Carlin reflects on opening four weekends in America

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Having had four weekends to get introduced to the U.S. racing scene, Carlin team principal Trevor Carlin is pleased with his team’s early season success in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Ed Jones currently leads the points after the opening seven races, on the strength of wins in the first three races. Teammate Max Chilton ranks fourth in points and has added two additional podiums, one apiece at Barber and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“The team have done a great job adapting to a new environment and they’ve done so in a very calm and professional way,” Carlin said in a team release.

“To be honest it seems like we’ve been there for years in the way the team operates.  We kind of made a conscious decision to do things the same as we do in Europe. Obviously there’s some small organizational differences which means we have to adapt to a few things, but the basic operation of the team is identical to any of our teams in Europe.”

As he did in a piece for MotorSportsTalk after the opening St. Petersburg weekend, Carlin noted the friendly atmosphere of the U.S. environment.

“It’s quite refreshing; it’s not dissimilar to a World Series by Renault paddock which is very open and welcoming,” he said. “Because the paddock is open to the public you get a real buzz between the fans and the teams. Obviously the big pull is IndyCar, but the grandstands are full, the autograph sessions are well attended and generally there’s a lot of interaction which is really nice.”

The big goal for Carlin is to increase the Lights program and expand into IndyCar in 2016. Carlin said he hopes for a three-car Indy Lights effort and a potential step up into the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“The aim for 2016? We’ve already had quite a bit of interest from new people for Indy Lights in 2016 which is really encouraging so we hope to be in a position to expand the team to three cars and if the climate and conditions are correct we’d like to move into IndyCar and we’re having discussions to that effect,” Carlin said.

Chilton, who banked his second podium weekend at IMS (pictured above), was pleased if disappointed at the same time with the result.

The spin that took Jones out of contention and Chilton getting caught up in it meant the pair fell to 12th and eighth, respectively, in the 12-car field. Yet both fought back valiantly, Chilton up to third with Jones fourth by the checkered flag.

“I can’t really remember the start, other than I do remember getting hit up the backside,” Chilton said to a bit of laughter in the IMS post-race press conference. The latter word served as a course correction after he mistakenly said “arse” during the press conference at Barber.

“(Jack) Harvey hit Ed and Ed spun. I was in a very poor spot but I was then really motivated and thought, ‘this isn’t over.’

“For 15 laps, we both ran qualifying pace and caught everyone up. (On Friday) we didn’t have push-to-pass but we set the car up even better. I still got the overtakes done and had fastest lap.”

Even with Jones behind him, Chilton noted there were no team orders, and the two maximized their result as best as possible.

For Carlin, it’s the first of several steps forward in their U.S. progression this season.

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.