IndyCar notes: Andretti leads Honda contingent; Coletti quick but unlucky and more from Long Beach

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It only seems like the Verizon IndyCar Series season just started, but the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is already the third race of the year in the books. Here were some of the other stories to emerge out of Long Beach:

  • Andretti best Honda, but only P8: Marco Andretti’s post-race tweet that read: “Well executed race only to finish 8th. Frustrated.” more or less said it all. The driver of the No. 27 Merchant First/Snapple Honda had another quietly consistent run and was the top-finishing Honda driver. But the pace for Andretti – nor the other 10 Hondas in the field – just didn’t seem there as it wasn’t at St. Petersburg either. Chevrolet swept the top six in St. Pete and the top seven in Long Beach.
  • Newgarden seventh, and unlucky: After running fifth most of the race, Josef Newgarden could count himself unlucky to finish seventh. He lost time on the final pit stop sequence; still, the driver of the No. 67 Hartman Oil CFH Racing Chevrolet was upbeat. “We had a little bit of trouble in the pit stop as we had to wait for Graham and after that we lost out to Tony and Sebastian. We came home seventh, so it’s disappointing that we didn’t reach our potential. It was definitely a decent result,” said Newgarden, who recorded a Long Beach career-best.
  • Coletti, Filippi, Dracone all with topsy-turvy days: KV Racing Technology driver Stefano Coletti did his now usual poor start to big gain routine, up from 23rd to 15th early, before a gearbox problem cost him multiple laps. He finished 23rd and last, but posted the fastest race lap… Newgarden’s CFH teammate Luca Filippi noted his engine went into “safe mode” on the first pit stop sequence, and that’s what affected his and Will Power’s race. It ended Filippi’s quick two-for-two start to the year in the top-10… to his credit, Dale Coyne Racing’s Francesco Dracone posted his first finish this year, and also erased a trend of finishing fewer laps in every successive race he had done up to this point.
  • Already 18 different drivers with top-10s: It’s early days yet but through three races we’re starting to get a sense of who’s becoming a top-10 regular. Thus far 18 different drivers have made it in three races; those who have driven all three races but haven’t bagged a top-10 yet include Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato, Gabby Chaves, Coletti and Dracone.

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.