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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Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.