Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Franzoni’s outside move nets decisive Pro Mazda win in Gateway

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MADISON, Ill. – Victor Franzoni and Juncos Racing rolled the dice on a lower downforce setup, cranked the wing back, and went for it in Saturday night’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race at Gateway Motorsports Park.

And it paid dividends at a rare 1.25-mile oval race for the second rung on the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder. Big time.

Franzoni, who started second behind Pro Mazda title rival Anthony Martin of Cape Motorsports, doggedly pursued the Australian the opening stanza of the race before Lap 19 of the scheduled 55-lap race (which was shortened one lap to 54 laps owing to time constraints).

Franzoni got enough of a run on Martin to try to the outside of him through Turns 1 and 2, and emulating his Brazilian countryman in the Verizon IndyCar Series, Tony Kanaan, Franzoni pulled it off.

The two cars were side-by-side but Franzoni edged ahead as the two headed for Turn 3.

From there, Franzoni pulled ahead by several tenths a lap, and ultimately scored his fifth – and most important – victory of the season by 4.692 seconds over Martin.

The two title combatants now head to Watkins Glen International for next week’s season finale, with two races set to wrap up the season.

With Franzoni having secured the most laps led and fastest race lap bonus points, and Martin getting an extra point for pole, Franzoni has moved from four points down to two points ahead of Martin, unofficially, at 287 to 285.

Laps were even faster under cooler conditions later this afternoon compared to qualifying to kick off the day, when Martin took the pole.

Carlos Cunha finished third for Team Pelfrey, the only other car on the lead lap besides the top two. TJ Fischer was fourth in the second of three Pelfrey cars, with Jeff Green (Juncos) an impressive fifth after a late-race pass of Nikita Lastochkin (Pelfrey).

Unofficial results are below.

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.