Hawksworth praises Road America, wonders why IndyCar isn’t there

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s a story that’s as frequent to write as rain in the spring, traffic construction in the summer and snow in winter in Wisconsin – the wishes of someone involved with IndyCar, racing at Road America in another championship, to hope that one day IndyCar will return to the picturesque 4.048-mile permanent road course in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Bryan Herta Autosport rookie Jack Hawksworth is making his track debut this weekend, again filling in for Alex Tagliani at RSR Racing in the team’s No. 08 Oreca FLM09 in the Prototype Challenge class. Tagliani is racing the NASCAR Canadian Tire event at Trois-Rivieres this weekend for his Tagliani Autosport team.

I caught up briefly with Hawksworth just before Saturday’s practice for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race here – the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase – merely to gauge his initial impressions of the track. He was fastest in PC practice on Friday.

“I absolutely love this place,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk. “Best track I’ve been to in North America. I can’t believe IndyCar isn’t here. It’s a bit like the Nurburgring.”

While Road America is long – the 4-plus miles makes it one of North America’s longest tracks – it only has 14 corners to the 174 you’ll find at the original “Green Hell.” Still, given the trees lining the track and the reverence most people have for the joint, a still apt comparison.

Let’s face it. Hawksworth echoes the wishes of many, but until IndyCar and Road America could ever find common ground on a sanctioning fee and suitable date for turning on the TV cameras to cover this 4-plus mile track and share the costs, it ain’t gonna happen.

My colleague from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Dave Kallmann has reported extensively on the long-running saga of “will they, won’t they” return for the first time since the 2007 Champ Car race there. And as of this weekend, IndyCar is no closer to a date at Road America for 2015 than they were earlier this year, or last year, or on down the line.

IndyCar won’t share on the track’s NASCAR Nationwide Series weekend in June, and the TUDOR Championship has made it clear it will only partner with IndyCar when it’s the only way to get onto a race weekend. TUDOR wants to be its own lead show and on an IndyCar weekend, they simply aren’t.

So if Hawksworth and any other IndyCar driver wants to run at Road America, they need to figure out a way to race here in another championship that doesn’t conflict with a regular IndyCar weekend. A shame, but it is what it is.

In the meantime, Wisconsin race fans better do their part to support the sole remaining Wisconsin race, and a rare oval left on the IndyCar calendar – tickets are still available for next week’s ABC Supply Co. Wisconsin 250 at Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by the Metro Milwaukee Honda Dealers.

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.