlier this month.

Kurt Caselli

Caselli, 30, was an off-road champion killed in the Baja 1000.

Sean Edwards

Edwards, 26, was a rising sports car star killed in a private coaching accident in Australia. I got to watch his battle for the GTC class win in the American Le Mans Series race at Austin from the grandstands, which meant more after the accident.

Maria de Villota

The former Marussia Formula One test driver, de Villota died at age 33 after she was found dead in a hotel. She proved an inspiration after her testing accident in 2012.

Allan Simonsen

Simonsen, 34, died at Le Mans this year when his car spun out at Tertre Rouge, and his Aston Martin team carried on in tribute. The hope after his accident is that safety changes come to that part of the circuit.

Jason Leffler

Seeing pictures of Leffler with son Charlie only moments before his accident at a dirt track was gut-wrenching. Leffler, 37, touched the NASCAR, IndyCar and general racing communities and it was the year’s first real shock to the system.

Jose Froilan Gonzalez

The Argentine driver wasn’t as widely acclaimed as countryman Juan Manuel Fangio, but Gonzalez was Ferrari’s first winner in Formula One. He died at 90 in June.

Dick Trickle

Legendary short-track racer who eventually won NASCAR’s Rookie-of-the-Year honors at age 48, Trickle died in May of apparent suicide at age 71. A nice piece from NBC’s Joe Posnanski called Trickle “Superman.”

We should also not neglect the loss of the marshal at the Canadian Grand Prix, nor the losses of a handful of other various sprint car and GT racers around the world.

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.