De Silvestro, Mann return Indy 500 grid to multiple females after one-year hiatus

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One of the better parts about the Indianapolis 500 over the last decade or so is that there have become multiple female drivers in the field on a regular basis.

It’s back to two this year after a one-year dip to just one, with Simona de Silvestro and Pippa Mann both completing successful qualifying attempts for the 99th Indianapolis 500. De Silvestro is set to roll off 19th, Mann 27th next Sunday.

Both drivers bounced back nicely after adversity early during practice week threatened to set them both back.

De Silvestro’s car suffered a fuel leak which led to a fire; Mann had an accident exiting Turn 4. Both crews repaired their cars – in Mann’s case building up a new backup – and they returned to the tracks.

Mann is set to make her fourth ‘500 start, third straight with Dale Coyne Racing and second straight in the pink No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda. Mann is also doing a #GetInvolved campaign to raise funding and awareness for breast cancer, with more info linked here.

“This is absolutely incredible; it’s hard to describe how amazing the Dale Coyne Racing crew guys are,” Mann said. “When I crashed the main car we didn’t have a backup car. We didn’t even have a spare tub sitting around. It was an absolute monumental effort. It’s so important to have this car in the show with the money we are racing for the Susan G. Komen campaign.”

De Silvestro will make her fifth ‘500 start, and returns after a year’s hiatus missing last year’s race. She’s now driving for one of the top teams in Andretti Autosport, and her No. 29 TE Connectivity Honda should be a car to watch. She is the 2010 Indianapolis 500 rookie-of-the-year, with a 14th place finish.

“It’s the trickiest four laps you have to do, you’re always hanging on out there,” de Silvestro said. “I’m always more nervous for qualifying. I’m happy to be in the show, Andretti did an incredible job to get the car together again. Qualifying was OK, it’s going to be really good in race trim, I think.”

As for the multiple females, it marks the eighth time in the last nine years this has happened. Here’s a recent history of females in the race, dating 10 years back to 2005:

  • 2014: Pippa Mann
  • 2013: Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz
  • 2012: Simona de Silvestro, Katherine Legge, Ana Beatriz
  • 2011: Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Pippa Mann, Ana Beatriz
  • 2010: Danica Patrick, Simona de Silvestro, Sarah Fisher, Ana Beatriz (Milka Duno did not qualify)
  • 2009: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2008: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2007: Danica Patrick, Sarah Fisher, Milka Duno
  • 2006: Danica Patrick
  • 2005: Danica Patrick

The weekend also featured the launch of the new Grace Autosport team, led by Beth Paretta with Legge set to drive in 2016, which seeks to become the first all-female team on the grid.

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.