Noted racetrack designer Alan Wilson answers critics of New Orleans IndyCar race in 2015

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When officials of NOLA Motorsports Park announced Monday that they were prepared to begin hosting an annual IndyCar race starting in 2015, there was a great deal of positive feedback and excitement in New Orleans, the state of Louisiana and the IndyCar world over the news.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu were especially jubilant that competitive professional auto racing will return to the Crescent City for the first time since sports cars raced through downtown and the Superdome in 1995.

Unfortunately, and honestly quite surprisingly given the caliber of NOLAMP’s chief designer, there were a number of critics who questioned the move, particularly those who feel NOLAMP’s design and layout is not conducive to hosting an IndyCar race.

Alan Wilson, the designer of NOLAMP, Utah’s Miller Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park just outside Birmingham, Ala., where IndyCar had a fantastic race two weeks ago, really took those criticisms to heart.

In fact, Wilson took the rather unusual step of writing an op-ed column for Racer magazine’s Racer.com, essentially quantifying why the critics were so wrong with their comments.

“Needless to say the announcement has brought forth the usual critics, complainers and know-everythings, which is very unfortunate because the preponderance of critics of IndyCar like these over the years has done nothing but hurt the series,” Wilson wrote on Racer.com. “While I have had absolutely nothing to do with the plan to bring IndyCar to NOLA, and have no idea what ‘upgrades’ are planned by either IndyCar or NOLA itself, I would like to clarify a few things.”

One of the most respected racetrack designers in the world, Wilson didn’t need to justify his design of NOLAMP to anyone.

But we’re kind of glad he did because we were cheering Wilson more and more with each paragraph of his op-ed that we read.

Even if you’re not an IndyCar fan, you owe it to yourself to click here and read Wilson’s fascinating and from-the-heart tome.

To Wilson for doing what he did, we have just one word: Bravo!

And to those who criticized Wilson and NOLAMP, we’re sorry you’re so short-sighted and narrow-minded. Check back with us in about five years when the NOLAMP race becomes one of the most popular on the IndyCar circuit, and we’ll see who was wrong in the first place.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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.