Luiz Razia focused on America after first Indy Lights test

1 Comment

We can officially confirm Luiz Razia as part of the IndyCar, and now Indy Lights, free agent pool.

The Brazilian former GP2 runner-up, and original 2013 Marussia Formula One driver before a sponsorship shortfall, hinted at interest in IndyCar a couple weeks ago. But he’s completed his first Indy Lights test with four-time defending series champions Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and his interest in racing in North America seems serious.

“I visited some IndyCar (Series) teams and Indy Lights teams and my manager came up with this test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the perfect team for me because they have so many championships and much knowledge,” Razia told IndyCar.com.

“To be honest, I know I have the speed and talent to be in (the IndyCar Series), but also it’s good to know the business around the series, the people, how the competition is, the rules and the tracks.”

After his F1 deal fell through, Razia raced 2013 in the International GT Open sports car series.

Razia’s a bit of an interesting prospect. He’s not a world-beater, and probably wouldn’t enter IndyCar with the hype of an Helio Castroneves or Tony Kanaan, who established themselves in Indy Lights in the mid-1990s and a Marlboro Latin America-supported sponsorship program. He doesn’t quite have the credentials of Raphael Matos, who entered IndyCar in 2009 after successive Indy Lights and Formula Atlantic titles in back-to-back years.

But considering the relative lack of Brazilians that have entered the sport over the last few years – really only Matos, Ana Beatriz, Mario Moraes and Mario Romancini have entered since 2009 – Razia’s probably on that level if not stronger in terms of overall ability. As with anyone trying to find a ride in either IndyCar or Indy Lights, where Razia lands would probably come down to how much funding he can bring.

Brazil provided a hotbed of open-wheel talent at the turn of the century, with Castroneves, Kanaan, Gil de Ferran, Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira, Christian Fittipaldi, Roberto Moreno, Mauricio Gugelmin, Gualter Salles, Tarso Marques, Luiz Garcia Jr. and perhaps one or two others making sporadic appearances in the CART, Champ Car and IndyCar ranks.

But over the last five years, the level of Brazilian talent in America has dwindled down to the two veterans, and the series’ race in Sao Paulo has been axed for 2014. IndyCar – or Indy Lights – could do worse than finding a fresh Brazilian to add to the grid.

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
2 Comments

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.