Gallagher (center) celebrates with McCumbee (left), McAleer (right), and full team. Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Patrick Gallagher wraps 2017 Global MX-5 Cup title in Watkins Glen

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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Thornville, Ohio’s Patrick Gallagher reached the summit in the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires series on Saturday, wrapping up the 2017 title before the series concludes its season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this month.

He wins a $200,000 prize from Mazda to continue his racing career next season, and admitted post-race how relieved he was to already know he’ll be racing again in 2018, although in which series remains to be determined.

Gallagher, 24, is the epitome of a “Mazda racing lifer,” and a driver who lives up to the company’s oft-used mantra that more Mazdas are road raced on any given weekend versus any other manufacturer.

He started out racing open-wheel cars powered by Mazda and is a past national champion at the SCCA Runoffs in Formula 500 (2010) and Formula Enterprises (2012), both times at Road America. He also raced in the National class of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series, in a class that also featured future Verizon IndyCar Series driver RC Enerson.

Transitioning to the sports car path, Gallagher then won a Mazda scholarship in a shootout at Buttonwillow, Calif. at the end of 2012, having beat fellow rising sports car star Kenton Koch and two others to be able to move into the MX-5 Cup series on the scholarship support.

Although he’s bounced around a couple teams and series since – primarily MX-5 Cup and additionally the Pirelli World Challenge in its Touring Car ranks – Gallagher, who now lives in the Chicago area, was well overdue to wrap the title and did so this weekend in Watkins Glen.

He won today’s first of two races but fell to fifth in race two, as Todd Lamb scored his first win of the year.

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The morning win was his sixth of the season, after sweeping the season-opening Barber Motorsports Park round in April, winning once each at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Road America, and then winning on the streets of Toronto in mid-July.

The journey to the title this year was achieved with McCumbee McAleer Racing, Gallagher having been good friends and colleagues with New York-based Scot Stevan McAleer and McAleer’s longtime co-driver in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, North Carolina native Chad McCumbee.

“Guys like me have to be so thankful to this series and this team to have an opportunity to go out and do something to win some races,” Gallagher told NBC Sports.

“I don’t know where it’ll take me. But I got here thanks to CJ Wilson Racing at the start, Atlanta Motorsports Group where I developed, and now the guys at McCumbee McAleer Racing that have been great, and made me feel like I’m at home. ModSpace has stuck with me the whole time up to current day.”

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

Gallagher’s championship win ends a two-year run of titles achieved by the Sick Sideways Racing team. Nathanial “Sparky” Sparks won last year’s title with John Dean II the 2015 champion. Koch won in 2014 and Christian Szymczak in 2013 for Alara Racing, with McAleer winning the 2012 title for CJ Wilson Racing. Gallagher’s arrival on the sports car scene, as noted, occurred that year.

With today’s doubleheader in the books, the MX-5 Cup series races on the IMSA weekend Sept. 22-24 at Mazda Raceway.

This weekend was the fourth and last this year where MX-5 Cup, now under the operations of Andersen Promotions and sanctioning of INDYCAR, raced on a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend, joining Barber, Road America (below) and Toronto. Between Road America and Indianapolis, MX-5 Cup unleashed several incredible photo finish results.

Photo: Mazda Motorsports

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.