It’s officially one or the other time for Mike Conway in 2015, with WEC calendar out

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Today’s FIA World Endurance Championship calendar release will have an impact into the Verizon IndyCar Series in terms of any of its drivers participating in WEC races next season.

Particularly Mike Conway, who’s been IndyCar’s part-time badass de jour the last two seasons and is attempting to figure out his future.

Conway has served as Toyota Racing’s reserve driver for 2014 and made his WEC debut at Austin last month. He may get the opportunity for one more WEC start this season, but surprisingly was not nominated to fill in for Nicolas Lapierre in his absence this weekend in Fuji.

In looking ahead to the 2015 WEC calendar just released, there are at least three and potentially up to five direct head-to-head conflicts between WEC and IndyCar.

The confirmed ones first:

  • March 27-28: WEC Prologue Paul Ricard; IndyCar St. Petersburg
  • April 12: WEC Silverstone; IndyCar NOLA
  • May 31: WEC Le Mans Test Day; IndyCar Detroit

Granted, two of those three are official tests. But while Conway could afford to miss the test days as a reserve driver this year, it’s unlikely he’d be able to miss them as one of Toyota’s six regular full-season drivers.

The other two come if 2014 dates change weekends once they’re officially confirmed by IndyCar, and those would be at Toronto and Sonoma.

Toronto is expected to land a June date given the Pan-Am Games forcing a move from its usual July slot, and there’s only has two weekends it could realistically slot in – June 13-14 or 20-21.

If IndyCar moves its Iowa race to June 20 as is possible given a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday, June 19, then there’s only one option.

That would pose another direct conflict, with Le Mans, June 13-14.

Of course that wouldn’t affect just Conway, but any IndyCar drivers who would want to run the midsummer endurance classic and would be able to if their contracts and schedules allow.

The potential last conflict would occur in August. Sonoma’s date was tentatively listed on the preliminary Pirelli World Challenge schedule as August 22-23 but is now likely to be the last weekend in August, per ticket renewal forms. That would run head-to-head with WEC at the Nurburgring on August 30.

So here’s what this means for Conway: he’s either in or out for one or the other. He can’t do both in terms of IndyCar and WEC, unless he only runs selected IndyCar rounds on non-conflicting WEC weekends.

And if he’s out in IndyCar, there’s a 2014 race-winning No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet seat that will need a driver for road and street course races. It would be a perfect landing spot for an American like JR Hildebrand or Conor Daly, for instance.

The ball is still in Conway’s court, but he’s now at the point where he’ll need to clone himself if he wants to keep the same schedule.

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.