Franchitti: “It’s going to take a while to get back to normal”

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Three-time Indianapolis 500 and four-time IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is continuing to recover his fitness after his devastating, career-ending crash last fall at the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

Franchitti suffered a fractured ankle, two broken vertebrae, and a concussion in the crash, which took place on the final lap in Race 2 of the October doubleheader at Reliant Park. In November, he announced that he would be forced to retire because of the extent of those injuries.

In comments made to the Edinburgh (Scotland) Evening News, Franchitti revealed that he’s been cleared to drive a road car again but indicated that he still has a long way to go in his recovery efforts.

“I still limp quite badly,” he said. “I can’t run but I can ride my bike and get on the rowing machine. As for walking around, I’m still a wee bit restricted.

“My head, well, I just get tired. That’s the difficult part, the one thing they can’t quantify, so you have to be very careful. The brain is such a big unknown because they still don’t understand it.

“My brain is still pretty damaged and it’s going to take a while to get back to normal.”

Franchitti has stayed on with Target Chip Ganassi Racing in an advisory role. The Scotsman won two of his three Indy 500s and three of his four IndyCar titles with TCGR in his driving career.

He told the Evening News that he’s looking forward to a “fascinating” role as an ambassador for the sport, but that he still wishes he could be in the cockpit again.

He also said his thoughts were with seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, who remains in a medically induced coma after suffering head injuries in a skiing accident late last December.

“His situation is just terrible – the guy lived his whole life up to that point on the absolute limit and then that happens,” Franchitti said.

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.