Hawksworth: “I wouldn’t say it was crazy; it was exciting”

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MILWAUKEE – It seems that opinions about Saturday’s MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. is running along mostly generational lines, in terms of driver takes.

Those who raced in the 1990s and early 2000s, with higher horsepower and lesser downforce cars didn’t seem to like it as much and have been quick to criticize, while the newer wave of drivers who have entered in the last four or five years (with some exceptions) found it thrilling.

One driver who had more of a front row seat to the race than most was Jack Hawksworth, driver of the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, who tended to agree with his team boss in that excitement topped nerves as he was close to the front of the pack, but not immediately in it on Saturday.

“I wouldn’t say it was crazy. It was exciting I think,” Hawksworth told MotorSportsTalk in an interview on Tuesday. “There was a lot going on; granted, I would have been like to been in the thick of it a bit more. I was at the back end of it.

“But I thought the racing was good. It was close, right? Everyone was going and pushing hard. The crazy thing was only when people made crazy moves with 70 laps to go still, when everyone’s that close. It doesn’t matter with 50 or 70 to go. Doing some do-or-die stuff early on, that was strange.”

Hawksworth ended 10th on the day. He said he never felt the action too scary at any one point.

He also made the point that the potential of heavy, scary freak accidents is not limited to high-speed ovals.

“I never thought it was too bad; they raced worse than this for like 10 years with the old car, right?” he said.

“I think you have certain drivers and teams who would like it to be a certain way, because it gives them more an advantage.

“If it’s ‘pack racing,’ then everybody is very close and anything can happen, or certainly it gives everyone a shot… you don’t know what will happen ’til the end.

“If you take the downforce off the cars, and it’s single-file, and the fastest car goes to the front and pulls away, it’s not as exciting. If you’re one of those guys who thinks they could run off into the distance, you’d probably be against it in my opinion.

“I don’t understand how it can be super dangerous now, but yet they raced the old car four-wide every single week for God knows how long, right?

“Obviously the Las Vegas incident was horrific, but racing is inherently dangerous. A freak accident can happen in any condition. It doesn’t need to be ‘pack racing’ to cause it.”

Words spoken like a driver more mature beyond his 24 years, and who currently races for one of America’s all-time badasses, in A.J. Foyt.

The excitement helped produce a higher TV number on NBCSN and, from Hawksworth’s perspective, a more interesting race.

“The big thing for me was reaction to people who watched the race was exciting, which is a good thing, right? That’s my opinion,” he said.

“If people thought it was exciting, the racing was good… let’s be honest, it was much more exciting to watch than Texas. Yeah, the incident at the end was unfortunate, but I thought the race was exciting.”

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.