Could runner-up finish at Detroit start turnaround for Sato?

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Last season and the first seven races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season have taken Takuma Sato on quite a roller-coaster ride.

In other words and in most cases, it’s been a story of one week up, and usually the next week down.

But it took rain, a crazy weekend and a twisting road course in the eighth race of 2015 to bring out some of the best in Sato on Sunday in the 2015 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit No. 2, as the A.J. Foyt Racing driver finished a close second to winner Sebastien Bourdais.

“It was real close,” Sato said of the finish. “But I think we done most of what we could today, come back from the middle of the pack to finishing strong.”

It was Sato’s best finish since a runner-up showing more than two years ago at Sao Paulo, Brazil. His previous best finish this season was ninth in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month.

“I’m really pleased to be back in here on the podium,” Sato said after Sunday’s race. “Yes, it was long and exciting. To be honest, it was crazy race for two days.”

And the height of craziness came late in Sunday’s race, when the red flag fell for a major crash. Then, as cleanup took place, IndyCar officials converted the race from a distance event to a timed finish.

Think of it as IndyCar’s version of a green-white-checkered event, as there were only three laps run before the checkered flag fell, with Bourdais finishing first and Sato right behind him.

Bourdais essentially doing a stutter step on the restart, which jammed up the rest of the pack, caused concern among drivers, including Sato.

“Obviously I wanted to win the race, but I think Sebastien restart (on Lap 66) was a little tricky. That really caught out Montoya, too. We should do steady acceleration from last corner. We all had to brake, which is not really what we talk about for the briefing.

“I leave it to IndyCar’s call for the regulations. But nevertheless, Seb did a good job of holding off. I try to go for the win for the rest of the season, of course.”

Once the pack finally got going, Sato did everything he could to catch and pass Bourdais, but the latter just had a better run in the closing laps.

“To be honest, it was difficult,” Sato said. “The restart was a great chance. Once get into the rhythm, I think he had a really fast car today, so he really – how can I say – has got a winner.

“I tried to catch him, try to overtake him. I had one chance on the back straight to come to white flag. Into turn seven it’s tricky. … If completely dry, I would commit to go side-by-side. But it was too risky. Obviously he did the holding line really well.

“I really disagree on his restart manipulation technique. Obviously other than that, he’s done everything he could. He’s the real winner today. (It’s a) shame, but I try next time.”

And there was one other consolation Sato could take: “No Penske, Ganassi on the podium,” he said. They’re the big teams, tough to beat. But I think, as I said, nothing is impossible. This is part of this great sport to give opportunity. I really love it.”

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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.