Two days later, GP of Indy’s Turn 1 mess comes under fire (VIDEO)

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Post-race penalties are the norm for 2015 in the Verizon IndyCar Series; penalties have been doled out on the Wednesday after the opening four races of the season in St. Petersburg, New Orleans, Long Beach and Barber.

So it is likely that any penalties handed down in the wake of Saturday’s Turn 1 mess involving several cars to kick off the second Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will also follow on Wednesday.

The interesting thing is, while Helio Castroneves avoided any penalty for avoidable contact in the immediate aftermath of apparently triggering the first of two Turn 1 accidents, he still managed to finish ahead of all other drivers either in the accident or who avoided it to the outside of Turn 1, with the exception of Charlie Kimball – who took the escape road to avoid, but didn’t gain any Lap 1 positions (started 14th, ended Lap 1 14th, ended fifth overall).

Here are two videos of the accident, from two different angles. The top one is the IndyCar footage posted to its YouTube channel; the second is from a fan seated outside in the corner.

Castroneves and Scott Dixon both explained their sides of the incident, via the official IndyCar release:

“I was just trying to make sure I didn’t hit anyone – and that I didn’t get hit – in that first corner,” Castroneves said. “Just wanted to put the No. 3 Verizon Chevy in a good position there. Unfortunately, I clipped (Scott) Dixon in the right rear when he turned into the corner. Obviously him spinning out put me into the grass and we lost many spots. From there it was a great comeback for the team.”

Dixon countered, “Well, we had a great Target car today and I was looking forward to gaining some ground in the points after starting on the front row. There’s not much you can say about the start. We got turned around from behind and then had damage to both front and rear wings, and had to change both. Tough day for the Target car.”

Here was the starting grid (LEFT), and here’s how the field looked at the end of the first lap (RIGHT), with positions gained/lost from the starting grid:

Pos # Driver Pos # Driver Gained/Lost
1 1 Will Power 1 1 Will Power
2 9 Scott Dixon 2 22 Simon Pagenaud +3
3 3 Helio Castroneves 3 11 Sebastien Bourdais +4
4 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 4 20 Luca Filippi +5
5 22 Simon Pagenaud 5 2 Juan Pablo Montoya -1
6 10 Tony Kanaan 6 15 Graham Rahal +11
7 11 Sebastien Bourdais 7 6 JR Hildebrand +8
8 8 Sebastian Saavedra 8 98 Gabby Chaves +8
9 20 Luca Filippi 9 26 Carlos Munoz +12
10 4 Stefano Coletti 10 4 Stefano Coletti
11 41 Jack Hawksworth 11 25 Justin Wilson +7
12 21 Josef Newgarden 12 8 Sebastian Saavedra -4
13 5 James Hinchcliffe 13 14 Takuma Sato +9
14 83 Charlie Kimball 14 83 Charlie Kimball
15 6 JR Hildebrand 15 10 Tony Kanaan -9
16 98 Gabby Chaves 16 5 James Hinchcliffe -3
17 15 Graham Rahal 17 3 Helio Castroneves -14
18 25 Justin Wilson 18 7 James Jakes +2
19 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 19 27 Marco Andretti +5
20 7 James Jakes 20 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay -1
21 26 Carlos Munoz 21 19 Francesco Dracone +4
22 14 Takuma Sato 22 18 Carlos Huertas +11
23 18 Carlos Huertas 23 9 Scott Dixon -21
24 27 Marco Andretti 24 41 Jack Hawksworth -13
25 19 Francesco Dracone 25 21 Josef Newgarden -13

Rahal even addressed the first corner chaos in the post-race press conference, as to how he cleanly gained so many positions.

“Honestly, it played out perfectly,” Rahal said. “Honest to God, I said to my dad before the race, he said, ‘What are you going to do at the start?’ I said, ‘I’m going to go as far left as I can. When they all crash on the inside, I’ll be on the outside, so I will have a great angle to cut to the apex. Worst comes to worst, I’ll have to do the shortcut. Rather than being inside and getting collected in the whole deal, it’s going to be fine.’

“It literally worked perfectly. I saw smoke everywhere, then next I see him. I got Hildebrand going into four. But it kind of just worked. As Juan said, part of this deal is luck. We had the pace, for sure, but that definitely went our way.”

Kanaan, who like his teammate Dixon was caught out in the first turn mess, argued the lack of a decisive call from race control – which is done by a steward committee rather than placing all decision-making on just the Race Director’s shoulders – proved costly.

“Helio divebombed into me and Montoya and then hit Dixon, how he started it,” Kanaan told Indianapolis ABC reporter Dave Furst (full interview here). “I went around and a lot of guys went off the course and gained positions. That was it.

“Track position was so important here today. Once they didn’t reposition the guys that cut the course to get ahead of us, because cutting the chicane you’re much quicker, it was pretty hard. Not getting the penalty on the 3 car, taking Dixon out, it is unacceptable in my opinion. Race control did an extremely bad job.”

Kanaan broke down in words what the above chart does in terms of who gained and lost positions by way of either going through the grass or going around the outside.

“It was avoidable contact… he took Dixon out … he made a big mess through the field. Second mistake of race control? Not actually repositioning the field. You got guys who started in the top six going to 19th, the guys 19th cut the course and got up to fourth. Bad call, but it is what it is.”

The Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin (linked here) and RACER.com’s Robin Miller, who’s also an NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter (linked here) each argued their points, agreeing with the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion in wondering why Castroneves wasn’t called in for a drive-through for avoidable contact. As Miller notes in his piece, the contact is of the same degree that Rahal’s contact of Kimball was in St. Petersburg, but Rahal was issued a drive-through during the race.

The one thing IndyCar can’t be perceived to have is inconsistency or indecision in race control; both of which appeared to re-emerge on Saturday.

Still, figure any post-race penalties would be close to coming down the pike on or before Wednesday.

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.