Photo: Larry Chen/Red Bull GRC

Red Bull GRC: MCAS New River event brings rallycross to U.S. Marines

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JACKSONVILLE, N.C. – The patriotism is on full display this week at Rounds 6 and 7 of Red Bull Global Rallycross, the doubleheader at MCAS New River. It’s fitting considering it’s July 4 weekend.

For the U.S. Marines themselves stationed here or visiting this weekend, it’s an opportunity for them to see something new and different as rallycross racing takes over the base.

With today’s event (Sunday, 5 p.m. ET, NBC) opened to the public after Saturday’s activity was open to D.o.D. and authorized personnel, it’s a chance for both Marines and civilians to see action here.

The hope from those who saw last year’s inaugural Red Bull GRC race at MCAS New River was that they wanted it back for an encore.

“Last year as soon as it was over, all the Marines were like, ‘Man, I hope they come back.’ Because everyone was super excited,” Lance Corp. Ned Johnson of the MCAS New River Public Affairs Office told NBC Sports.

“There were a lot of Patrik Sandell and other various T-shirts given out last year, now guys are wearing them around town. So people know they’re coming back.”

Johnson expanded on the cool aspects of accessibility here at a Red Bull GRC event.

“There are so many cool aspects. For the Marines, the cool part is if you went to a NASCAR race, chances of meeting anyone is remote,” he explained. “Here they’ll all know where everyone is, with drivers, mechanics all around and about. You can’t get that anywhere else.

“It shows Red Bull GRC wants Marines to get something out of it. The racing is almost secondary because we get to meet the people who care about us.”

Several Marines got to go for ride-alongs on Thursday, as well, including MCAS New River new Commanding Officer Russell Burton, who only just took his new post recently.

“I want to do it again!” Burton told NBC Sports after riding with Chip Ganassi Rallycross driver Brian Deegan in his No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST.

“There’s a lot of G-forces coming off the line. But the seat kept me in place very tight. It was just remarkable.”

Sgt. Jared Lingafelt, also of the PA Office, rode with Austin Dyne in his No. 14 Relativity Media Ford for AD Racing and called his ride “an incredible experience.”

Johnson rode in 2015 and described more of the sensation from the passenger’s seat.

“I think we have a huge advantage of having a runway, which just makes a massive asphalt straightaway,” he said. “That straightaway is just… I don’t know if I’ve ever been that fast that quickly. It was intense. You then slam on the brakes going into the turn. It’s awesome to be in a car going that fast.”

Brandon Ward. Photo courtesy SH Rallycross
Brandon Ward. Photo courtesy SH Rallycross

There’s also a military component for one of the Supercars drivers. Jeff Ward of SH Rallycross, who drives the No. 07 MET-Rx Ford, has a son in the military. Brandon Geoffrey Ward, 23, is private first class in the U.S. Army (pictured right).

“It’s exciting. He’s super excited,” Jeff Ward told NBC Sports. “He works the night shift over there in intelligence division. So he gets to watch live on his computer. He knows it’s on a base here. It’s cool for me to be here.”

The Marines here described how incredible this weekend is to them.

“It was really special for me as a Marine,” Lingafelt said. “Racing is an American way of life – bigger, faster, stronger – and it’s exciting to see the camaraderie between Marines and how they interact with drivers and teams. All drivers and teams are so open and friendly.”

Added Burton, “We really appreciate the fact they brought the series here to show their appreciation for Marines, the sailors, and the civilian Marines stationed aboard MCAS New River and Camp Lejuene. We love the fact they are here.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.