Photo: A.J. Foyt Racing

Kanaan happy with first 2018 car test, Foyt integration at Sebring

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Tony Kanaan got his first day in one of A.J. Foyt Racing’s new 2018 Dallara UAK-18 chassis with Chevrolet power on Wednesday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course, and was pleased with the team and the new common aero kit at its outset.

The release with full details is below.

He likes it. That is the verdict from Tony Kanaan after his first test in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet outfitted with the 2018 aero kit.

“It was a good day and nice to be back on the track,” said the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “Happy with the progress and that we were able to put some good laps in. Getting the boys back working together as well as getting to know some of the guys I hadn’t worked with yet made it a good day for the ABC No. 14 team.”

Evaluating the new aero kit, he said, “The car is different, it feels a lot quicker on the straightaways which is no surprise. I was happy with the way it came out. It looks really cool; I like the way it looks. You just have to change your driving style a little bit but that was expected as well. It’s hard to tell, I didn’t do a lot of laps to make a solid statement but from what I’ve seen and driven, I’m happy with it.”

Also happy with the one day test was Team President Larry Foyt who called his father in Houston to report that the test went very well.

“I told A.J. the test was very productive,” said Foyt. “We achieved everything we came down to do. With the little time the crew had to prepare, I was impressed with the build of the car and the amount of test items we were able to get through. Tony liked the car right out of the box, so the engineers did a nice job adapting the setup to the new aero. And lastly I told him he’s going to like Tony. Tony is no nonsense and gets after it right out of the pits…A.J.’s style for sure. “

Kanaan participated in the final day of testing for the engine manufacturer along with Team Penske at Sebring International Raceway on lucky December 13th. It was the first on-track experience for Kanaan with A.J. Foyt’s team, which had some familiar faces, most importantly, Technical Director Eric Cowdin who will also serve as Kanaan’s race engineer for the season. Having worked with Kanaan during most of Kanaan’s on-track successes, Cowdin joined the team soon after Kanaan signed this past autumn.

Cowdin spoke about the team’s winter program saying, “We are undertaking a very aggressive development program before the start of the season. In the four-week period before the Christmas break we will have done four days on the driver simulator, two days of gearbox development, build a car with the new aero kit and tested it on track. In January, we will continue with the same programs with the addition of our first 7-post test of the season to kick off our damper development. Before the first race we will have had six days of track testing so the drivers will have put in their work as well.”

There are some challenges with the team having two bases of operations. Kanaan’s team (along with Cowdin) will work out of the Speedway, Indiana race shop while teammate Matheus “Matt” Leist’s team will remain based in the team’s headquarters outside of Houston. Cowdin stressed that communication is key to the success of both teams.

“Having two locations emphasizes the need for communication,” Cowdin said. “We have to be more purposeful with our phone calls and emails so we include all the people that may need to know what we are working on. Beyond the endless emails and phone calls between the shops, we have video conference equipment in both locations which get used several times a day. It is very often more productive to have four or five people involved in a conversation opposed to copying those people on an email chain.”

While Cowdin’s most recent experience was with Ganassi Racing’s four-car team, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute alumni allowed that there are benefits to working with a two-car team such as Foyt’s.

“Having worked on teams of all sizes, there are definite advantages to working with a smaller group,” said Cowdin who has a Masters in aerospace engineering. “Each person gains experience in several different disciplines, discussions and decisions are made more efficiently and communication is easier to keep everyone on the same page. For me, the key for success with a smaller group is to have very self-motivated individuals and then give them the tools they need to do their best which is what we are trying to do.”

Rookie IndyCar driver Leist who attended the test as an observer, headed to Charlotte, N.C. last night to spend today and tomorrow in the Chevrolet simulator in nearby Huntersville, N.C. Leist will get behind the wheel of his No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet in the latter part of January.

The race team’s Christmas holiday starts this weekend and goes through the New Year.

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.