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Conor Daly, Luca Filippi gain key oval experience at PIR

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It was not without drama, but Dale Coyne Racing’s Conor Daly and Luca Filippi were both running at the end of the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix to earn valuable experience on a short oval – an important result for both drivers and the team.

A fuel mishap caused Daly to lose a lap to the competition and with 14 of the 22 cars completing all 250 laps without going a lap down, there was not a lot of room for error.

This was Daly’s first race on a short oval, and the team’s first Phoenix International Raceway race since 1995 when Eric Bachelart and Alessandro Zampedri finished nose-to-tail 18th and 19th respectively in the Slick 50 200.

“It was really nice to have a car to fight like we did,” Daly said. “I thought the car was well balanced, I could race people and I had really good restarts.

“We just made some mistakes in the pits, which is part of the game, but I felt like I passed a lot of cars out there! Sadly, we had a few issues but it’s still the beginning of the season and things like this are bound to happen.”

Just as there is no room for mistakes on a one-mile oval, there is very little room to race.

“It was more active than I thought it was going to be out there,” Daly added. “Certainly crazy when you got off line. Some really interesting moments and some really hairy moments but I’m just glad we made it to the end and made it through unscathed. We gained a lot of experience today for sure.”

Filippi could attest to the craziness of getting out of line. This was his first race on any type of oval and to get to the checkers he had to survive an early incident.

On lap 50, Helio Castroneves came up to pass the Italian driver, Filippi moved high to make room. He got into the marbles that accumulate outside of the racing groove and spun harmlessly to the inside—losing several laps after stalling his in the process.

Filippi ran competitively for the remainder of the race, but ended the event seven laps off the pace as the last driver running.

“Everything was going well and I was with a group and the pace was quite consistent, the same as the guys around me,” Filippi said. “Helio was a couple of laps down, faster than me, but when he made a move into Turn 1, it was a late move and in order to avoid contact I had to go on the marbles. I eventually saved it, but unfortunately the engine died and we lost a few laps, so the race was pretty much over at the time.”

Learning to deal with traffic is going to be critical later in the season when the IndyCar series rolls onto the short track of Iowa Speedway the weekend of July 10th.

“After [the spin], I was just trying to be smart on the restarts with the guys around that were racing each other,” Filippi added. “I was trying to gain experience and keep learning more about the car and racing on an oval but at the same time I was just staying away from trouble.”

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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.