IndyCar Media Day Roundup: Max Chilton

Leave a comment

Winning in only the second oval race of your career can open very promising doors.

That’s what happened to Max Chilton, a former Formula One driver, when he won an Indy Lights race at Iowa Speedway in just his 10th race in the series.

Chilton, a native of the UK, was competing for Trevor Carlin when he won from the pole.

“The team looked into it and they realized it was my second only oval race,” Chilton said at the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Media Day. “In the following weeks I got contacted by every team. It was a filter system. I got it down to two pretty quickly. There was one that I wanted to be with.”

The filter system led to the announcement on Feb. 1 that Chilton would be the fourth full-time driver for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2016.

Chilton spent two years in Formula One driving for Marussia F1 Team. But the native of Reigate, England never earned a podium or led a lap in 35 races. Now he will strap into the cockpit of car owned by one of the winningest owners in IndyCar.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me,” Chilton said. “It’s been a difficult last few years because even though I was in Formula One and that was my dream, it’s frustrating not having a chance to win. You finish 13th, it’s disheartening.

“Now I’m with Chip. Not too sure on the ovals, plenty of the road courses I haven’t raced. But I have the chance to win. I’m looking forward to it.”

Chilton, 24, has never set foot in an IndyCar and won’t until a one-day test on Feb. 10 at Sonoma Raceway. He will be only the fourth British-born driver in 24 years to have had a full-time career in F1 before journeying to the United States to take on IndyCar. Chilton’s predecessor’s were Nigel Mansell (1993), Mark Blundell (1996) and Justin Wilson (2004).

“I can’t really say how it’s going to be,” Chilton said. “I can remember the first time I drove an Indy Lights car on the oval last year. It was Homestead. I’m sure it’s the same for many of the European or Formula One drivers that come over, you feel completely out of your comfort zone. I’m not going to lie, I still feel that way.”

While working alongside Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball, Chilton has already been mentored by one of the most successful names in IndyCar history – Dario Franchitti.

“He was probably on speed dial last year when I was on an oval, (asking) ‘what do I do now?'” Chilton said. “He was the one that said, ‘I didn’t feel comfortable (on ovals) for three years.’ That makes me feel better. It should feel abnormal because it’s not normal to be constantly turning left. Might get bored with it, but I’ll give it a go.”

For his maiden voyage in IndyCar, Chilton is in “the best place.”

“For someone that is coming across, not having a clue about the Indy scene, ovals, I’m in a fantastic situation.”

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
3 Comments

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.