James Jakes goes from cellar to podium in Grand Prix of Louisiana

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The rain couldn’t keep James Jakes down in Round 2 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season at NOLA Motorsports Park, as the British driver helped give Schmidt Peterson Motorsports two of the three podium spots with a third-place finish.

Rain kept Jakes, in the No. 7 Mediatech Advertising Honda, out of the Firestone Fast Six on Saturday, forcing him to start in 22nd based on points after finishing there in the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Those conditions continued into Sunday morning.

“I think all 24 drivers at noon were looking at the clouds and thinking there is no way we’re going to get this in,” Jakes said after the race.

“I knew that if it was going to be a tricky day, and if you just kept your nose clean and we run the right strategy, we’d get a good result. Those conditions seem to favor us.”

It would be a tricky day for Jakes, who spun his car after a Lap 21 restart. Jack Hawksworth tried to avoid him, but wound up in a tire barrier for his efforts.

Jakes said the incident was caused by a combination of racing in “nightmare” conditions, and with the environment like a “river” on that portion of the track from the rain.

“That painted concrete is so slippery in those conditions,” Jakes said.

But Jakes essentially described the incident as a blessing in disguise for the driver who was in only his second IndyCar race after being out of the series for a year.

“That actually helped us because we then pitted,” Jakes said. “The guys in front realized they had to stop one last time before the end of the race, and we didn’t.  So I think there was four or five cars, those two, maybe Tony (Kanaan) and Simona (de Silvestro) and a few others that got straight up to the front and were able to run there from the end.”

In the end, Jakes stood on his first podium since 2013 in Detroit race two for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. After 2013, the team scaled back to one car, Graham Rahal, and Jakes emerged without a ride for 2014.

“Nice to be back after a year out, second weekend and second podium,” Jakes said  “Thanks to the team.  Great strategy.  It was very difficult out there.  We’ve not had the season start we kind of wanted.  We struggled a little bit pace‑wise, I think (that’s) not entirely all our fault.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.