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MRTI: Askew takes critical USF2000 pole

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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicked off its Friday action from Watkins Glen International early in the morning, with qualifying for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at 8:00 a.m. ET and second practice for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at 8:45 a.m. ET.

Below are quick reports for both sessions.

USF2000

Qualifying for this weekend’s USF2000 season finale saw an all-out duel between title combatants Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay.

VeeKay, who notably did not turn a flying lap in second practice on Friday to save a set of tires, was the first to drop the hammer, leading early on with a lap at 1:47.853. However, Askew overtook him in the second half of the session with a 1:47.531, and the two dueled each other from there.

In the end, after they swapped the lead a couple times between them, it was Askew securing the pole, and a critical bonus point in the process, with a quick lap of 1:46.163, which broke the track record by over six seconds. Askew’s time bettered VeeKay’s best lap of 1:46.272 by just over one tenth of a second.

The pole for Askew increases his points lead over VeeKay to 14 ahead of this afternoon’s season finale.

Kory Enders, Andres Gutierrez, and Kaylen Frederick filled out the top five. The session saw a brief red flag after Robert Megennis spun and made contact with the wall exiting Turn 1. Megennis, who is pulling double duty this weekend and running in both USF2000 and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, will start the USF2000 race from 20th.

Qualifying results are below. The final race of the USF2000 season rolls off at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Indy Lights

Aaron Telitz topped Indy Lights Practice on Saturday morning, turning a quick lap of 1:33.237. Colton Herta, Nico Jamin, Shelby Blackstock, and Neil Alberico completed the top five. Champion-elect Kyle Kaiser was ninth at the end of practice.

The session was stopped on two occasions. First, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, and Nicolas Dapero all spun in separate incidents due to cold temperatures, forcing a brief stoppage as they returned to the pits. However, all three were able to return to the track.

The second incident was for Juan Piedrahita, who locked up the brakes entering Turn 8 and hit the outside wall with the nose of the car before sliding into the gravel. Piedrahita’s No. 2 Team Pelfrey entry suffered significant damage to the front wing assembly and left-front suspension, and he was unable to return to the track.

Of note: Carlin’s Garth Rickards did not go out for practice in the morning and will not be participating in Indy Lights competition for the rest of the weekend. Rickards’ No. 11 entry incurred damage during Friday practice after going over the curbing, and the team was unable to repair the car.

 

Lap times are below. Qualifying for tomorrow’s season-ending Indy Lights race begins Saturday afternoon. at 2:15 p.m. ET.

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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.