Castroneves tops tow, non-tow charts Tuesday at IMS on a tough day for Honda

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Helio Castroneves led both the overall and non-tow speed charts during Tuesday’s practice session for the 99th Indianapolis 500.

The driver of the No. 3 Verizon/Shell Team Penske Chevrolet posted a 227.514 mph to lead the overall speed charts, and along with teammate Simon Pagenaud (227.382), the two were the first into the 227 mph bracket this month.

Right near the end of the six-hour session, Castroneves popped off the fastest lap without a tow to this point, at  225.315 mph. Sage Karam had been the fastest without a tow prior to that, at 224.035 mph.

Scott Dixon was third overall, followed by Justin Wilson and Townsend Bell.

Wilson’s day ended early and capped off a tough day for Honda-powered cars at the Speedway.

Near the end of the session, the popular Englishman pulled off entering Turn 1 with plumes of smoke out the back of his No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda.

It was the third mechanical related issue of the day for Honda. James Jakes also had smoke out the rear of his No. 7 Mediatech Advertising Honda (see below) and, most dramatically, a fuel leak caused an inferno for Andretti’s fifth driver this month, Simona de Silvestro in the No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda.

Per Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin, Wilson’s was nearing a change while Jakes’ was relatively new.

A total of 34 driver/car combinations took time, with the only driver not to go out the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Lazier, who is expected to be on a short engine program (reduced mileage) in his No. 91 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet.

Of the 34, Marco Andretti ran in both his No. 27 Snapple Honda and Carlos Munoz’s No. 26 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda (the latter for four laps), while Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda got its first running of the month with James Davison.

Davison is not confirmed yet for the remainder of the month, but is the likeliest candidate to continue behind the wheel even despite a conflict next weekend in Canada where he will be unable to qualify the No. 19 Honda. He’ll be racing in the Pirelli World Challenge races in the No. 33 AE Nissan GT Academy Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Alex Tagliani, in the No. 48 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda, went out for an installation lap while teammate Jack Hawksworth in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda turned his first flying laps of the week after not running on Monday.

Speeds are below. Best overall speeds are the first column (227 and change) with best non-tow speeds to the right (225 on down).

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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.