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Coyne’s pair advances to Q2 for first time in two years at Toronto

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TORONTO – When you’re an admitted stat nerd and have once been called “a warehouse of useless information” by a PR colleague – I think it’s a compliment, or at least I’m telling myself it is – you live for moments like what Dale Coyne Racing’s pair of drivers delivered Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (2:30 p.m. ET, CNBC).

After Conor Daly and Luca Filippi were third and fifth in their group (Q1, Group 1), and thus both of them had advanced into Q2, I figured it’d had been a while since both Coyne Hondas had done so.

Thanks to my trusty Excel spreadsheet database, my suspicions were proven correct – the last time this happened was in the pre-aero kit era in the Verizon IndyCar Series when the late, great Justin Wilson and then-teammate Carlos Huertas, better known as “Grumpy Cat,” qualified eighth and 10th at Mid-Ohio… in 2014.

In fact, last year the Coyne team only made it out of Q1 once all season – when Tristan Vautier qualified 11th at Detroit, race one.

This year it’s become a somewhat more regular occurrence with Filippi starting 12th twice, then Daly adding the team’s to-date best qualifying run of ninth at Road America.

Daly in Q2 then ended seventh in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, thus proving the team had made significant strides since Friday’s practice, while Filippi was 11th in the No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda. The Italian was not happy with himself for his performance and Daly, the American who’s punched above his weight more often than not this year, was perhaps happy to be in a position where he’d only just come up short of his first Firestone Fast Six appearance.

“It’s great to start seventh tomorrow! It’s our best starting position of the year. It feels great to be fighting for that top six and fighting right at the front of the Honda pack,” Daly said.

“It’s a little painful, and it a bit of shame, to be knocked out of the Firestone Fast Six by Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) but because it’s him it’s fine, he’s the hometown hero. I’m just happy with the progress that we’ve made. We keep improving from race to race and that’s what we have to keep doing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Filippi added, “It’s a good team result but I’m not happy for myself because I could have done much better and possibly been more or less where Conor (Daly) is but we caught a train of traffic that came out in front of me and with these tires you can’t afford too many laps on those. That said, the potential is good so we can do well and better in the race. We just have to watch out for the start tomorrow and from there we can work our way up and have a strong race.”

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.