Race of Champions

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden team up again in Race of Champions

Leave a comment

The Race of Champions announced Friday that past IndyCar champions Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden will reunite as teammates for the second straight year for the January 19-20 ROC in Mexico City.

Hunter-Reay (2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner)) and Newgarden (2017 IndyCar champ) are the most recent American drivers to win IndyCar championships. They will once again make up the Team USA entry in the event.

Josef Newgarden (Getty Images)

They will be joined by three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves (now racing in IMSA for Team Penske) and previously announced 2019 Harding Steinbrenner Racing IndyCar rookie and defending 2018 Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward, who hails from Mexico.

Another Mexican native who should be a fan favorite is 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champ Daniel Suarez.

Other drivers already announced include Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel and sports car legend Tom Kristensen.

But perhaps one of the most notable entries likely to draw more spectators to the event in-person as well as those watching on TV is FIA Formula 3 champ Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher.

The ROC will take place inside the Foro Sol amphitheater, which abuts part of the annual F1 Mexican Grand Prix course at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Getty Images)

All contestants will compete in several types of identically prepared vehicles.

The two-day event will be broken down into a team or region competition on Jan. 19.

Then all drivers will go head-to-head and on their own on Jan. 20 to determine who will be the individual ROC champion.

Hunter-Reay will be making his sixth consecutive appearance in the ROC.

“It is a spectacular event and a unique challenge to jump in and out of all the different cars as you go head-to-head with some of the best drivers in the world,” Hunter-Reay said. “So it is a tremendous honor to be invited to compete again.

“I’m proud to represent America, IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, and I look forward to hearing the noise of the crowds in Mexico City, where the passion for motorsport is huge.”

As for Newgarden, this will be his second ROC, having competed in last year’s event in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

“I’m excited about it,” Newgarden said. “It’s a fun event and it will be fun having it in North America.

“Ryan and I are trying to represent America but there’s some really tough competition again this year.

“There’s a strong Mexican contingent this time around and I’m sure their fans will be really pumped to cheer them on.”

No American driver has ever won the individual title in the ROC. However, NASCAR stars Jimmie Johnson and now-retired Jeff Gordon and now-retired motorcycle racer Colin Edwards won the Nation’s Cup title in 2002.

The ROC has been held since 1988 and has visited numerous venues around the globe including Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, London’s Wembley and Olympic stadiums, Miami’s Marlins Park and Paris’ Stade de France.

While other drivers may still be added before the event, drivers confirmed thus far are:

* 2017 IndyCar champ Josef Newgarden
* 2012 IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay
* 3-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves
* 4-time F1 champ Sebastian Vettel
* 13-time F1 race winner David Coulthard
* European Formula 3 champion Mick Schumacher
* 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champ Daniel Suarez
* 3-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner Memo Rojas
* 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward
* FIA PWRC champ Benito Guerra
* 9-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen
* 2-time World Rallycross champ Johan Kristoffersson
* 2016-17 Formula E champ Lucas di Grassi

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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
1 Comment

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.