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Le Mans: No. 7 Toyota drops out with clutch problems

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The No. 7 Toyota TS050, in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway, and Stéphane Sarrazin, and the dominant overall race leader through the first ten hours of the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, has fallen out of the race following apparent mechanical troubles.

Shortly after a safety car period for a spinning Olivier Pla in the No. 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing UK, the No. 7 machine, with Kobayashi at the wheel, was unable to accelerate back to race speed, suffering a clutch failure that became immediately apparent when green flag racing resumed.

Kobayashi was heard on the radio saying repeatedly “I cannot move” as he attempted to nurse the car around the 8.469-mile circuit on hybrid power, only for it to coast to a halt shortly before the Porsche curves.

A dejected Kobayashi exited the car and returned to the pits, where shortly thereafter the garage door was shut, signifying a retirement.

The Nos. 8 and 9 have also encountered problems of their own. The No. 8 went to the garage with mechanical problems a couple hours earlier, specifically with the front motor, but return to the race and currently runs third in the LMP1 class, 27 laps off the lead.

Meanwhile, the No. 9 fell out shortly thereafter following contact with the No. 25 CEFC Manor TRS Team China Oreca 07 Gibson. The contact punctured the No. 9’s left-rear tire and sent it into a spin, and while driver Nicolas Lapierre tried to nurse the machine back to the pits, the car suffered irreparable damage, highlighted by a small fire at the rear of the machine, which forced Lapierre to use hybrid power only to try and limp back around.

However, Lapierre eventually stopped on track, unable to return to the pits. The garage of the No. 9 entry then shuttered, signaling a second retirement for Toyota Gazoo Racing.

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2016 Knoxville Nationals champ Jason Johnson succumbs to injuries from sprint car crash

Photo courtesy Jason Johnson Racing official Facebook page
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Former Knoxville Nationals champion sprint car driver Jason Johnson has died from injuries suffered in a crash Saturday night in a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) Raceway).

Known as the “Ragin’ Cajun” for his aggressive style of racing, Johnson, 41, passed away this morning, according to an announcement by WoO. He was one of the most respected and well-liked drivers on the circuit by both fellow competitors and fans.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Johnson, a Eunice, Louisiana resident, was racing for the lead in the main event on the one-third-mile clay track with eventual race winner Daryn Pitman, when Johnson crashed on Lap 18 shortly after a restart.

Johnson’s car left the track surface in Turn 3 and flew through at least one billboard adjacent to the racetrack, according to media and witness reports.

It took rescue workers several minutes to extricate Johnson, who was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being airlifted to Aurora Summit Hospital in Summit, Wisconsin, according to the Journal Sentinel report.

How many will remember Johnson:

Johnson, who won the 2016 Knoxville Nationals – the sport’s biggest race – in Iowa in storybook fashion, had been a primarily part-time racer on various sprint car circuits from 1998 until he went full-time on the Outlaws series, capturing Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.

MORE: Knoxville win should be big boost to Jason Johnson’s season, career

Johnson had 12 wins on the Outlaws circuit, including two victories this season.

The Journal Sentinel also posted a statement from SLS Promotions, which promoted Saturday’s race:

“Everyone at SLS Promotions offers our deepest, most sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to Bobbi Johnson (Jason’s wife), Jaxx Johnson (the couple’s son) and the entire Johnson family and JJR Racing team.

“Jason was a great competitor and true ambassador for the sport. It was an honor and a privilege to work with him during his time on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series trail. Jason will never be forgotten”

Other notables also commented on his death on social media:

According to the Journal Sentinel, Johnson is the second driver in four years to die at the small track northwest of Milwaukee. In September 2014, Scott Semmelann, 47, was killed there while practicing for an Interstate Racing Association event.

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