Andretti set to continue Indy Lights, Pro Mazda programs

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Michael Andretti’s ever-expanding empire that includes Andretti Autosport and Andretti Sports Marketing has long had a history in the Mazda Road to Indy – at one point, Andretti fielded a team in all three of Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, and USF2000.

While the USF2000 program went away for 2014, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires programs continued.

Despite some rumors that one or the other may be going away for 2015, Andretti is expected to continue with both.

In an interview with MotorSportsTalk from the Alabama-LSU game, where Andretti is promoting the new Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana this weekend, he said to expect both programs to be back in 2015.

“We’re getting close. Two Mazdas and working on two Indy Lights,” Andretti told MST. “I’m happy to report that, because I think we’ll be back in. There was a time we couldn’t say that.”

Andretti has a deep farm system, with Matthew Brabham and Zach Veach having run in Lights this past season, and Garett Grist and Shelby Blackstock in Pro Mazda.

Andretti has also tested Neil Alberico and Dalton Kellett in the team’s two Pro Mazda cars this offseason.

At Milwaukee earlier this year, Andretti said he was unsure if he and the team could commit to the new Dallara IL15 chassis citing costs.

But an Andretti return for 2015 would be huge news for the series, as it would ensure another two cars on the grid from the current field and keep a championship-winning operation in the field, to add legitimacy to what’s already set to be an increased grid.

Stay tuned for more next week from our conversation with Andretti related to some of his and the company’s other programs.

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.