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Today’s iRacing IndyCar race at Motegi: Start time, TV info, more

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The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will make its second consecutive trip to an oval Saturday with another wave of accomplished novices joining the largest field yet in the series.

The 113-lap race at virtual Twin Ring Motegi’s oval will feature 33 drivers, up two from Round 3 at Michigan International Speedway. There were 29 drivers in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park and 25 in the opener at Watkins Glen International.

Two-time NASCAR Cup champion Kyle Busch will make his debut, along with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves and 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.

“I’ve had a lot of fun racing different cars I probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to try in real life because of my schedule on the NASCAR side,” Busch said in a release. “I started practicing with the group on Thursday, and things have gone well so far. These guys are really good at what they do in real life and equally as good in the sim world. Just want to thank all the IndyCar drivers for welcoming me.”

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Said Castroneves: “I’m so happy to be back in IndyCar, even though it’s in a virtual race at Twin Ring Motegi. I feel like I have the edge for this weekend since I’m one of the few drivers in the field who actually raced there in real life and have been able to win there with Roger (Penske) back in the day.

Sato will be making his iRacing debut.

“I finally have my equipment this week and am thrilled about my debut in iRacing at Motegi,” he said in a release. “What amazing timing! The Japanese fans are already very excited and very happy that they can watch the current IndyCar Series race in Motegi virtually. I have been visiting Twin Ring Motegi every winter as Honda held fan appreciation days. … We missed racing in an IndyCar race in Japan for a long time, but who could imagine we are going back there for virtual racing?

“We are living in extraordinary times at the moment, but this is an amazing story to be able to race an Indy car at virtual Twin Ring Motegi.”

Here is the information on today’s virtual race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by auto racing legend Mario Andretti at 2:43 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 2:45 p.m.

TV: Coverage of the race will begin on NBCSN at 2:30 p.m. ET and also via the NBCSN stream on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports App. The IndyCar on NBC booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy will have the call of the race with reporter Marty Snider.

The race also can be viewed through drivers’ individual Twitch channels.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Performed by Big Machine Records country music star Carly Pearce at 2:39 p.m. ET.

TRACK: Virtual Twin Ring Motegi, an egg-shaped, 1.549-mile oval in Motegi, Japan. Turn banking: 10 degrees.

COMPETITION CAUTION: None.

DISTANCE: The Firestone 175 is 113 laps/175 miles/281.6 km (approximately 75 minutes).

SETUPS: Fixed; no changes allowed for drivers.

PIT STOPS: Two. Fuel window approximately 40 laps.

FAST REPAIRS: One (same as last week at Michigan; drivers were allowed two fast repairs, the equivalent of hitting a reset button, at the past two races on road courses).

REAL WORLD AT MOTEGI: There were 14 IndyCar races at Twin Ring Motegi from 1998-2011. Adrian Fernandez won the inaugural race March 28, 1998, while Scott Dixon won the most recent, on Sept. 18, 2011. Danica Patrick made history at the circuit April 20, 2008, becoming the only female driver to win an IndyCar race.

Ten drivers in the field Saturday also competed in the last IndyCar race at Twin Ring Motegi on Sept. 18, 2011: Scott Dixon (winner), Will Power (second), Marco Andretti (third), Sebastien Bourdais (sixth), Takuma Sato (10th), Graham Rahal (12th), James Hinchcliffe (15th), Tony Kanaan (17th), Helio Castroneves (22nd) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (24th).

Two drivers in the field each have two career real-life victories at Twin Ring Motegi: Helio Castroneves (2006, 2010) and Scott Dixon (2009, 2011).

UNOFFICIAL POINTS STANDINGS: There is no championship at play, but if points were being kept, Scott McLaughlin would be leading. Click here for the points standings after Michigan.

PAST THREE ROUNDS: Click here for the full boxscore from Michigan. Click here for the full boxscore from Barber. Click here for the full box score from Watkins Glen.

NEXT: The Firestone 175 at Twin Ring Motegi is the fourth of six events to be held each Saturday through May 2. Next week is at the Circuit of The Americas (April 25) and then a non-INDYCAR “Dream” track (May 2) is the finale.

ENTRY LIST: Click to view the entry list for the fourth round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge.

SPOTTER’S GUIDE: Click here to view the paint schemes being used in today’s race at Twin Ring Motegi.

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.