Gene Haas updates F1 team’s progress at NASCAR media tour

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While much of the focus around Stewart-Haas Racing’s media availability (OK, the primary focus) centered on the team’s four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, team co-owner Gene Haas also took the time to answer questions from assembled media about the Haas F1 Team’s updates as it’s a little more than a year out until the team’s scheduled debut.

Official news in recent weeks has been limited surrounding Haas F1 Team, although a report emerged a little more than a week ago that Haas is expected to use the former Marussia headquarters in Banbury as its UK base.

Haas told reporters, including NBC’s Dustin Long, things are about where they should be given the timeline.

“We have a little under 50 people right now,” Haas told reporters. “There’s about 50 in Kannapolis, and roughly the same amount in the UK and same in Italy right now.”

The driver lineup is of course going to be something to monitor. American Alexander Rossi has spoken publicly of his desire to race for the team, while Ferrari – Haas’ engine technical partner – has newly signed Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne as the team’s reserve and test/development drivers in Maranello.

“The driver selection will be at the end of summer,” Haas said. “We’ll need to look around, see who’s available. There could be a new crop of young drivers. Big teams want guys in their 20s. Some are getting concerned about bringing up someone else too fast.”

Haas expects F1 to be a learning process, but he’s hoping some of the team efficiencies and protocols from the Cup side can transfer over to the new F1 team.

“We’ll try to,” Haas said. “I find the whole thing very intriguing. It’s very technologically advanced. The way they deal with everything. It’s all so impressive to begin with, it’s all intriguing. We can learn a lot with Formula 1 and apply to our NASCAR team.

“In NASCAR, we run twice as many races. I’m hoping some of the efficiencies will gives us an advantage.”

Haas said his F1 team will operate out of Ferrari’s wind tunnel rather than his own one in Charlotte. F1’s regulations stipulate only one wind tunnel can be utilized.

Lastly, Haas tempered expectations – but said the team will likely be better than some think it will.

“I won’t say we’ll do great. But we should be more competitive than people think,” he said. “We’re associating with Ferrari. We’re putting our facilities in place. We’re getting our trailers, haulers.

“It’s one thing to have a car and driver but you need the support to make it work. We’re gathering the spares and infrastructure.

“We’re looking good, and we don’t want to be putting things together at the last moment.”

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.