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Andretti leads, but true speed hard to gauge at IMS test

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As the Verizon IndyCar Series tested new aerodynamic components Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of this May’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, speeds weren’t as important as comfort level with the new components.

Between the domed skids and rear wing beam flaps, devices have been installed on the chassis fielded by both Chevrolet and Honda to try to keep the cars more on the ground to avoid an encore of last year’s week of practice, where three cars had airborne accidents.

For what it was worth, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay led the combined timesheets during today’s test, but whether that’s an actual gauge of anything beyond a comfort level today only on a sunny but blustery day at the Speedway remains to be seen.

Andretti certainly didn’t, judging by his immediate reaction on Twitter:

Lest Andretti be the only one to make a sandbag remark, so too did Simon Pagenaud’s engineer Ben Bretzman – Pagenaud drives a Chevrolet.

With various downforce configurations and a mix of both qualifying and race runs, speeds are just what they were for the day.

“We ran through quite a bit of different combinations as part of the aero kit configuration test,” Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition, race engineering, said in a release. “The conditions weren’t ideal, but we did get a lot of information to go over and look through over the next couple of days to get ready for the month of May.”

Notable elsewhere was the return of James Hinchcliffe to IMS after his accident in practice last year. The Canadian clocked 46 laps in his first large oval running at IMS, after also running the short oval at Phoenix last week.

“The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing,” Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Honda, said. “We are all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there is a way to appease both sides of that argument.”

The 15 cars that tested completed just over 500 laps on the 2.5-mile oval. Despite being listed to test, neither Mikhail Aleshin nor Jack Hawksworth did. Sebastien Bourdais and Conor Daly saw their teams bow out for different reasons, as noted earlier today.

Times and speeds are below:

IndyTest040616

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.