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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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.