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COTA interested in IndyCar, ‘stars need to align’ for right date

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The Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, would be interested in hosting a Verizon IndyCar Series race in the future so long as it could negotiate a number of calendar limitations, according to track president Bobby Epstein.

COTA opened its doors in 2012 as a new-build facility to host the revived United States Grand Prix, welcoming Formula 1 back to American soil after five years away.

Besides F1, COTA has also hosted MotoGP, FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events and the X Games, quickly establishing itself as one of North America’s premier racing facilities.

Speaking to NBC Sports, Epstein explained COTA has not chased an IndyCar deal thus far in order to focus on its current events, but would be open to hosting the series so long as the right date could be found.

“Our system was to focus on getting an open-wheel race built up and done successfully, and a motorcycle race going successfully. I think after five years, we’ve shown that we can build those,” Epstein said.

“We didn’t want to have conflicting messages to the fans of competing products, I would say. I think we didn’t want to have competing products, and we still don’t.

“But if the calendar works out to where you could do perhaps IndyCar in the spring and F1 in the fall, then we should certainly look at the calendar and see if we can make it work out.”

Epstein conceded that finding a suitable date to host IndyCar would be difficult given the pressures of other series’ dates and the Texan climate, but the circuit boss is keen to work on it in the future.

“We’re somewhat limited,” Epstein said. “We’re not going to run a race in the middle of the summer. We’re not going to run an IndyCar race close to F1, which leaves really the spring.

“Our biggest opportunities are probably in May when they have their ‘500, and we’re rock solid with MotoGP on the calendar in April. There are some stars that need to align.

“I hope to work on it in the future. I think it’s something we could work on in the future.”

One long understood and proverbial hold-up to a COTA IndyCar race has been the presence of Texas Motor Speedway on the calendar in June, as that track has been an IndyCar stalwart since 1997. Texas is the second longest active oval race on the schedule, only behind the Indianapolis 500.

As it is, COTA may need to find racing events to fill its 2018 calendar as a couple drop off after this year. Pirelli World Challenge switches from a September to a March 2018 date, and the track will not host IMSA nor FIA WEC races from 2018.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
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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.