Indy Lights: Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe sample new IL-15

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A pair of Verizon IndyCar Series veterans have given high marks to the Indy Lights’ new car for 2015, the Dallara IL-15, after a test session yesterday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Three-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe logged a combined 80 laps on IMS’ 2.4-mile road course with the machine. Afterwards, Dixon thought the IL-15 would serve as “a fantastic stepping stone” to the top level of North American open-wheel racing.

“The performance is very good; it is very durable and no problems,” Dixon said of his day in a release. “I actually spun a couple of times with the initial setup we had on it but going through the changes, the car reacted well.

“I think we probably went through 10 or 12 changes on the car. It reacted in a way you would think. All in all, it was good. Just a few hours, but nice to drive.”

Dixon also said that the relevance of the new car in regards to technology will make Indy Lights a stronger series than it has been in recent years.

“I think the biggest thing for us right now –  for Indy Lights and for IndyCar – is that it is updated ten-fold over the last spec,” he said, referring to the 2002-spec chassis that had been in place.

“Adding the paddle shifts and the technology that has been applied to this car makes it relative to a lot of other formulas. It will definitely attract a lot of Europeans and even more Americans to the series.”

Hinchcliffe also reported a trouble-free day inside the cockpit of the IL-15. He said that the new car will be a better way to prepare up-and-coming drivers for the demands of the DW-12, the Verizon IndyCar Series’ chassis since 2012.

“…With the DW12, it is really a good time to introduce a new chassis for Indy Lights, introduce a turbo-charged engine,” he said. “And I think the drivers are going to get a much better feel of what they are going to be jumping into with the DW12 – dealing with turbo-charged engines and the characteristics of that and a little bit higher downforce.

“For me, Indy Lights has always been a great tool to develop young drivers and really prepare them for IndyCar, and this is just the next step in that progression.”

Testing continues today for the IL-15 on the IMS oval with Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves behind the wheel. You’ll see him in the last bit of social media below.

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.