IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay fastest in first Sonoma practice

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Ryan Hunter-Reay, seeking to somehow recover from a devastating setback at Milwaukee, topped the opening practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Go Pro Grand Prix of Sonoma with a 1 minute, 17.7150 lap around the Sonoma Raceway road course.

Hunter-Reay, the 2012 series champion, remains mathematically alive in this year’s title fight but dropped to 108 points behind Milwaukee race winner Will Power after he was knocked out early one week ago with a suspension failure on his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Four of the six drivers that can still win the championship made up the Top 5 drivers in this first, 45-minute session. Behind RHR was Scott Dixon (sixth in the standings, -130 points), who took his No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to second with a time of 1:17.8990.

Dixon’s teammate, Tony Kanaan, was third-quickest (1:18.1895), followed by Helio Castroneves (1:18.2732), Power’s teammate and closest rival in the championship at 39 points back. Rounding out the Top 5 was Power himself (1:18.4046).

This particular group of drivers largely kept their runs on the low-grip Sonoma circuit to a minimum. In fact, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, and Power didn’t make their way on to the course until around the midway part of the session, when Kanaan was leading the way with his 1:18.1895 lap that was ultimately eclipsed.

The two other title contenders, Simon Pagenaud (third, -92 points) and Juan Pablo Montoya (fifth, -114 points), ended up mid-pack on the speed charts. Pagenaud had an off-course excursion during practice due to a reported braking issue and had the 16th-fastest time (1:18.9928). Montoya was a bit better with the 12th-fastest time (1:18.7962).

Another practice session is coming up later today at 4:15 p.m. ET, followed by qualifying tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for online/mobile devices).

Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma – First Practice Times

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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.