(Photo courtesy Trans Am Series)

Detroit Belle Isle race weekend to welcome back Trans Am Series for first time since 2001

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To celebrate its 50th year of competition, the Trans Am Series is giving itself a big present in 2016: it’s returning to race in Detroit and at Belle Isle for the first time in 15 years.

The Trans Am Series will be part of this year’s Chevrolet Belle Isle Grand Prix, June 3-5. The series will host two invitational races – the Motor City 100 – on June 4 and June 5 on the 2.3-mile Raceway at the Belle Isle Park street circuit.

“Everyone in the Trans Am Series is ecstatic to return to the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix,” Trans Am Series President John Clagett said in a media release. “We’re excited to reintroduce the modern Trans Am Series to fans in the Motor City 100 and continue the legacy of great Trans Am races in Detroit.”

Trans Am began racing at the Detroit Grand Prix, starting when the race was contested on Detroit city streets in 1984 until 1993, before the Grand Prix moved to its current venue on Belle Isle from 1994-2001. During its prior tenure in Detroit, the Trans Am Series contested a number of exciting races with drivers including Wally Dallenbach Jr., Scott Pruett, Dorsey Schroeder, Scott Sharp, Ron Fellows and Tommy Kendall.

“We’re excited to bring back some history, some heritage and even more on-track excitement with the return of the Trans Am Series to the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix,” Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker said. “Our racing fans will be thrilled to see the competition between Chevrolet, Ford, Dodge, BMW, Aston Martin and more in the Trans Am field all weekend long and we’re honored to bring back the tradition of the Trans Am Motor City 100.”

The return of the Trans Am Series further expands a big weekend of racing in Motor City that will feature eight different races in three days. The main event will be the Verizon IndyCar Series and its doubleheader weekend of two races, the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

In addition, IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will run on June 4 in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, while the SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Trucks will compete on all three days at the Grand Prix.

The Trans Am Series has five different classes that will be in action on Belle Isle: the premier GT cars in the TA class, as well as undercard classes TA2, TA3, TA4 and TA5.

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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.