Carpenter: Potential there for ECR to fight for IndyCar entrant title

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Between the road/street course prowess of Mike Conway and the oval mastery of Ed Carpenter, the group at Ed Carpenter Racing could find their No. 20 Chevrolet fighting toward the front more regularly in the 2014 IndyCar Series.

But what about a possible entrant’s championship as well? Carpenter, a two-time IndyCar race winner, seems confident that his team can pull it off – if they can keep from making mistakes in a competitive series where problems are magnified.

“It’s a rarity, but I feel like we have all the tools and the combined talent of Mike and I and the team’s overall ability, the potential is there to make [an entrant’s championship] a reality,” Carpenter said as part of an INDYCAR offseason report. “Like everything, it’s going to come down to execution and overachieving every weekend.”

Conway will be driving the No. 20 Chevy in all road and street events this coming season, while Carpenter has relegated himself to ovals-only duty for the greater good of his franchise.

Carpenter says he really started exploring the idea of stepping out of the car for road races after the 2013 season ended, and feels like he’s made the right choice to help bolster his team’s presence in the series.

“It’s definitely going to be an adjustment,” he said. “I’m still going to have the mentality of a driver on those weekends. I think I’ll be able to bring additional help to the team and help Mike and certainly have a little more time to focus on the business side of things.

“That’s the main objective…Making sure Ed Carpenter Racing is in a position to be sustainable and be a long-standing team in the series.”

Carpenter was an observer as Conway tested the No. 20 at Sebring International Raceway before the Christmas holiday. The English driver, who won last year in Race 1 at the Detroit Belle Isle doubleheader, turned more than 200 laps during that test and all indications are that he’s fitting in nicely at ECR.

“It’s just a really good fit for what he wants to do, what his skill set is and his professional approach is really in line with how we operate,” Carpenter said of his new teammate’s role. “It’s early, but we’ll all expecting to do great things.”

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.