Ker Robertson/Getty Images

Toyota takes repeat 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

2 Comments

For the second consecutive year, Toyota Gazoo Racing has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the No. 8 TS050 piloted by Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi, and Kazuki Nakajima claiming the overall victory.

However, until the final hour, it looked like the defending race winners would have to settle for second to the No. 7 car, piloted by teammates Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López. The No. 7 led the majority of the race before a suspected puncture in the right-front tire sent López into the pits with one hour, three minutes remaining.

The issue turned out to be a sensor issue with the right-rear tire, which forced the No. 7 to hastily limp around the 8.467-mile Circuit de la Sarthe for another lap before coming in for a second pit stop. That handed the lead – and overall victory – to Alonso, Buemi and Nakajima.

 

The victory also helped the No. 8 trio earn the FIA World Endurance Drivers’ Championship in LMP1, with Buemi a champion for the second time (2014).

The No. 7 finished second overall, 16.972 seconds behind.

The No. 11 SMP Racing entry of Stoffel Vandoorne, Mikhail Aleshin, and Vitaly Petrov took third and final position on the podium, finishing six laps down.

LMP2: Signatech wins after G-Drive suffers wiring issue

In LMP2, the Signatech Alpine Matmut trio of Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao (No. 36 Oreca) won for the second consecutive year and claimed the WEC class championship as well.

Signatech’s latest Le Mans victory came thanks in part to a mechanical issue suffered by the G-Drive Racing team.

Their No. 26 Oreca, shared by Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Job van Uitert, lost a three-minute lead due to a wiring issue on a pit stop 19 hours into the race. The No. 26 car spent 20 minutes in the pits attempting to fix the issue, losing several positions in the process.

After catching a lucky break, it was smooth sailing for the No. 36 team, who finished a lap ahead of second place finishers Ho-Pin Tung, Stephane Richelmi, and Gabriel Aubry in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca.

The No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca of Loic Duval, Matthieu Vaxiviere, and Francois Perrodo finished third in LMP2.

GTE Pro: Ferrari wins in heartbreaking race for Corvette

Ferrari claimed their first Le Mans GTE Pro victory since 2014, with the No.  51 AF Corse 488 GTE shared by James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi, and Daniel Serra taking the checkered flag.

The team claimed the win over the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Gianmaria Bruni, Frederic Makowiecki, and Richard Lietz, with the No. 93 Porsche of IMSA regulars Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber, and Patrick Pilet finishing third.

The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais, Dirk Muller, and Joey Hand finished fourth, as the team and manufacturer marked their final Le Mans run together as a factory effort.

Both Corvette entries did not fare well in the event, with the No. 64 entry of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler out of the race when Fassler hit the tire barriers in the Porsche curves towards the end of Hour 6.

The No. 63 Corvette of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller battled for the class victory into the morning hours. But  Magnussen spun in the same part of the track as Fassler, making contact with the barriers and sending the car into the garage for 15 minutes. The team eventually finished five laps off the pace.

GTE Am: Keating Ford narrowly claims class victory

The No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen, and Felipe Fraga narrowly took the GTE Am class victory, after almost losing the top spot when Keating had to serve a stop-and-go penalty in the closing laps.

The penalty shrunk the team’s 36-second lead to less than five seconds over the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister, Egidio Perfetti, and Patrick Lindsey. But a strong final stint from Bleekemolen was enough to keep the Wynn’s machine in front at the end.

It marks the first class win for the Ford GT in its customer racing debut.

The No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rodrigo Baptista, Jeff Segal, and Wei Lu was third on the GTE Am podium.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter

New study surveys drivers’ opinions on crashes, concussions, more

James Black/IndyCar
Leave a comment

Auto racing safety has continued to improve through the decades, but the sport remains inherently dangerous, according to a new survey.

At the close of 2018, a new organization called Racing Safety United emerged with the intention of reducing drivers’ risk of being harmed.

RSU is made up of more than 30 members including former NASCAR Cup Series competitor Jerry Nadeau, two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Randy LaJoie, NHRA team owner Don Schumacher and motorsports journalist Dick Berggren.

One of RSU’s first initiatives was to determine what current drivers thought of racing safety. The organization developed a 14-question survey and promoted it on select motorsports websites and forums. 

Participants were given the opportunity to disclose their identity or remain anonymous, and those who provided contact information were entered to win a $500 prize (for anonymous participants, the prize funds would be donated to a motorsports charity). 

More than 140 individuals participated in the survey over the course of 12 months. Below are the results of the survey:

Driver status

The vast majority of survey participants (60%) were amateur racers, while 26% of the participants were classified as Semi-Pro/Professional racers. The remaining 14% consisted of other individuals involved in the sport such as team owners and crew chiefs. 

When asked how frequently they race, 58% of driver respondents averaged 10 or more times per year on track, while 42% averaged 10 times or less.

The top five tracks respondents said they raced most often: Road Atlanta (21 votes), Watkins Glen (17 votes), Virginia International Raceway (16 votes), Mid-Ohio (16 votes), and Road America (13 votes).

Vehicular damage, injuries common

Over a third of respondents said they had been injured while racing, and almost two-thirds sasid they had suffered severe vehicle damage while racing

Driver error was cited as the top cause of vehicle damage (42 mentions), followed by concrete walls (26 mentions), mechanical failures (24 mentions), and other drivers (19 mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for better driver training/coaching, energy absorbing walls, and more technical inspections.

Almost a quarter of drivers said they had experienced racing-related concussions, and nearly half the respondents said one or multiple concussions would affect their decision to race in the future. 

Drivers primarily influenced by peers 

Roughly half the drivers said they would consider adopting new safety equipment if influenced by another driver (51 total mentions) and/or if recommended by a sanctioning body (47 total mentions). The study concluded those results indicated a need for drivers to become safety advocates and educate other drivers and for sanctioning bodies to mandate safety equipment. 

Drivers concerned with concrete walls

Approximately three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said they believed certain race tracks were more dangerous than others. Nearly half the drivers surveyed believe that concrete walls were the primary cause of damage to drivers and vehicles. 

Drivers willing to help

Just more than three-quarters of the drivers surveyed said that they would be willing to join a safety alliance to advocate for safer tracks. Two-thirds of drivers said that they also would be willing to contribute to a motorsports safety fund.

Click here for the full results of RSU’s survey

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter