‘Race With Restraint’ strives to improve safety for grassroots racers

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Among the biggest risks of grassroots racing is oftentimes the lack of adequate safety equipment, particularly head-and-neck restraint devices and upgraded helmets.

One of the main reasons drivers forego such equipment is the cost factor to purchase it. And because most small, independent grassroots tracks mandate only minimal safety equipment standards, drivers typically put any available money into their race vehicle instead of themselves.

That tendency may start to see a change for the better as the Miami-based Motorsport Safety Foundation begins a new national initiative this weekend known as “Race With Restraint.”

Founded in 2014, the non-profit MSF is committed to improving safety conditions at racetracks everywhere. Those improvements include head-and-neck restraints and helmets, stronger and safer retaining walls and advocating for more motorsport safety education and awareness.

Race With Restraint offers adjustable HANS devices, Bell Racing GP.2 Carbon helmets and helmet anchors for drivers who already have HANS-compliant devices at participating racetracks. Units are rented for a small fee and then returned at the end of that day’s on-track activities.

“This program hopes to spark awareness, give everyone a chance to utilize an extremely beneficial safety device and serve as a low-cost demo platform for the restraints,” said Motorsport Safety Foundation founder and president Henrique Cisneros.

Race With Restraint kicks off at this weekend’s 24 Hours of LeMons “Doing Time in Joliet” at Autobahn Country Club in suburban Chicago. The primary element of RWR is the rental of Frontal Head Restraints (FHR) to drivers that will take part in the endurance event.

“We greatly appreciate the consideration shown to us by Mike Gritter and the Autobahn Country Club as the first track to support the program,” said MSF chief operating officer and former IMSA vice president Scot Elkins. “We’d also like to acknowledge every single MSF member who donated to Race with Restraint. With their help, we can proudly say that we are now fully funded for 20 rental kiosks.”

As MSF touts in its promotional brochure, “Never race without a restraint. Even small accidents can become fatal without it.”

The 24 Hours of LeMons is a nationwide series of endurance races for cars that cost up to $500, including purchase and preparation – which is less than the price of most FHR’s. The endurance race begins at 11 am ET on Saturday and concludes at 11 am ET on Sunday.

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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.