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IMSA’s LMDh regulations come into focus

Now that the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans is complete and the Toyota Gazoo Racing team has notched their third consecutive victory in this year’s late summer twice-around-the-clock classic, the Automobile Cub de l’Ouest (ACO), the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) and the World Endurance Championship (WEC) can now, together with the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) turn their collective energies towards the future of sports car racing.

The Le Mans race marked the end of an era in endurance racing and crowned champions in the FIA’s WEC final standings: Toyota Gazoo Racing earned the LMP1 title, United Autosports clinched its LMP2 team trophy while drivers Albuquerque and Hanson took the drivers’ honors, Aston Martin secured the LMGTE Pro prize. Toyota Gaza’s TS050 Hybrid prototype, after trying 20 times to win Le Mans, took home the Le Mans trophy a third time, which allows the team to keep the trophy as its spoils of victory.

The Le Mans race, customarily held in June close to the Summer Solstice and, therefore, conducted during primarily sunlit conditions, traditionally includes a press conference on the Friday prior, a gathering that can portend future organizational changes and, from time to time, celebrate the past of this classic contest. With the race being held devoid of the hundreds of thousands of fans who customarily surround the French countryside circuit that includes public roads, so, too did the conference take place in virtual manner. Only through technology would participants have knowledge of its contents.

Pierre Fillon, ACO president joined Richard Mille, president of the FIA Endurance Commission, Gerard Neveu, CEO of the FIA WEC and IMSA’s president, John Doonan to discuss new regulations afforded the top class in endurance, HYPERCAR. Prior to this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, this group acknowledged their agreement to make rules that would complement one another’s for the premier HYPERCAR class; those regulations were intended to be unveiled at the June Le Mans race but had to be retained until this past week.

Both the WEC-specific LMH (Le Mans Hybrid) and the LMDh (Le Mans Daytona hybrid) IMSA classes will be eligible to participate at Le Mans under the name HYPERCAR. This is intended to begin with the 2022 season. The cars will all have hybrid power mills and, to date, have several manufacturers that have shown category interest to IMSA, which is keeping those nominees close to the vest. 

There are four registered and approved chassis builders for this new racecar: Dallara, Ligier, Multimatic and ORECA. While the lower body area will be common to all manufacturers, each LMH and LMDh race car will have upper body styling that allows automotive manufacturers to bring their own styling and identification cues. There is a controlled underfloor.

Highlights of the new LMDh regulations include the car’s rolling chassis estimated cost – less engine – of about $1 million and its combined 500 kw horsepower, including the spec hybrid system from Bosch, Williams Advanced Engineering and Xtrac, the sole gearbox provider. The Bosch motor integrates with the Xtrac gearbox, while Williams’ battery integrates with Bosch’s motor controller. According to IMSA, it’s a compact assembly, installed from underneath the cockpit in a compartment isolated from the driver.

It is projected the hybrid system will perform up to 22,000 kms between rebuilds, using the locked hybrid software. Regeneration is expected to deliver a maximum of 50kw continuous power at the wheels, but this is dependent on the track being used.

Minimum weight will be just over 2,270 pounds, according to IMSA, with a maximum width of two meters, computing out to about 6-1/2 feet. Maximum length is 16.7 feet for the LMDh and there’s a common wheelbase of 10.3 feet for all four chassis. The engine/car manufacturers that have conveyed interest to both the ACO and IMSA, aside from Peugeot’s entry to LMH after several years away from sports car racing, has not yet been revealed.

By Anne Proffit

I’m ashamed

I am ashamed.

Ashamed of the city of Long Beach, California and the less than 20 percent of eligible voters who either turned in their ballots on time or went to the polls last Tuesday, June 7th. 

Ashamed that the majority of that less than 20 percent have decided they’d like to have either a prosecutor or professional lobbyist as mayor of this city, which houses about 400,000 souls in buildings either rented or owned, along with about 5,000 unhoused, most of whom are either mentally challenged or drug-addled. Both of these candidates have been on the city’s “clowncil”, a group of nine bobbing heads who vote however they’re told to by service unions, developers and those with financial interests that can afford to buy politicians. Believe me, both of them are bought and paid-for.

Ashamed that the majority of that less than 20 percent would prefer a city attorney who follows the practices of her predecessor by farming out most high-profile cases against the city instead of using qualified attorneys housed at city hall. A city attorney who has minimal experience in this city but has been endorsed by the service unions, developers and hoi polloi who would seek to rule this town. Her competitor, an attorney for well over 30 years, wanted to decrease the city attorney’s pay, which is the highest in California.

Ashamed that the majority of that less than 20 percent prefer an auditor of this city who is under investigation for dubious payments of well more than $1 million to political consultants – without invoices or work orders, who has performed fewer and fewer audits in her most recent years in office (16 and counting) and who is politically backed but ethically unsound. The gentleman running against her wanted to perform more audits, look into the city’s lack of ethics and be the kind of transparent auditor any city would be proud to have. He was willing to come out of retirement to do this.

Ashamed that my own clowncil district has a seat-warmer who has followed the dictates of the current mayor to the letter and has no mind of her own. She was re-elected by the less than 20 percent majority.

Ashamed that the city of Long Beach and surrounding environs will, no doubt, be sending to congress a liar and thief whose sole claim to fame is that he kisses up to those in higher office. He has decided to build a pool, next to the ocean, on the sand that, with climate changes will likely be underwater soon after its dedication (likely it’ll be named after him). This same quasi-politician shows up for baby-kissing and pronouncements, like his predecessor, but has none of the ethics we need in a representative. He’s in this game to win. And nothing more.

June 8th was a very depressing day for me. To see the apathy in my fellow citizens and their lack of knowledge in either casting votes or sloughing off the duty every citizen should feel obligated to perform. I have voted in every election for which I’ve been eligible. I consider it my duty to do so. And I read up on candidates and their platforms, their past work and what they intend to do. In most cases, the “winners” of these offices said nothing about what they’d do; they just wanted to throw verbal boulders at their opponents, whether true or not. Unfortunately, there are no consequences for doing things like that.

Our country changed with the passage of Citizens United and not for the better. We are poorer with big money politics and it’s costing us mightily – and will continue to cost us unless, until, we decide we can’t do this any longer. Citizens United is responsible for assholes like the former guy, Ron DeathSantis, Greg Abbott and Mo Brooks, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, MTG and Lauren Boebert. It’s responsible for local assholes like Robert Garcia, Cindy Allen – both republicans who have campaigned as democrats – Robert Uranga, Laura Doud, Tom Modica, Dawn McIntosh and so many others.

I’m ashamed. If you’re not, you are no friend of mine.

Anne Proffit

Toyota’s 2022 Corolla LE Hybrid is both competent and comfortable

In these days of nose-bleed fuel pricing, hybrids, plug-in hybrids and true EVs are definitely good choices for those in the market for a new car. On my annual trip to Florida for the NHRA Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals, one of the biggest drag races of the year, I was fortunate to have the 2022 Toyota Corolla LE hybrid available for review. 

The Blueprint-colored, deep blue sedan has a graphite – near white – interior. The exterior of the latest Corolla model from Toyota is classy and inviting, with its all-LED lighting, clean front and side visages and subtle rear-end styling. With very little brightwork, the 2022 Toyota Corolla LE hybrid is pretty much invisible, an attribute nice to have when one’s dealing with motorists trying to see just how far over the speed limit they can ride before encountering the law.

The LE model is the only one for Toyota’s Corolla hybrid sedan this year, and the hybrid is only available as a sedan – the company’s hatchback isn’t offered as a hybrid. To move this 2850-pound car, which is kind of light for a hybrid, Toyota uses a 16-valve Atkinson cycle 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder engine with 121 horsepower, 105 lb-ft of torque and a permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor that produces 71 horsepower and 105 lb-ft. The combined output is stated at 139 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 126 lb-ft of torque at 3,900. Redline is 5,600 rpm.

An electronically-controlled continuously variable automatic transmission (ECVT) is used and it’s just fine to move the Corolla down the road, while MacPherson struts and multi links keep the Corolla stable at all speeds. The electronically-controlled rack and pinion steering offers a nice 35.6-foot turning ratio, while all-wheel disc brakes do an excellent job. Yokohama 195/55R 15-inch tires ride on twinned five-spoke wheel covers. 

There are three drive modes: normal, power and eco – we applied normal for all but a few miles on power setting; getting just under 50 mpg throughout the week’s visit with this Toyota Corolla LE hybrid from its 11.4-gallon tank. This economy meant only two refills for the week, despite traveling from Orlando to visit a friend in Sarasota and then off to Gainesville for work before returning back to Orlando in brain-dead Sunday night traffic. We did slightly more than 500 miles from Wednesday through too-early Monday morning. The Corolla hybrid is rated at 53/52/52 miles per gallon using regular fuel. Non-hybrid Corolla models should achieve about 10-mpg less than the hybrid.

This is not a fancy car, but it sure is competent at everything it’s asked to do. While the engine combo isn’t the smoothest or quietest in the world, it gets the job done, even in Florida where you’re either turning 90 or sitting in traffic. There seems to be no in-betweens. There is passive entry and pushbutton start, along with one-touch driver’s window. There was only a four-legged passenger so the other windows weren’t used.

Weather played a huge part in this week-long trip to Florida, as it absolutely poured on Friday at the racetrack. Everyone from fans to officials are parked in dirt, which became deep mud. Watching others winched from their parking spots led to worry about leaving – after our feet were covered in mud – but light application on the accelerator driving both fore and aft got us out of the muck on a single try. Good work by Toyota to have all the under-pinnings working properly to save the day.

As stated, this is not a fancy car. All seats are manual and easy to adjust fore, aft and for height, and the steering wheel is adjustable. There’s exceptional comfort after more than a few hours behind the wheel and all controls fall readily to hand. Radar cruise control is easy to use and does have adjustments for following distance. There are cup holders in all four doors and at the central area next to the driver and front-seat passenger, where a 12-volt plug is also available through the small central storage.  At the base of the center stack there’s a good spot for the easy-to-pair cell phone; a USB plug is pretty well hidden to the lower right of the center stack.

Toyota mounts an eight-inch touchscreen at the center of the dash to work both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making a nav system almost superfluous. We used Apple CarPlay and, as ever, it’s a truly efficient piece of work. There are six speakers for audio and Toyota equips this sedan with SiriusXM satellite radio with three months gratis. There are soft-touch materials about the cabin, adding elegance that was unexpected and the sedan has more rear-seat space than the hatchback. It even has more usable luggage space despite being five square feet smaller than the hatch’s cargo area (18 vs 13 cubic feet). There was space enough for a big Costco box, our 22-inch carry-on and large backpack, with room for even more.

This 2022 Toyota Corolla LE hybrid is an easy car to own with a list price of $25,394. There were only two options: blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert ($500) and a car mat package for $249. Still, Toyota places its complete suite of safety and convenience items on this four-door front-wheel-drive sedan: Toyota’s SafetySense 2.0 pre-collision system, with its pedestrian detector, lane departure alert with [mild] steering assist, lane tracking assist, automatic high beams, along with road sign assist on the dash.

Toyota’s Corolla is the best-selling car in the world, and one reason could be the complimentary scheduled maintenance and competitive warranty. The Corolla is a handsome sedan that features a good-looking exterior, an excellent, comfortable and comforting interior and a capable batch of mechanicals under hood. If this is the price range a buyer is considering, and if the buyer is interested in a Toyota hybrid that’s not a Prius, this is the choice. It’s a vehicle I’d seriously consider buying. You might, too.

Words and images by Anne Proffit

A woman’s place

The recent death of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright got me thinking about women. Young women, old women, lower, middle, upper class women, educated and formally uneducated women. Women of color and women without any color. 

When I broke into the motorsports world as editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter in 1974, the only working women I saw around me were Judy Stropus and Sylvia Wilkinson. Both were doing timing and scoring. This was before computers were on every pit stand. Instead, there were women – and the occasional man – writing down the time of each car and subtracting from the previous lap to get the lap time. Or they were marking the car numbers each time they came around on either a road-street or oval track, to keep a lap chart.

I learned to do those chores myself, even before I went to work with IMSA. It was a good foot in the door, even though we weren’t allowed all the way inside the room. No women were permitted in media centers and precious few in the garages of racing competitions. We were privileged to be on those timing stands. At the time, women couldn’t have their own credit cards, buy cars and houses, and had to ask their husbands for permission for just about anything.

If you know me, you know that’s not my style. When I was chosen by John Bishop to do editorial, circulation, production and advertising on the Arrow newsletter, I was a one-Anne band. A relative of Bishop’s thought this was great for “women’s liberation” activities that were just beginning to be used to gain the rights we are all enjoying today.

And today? Women are in race engineering, women are on race crews, a woman leads Firestone’s racing tire operations, women are winning races against men, particularly in NHRA’s Camping World Drag Racing Series. As four-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders profoundly notes, “The car doesn’t know if it’s a man or woman driving it.” Or engineering it. Or deciding which compound of tire the entire field will be using. Or writing and photographing motorsports, which is what I do these days.

We’ve come a long way baby but the basic human rights of women in all facets of life are being challenged. Every day. It’s not enough to be dealing with physical deformities or disabilities, without having them mocked, as comedian Chris Rock did during the Oscar telecast on Sunday. 

Somehow we have to be stronger than the men who mock us. Somehow we have to prevail in fights that would have us return to the 1950s, when the scenarios stated above were prevalent. A time when abortions were performed with wire hangers, when women walked two steps behind their husbands. 

The above scenarios might seem primitive to a younger generation but they are being revived all around the country by insecure men who won’t have women operating in the same wheelhouse. Let’s hope this imperialistic misogyny doesn’t spread back to racing. I don’t think I can keep a lap chart anymore – that ship has sailed!

By Anne Proffit

T.E. McHale – an appreciation

T.E. McHale with author Gordon Kirby at the 2019 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

On the Winter Solstice, the motorsports community, in particular the INDYCAR family, is mourning one of its own. T.E. McHale, 68, who managed Honda’s Honda Performance Development (HPD) racing public relations duties, elevated Honda Racing to a place where, even if you didn’t know him, you knew his work and his love for the sport of racing.

McHale started in the business with the Mansfield News-Journal, published in the Ohio city of the same name. Mansfield is the small town closest to MId-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he would come to write stories about the different racing activities occurring at this renown road course. He made great friends in the racing business during his tenure at the paper, from 1978-1995.

McHale was plucked from the anonymity of small-town newspaper reporting by Adam Saal, then the communications director for Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the two of them, working in concert, were magic. McHale started in 1996 as a pit note reporter and soon became the news manager at CART, from 1997-2001. He moved on to be communications director for the Trans-Am Series in 2002 and then found his home, in 2003, as Honda Racing’s manager of motorsports public relations and communications from 2003 until his 2020 retirement.

T.E. usually had a smile on his face, but when it was time, he was all business

Like Adam Saal, T.E. McHale became involved with the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (MSHFA) and joined its board of directors, at one point becoming its chairman. Saal, who would know, said that, at its height HPD’s success could be summed up in McHale’s leadership. “After the departure of Honda motorsports icons Tom Elliott and Robert Clarke, it was the unassuming T.E. who was truly the heart and soul and most visible leader of Honda’s racing programs.” When McHale joined the MSHFA, “I was delighted we worked together again almost as close as we had in the previous century.”

Many beneficial programs to racers that seemed to spring up without provocation, were the work of T.E. McHale, whose generosity of spirit kept many in the media fed and clothed away from the tracks. Through his efforts, Honda became the presenting sponsor of the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) Safe is Fast program and aided the publishing of Lionheart – Remembering Dan Wheldon, about his friend, the late Dan Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 twice, the second time the year he died. He secured many civic-minded “deals” for Honda and Acura, most recently sponsorship of the longest-running street race in the United States, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Fittingly, T.E. McHale, a quiet man with a wide smile, let no one know he was dealing with fourth stage colon cancer until shortly before his death. His stoicism was something you could see in the man, but it was his graciousness to everyone around him that was his true calling card. He never let the small-town aura dissipate and always remembered his beginnings. And he never forgot the people who were at his side from the start.

McHale’s domain at the NTT IndyCar Series races was the Honda Racing coach and attached hospitality unit. The food is always extraordinary, the best restaurant in town – no matter which town INDYCAR visits. The menu is diverse and one item is served on a regular basis: Brussels Sprouts. McHale, whose sense of humor was truly infectious, had a rule: if you didn’t eat at least one sprout, you were not entitled to the (homemade) desserts. There were howls of protests from some in the media, but the rule was always The Rule.

It was “the rule” and the Brussels sprouts were always delicious – as were the desserts!

As news of his passing began, the tributes poured in from media members, those who worked with him, like Saal, and the drivers with whom he worked. “There are very few relationships in this world I cherished as much as the one I had with T.E.,” said Graham Rahal. “Very few races in my career have gone by without him coming to see me before the start, saying ‘Godspeed’. Now it’s my turn: Godspeed, T.E. You’ll be missed, my friend.”

Dario Franchitti, who drove Honda-powered cars almost exclusively during his stellar INDYCAR career (he was in a Mercedes-Benz-powered car his first year in the US), had a tradition with McHale during his professional driving career. Before he climbed into a car – no matter the race – Franchitti and McHale would be locked in a hug. It acknowledged their respect, even love for one another and the fact that they both knew there might not be a hug later. “It might have made others uncomfortable,” Franchitti acknowledged, “but not me.”

Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Bryan Herta and Tony Kanaan at a Honda Hospitality media gathering

McHale lost his beloved wife Brenda in 2016, but continued to work through his grieving. When offered a retirement package in 2020, he decided to take it, as COVID ravaged the world. He might have known the motorsports world he loved would be turned on its head. He was that smart and savvy.

I’d known T.E. McHale from his time at the Mansfield newspaper – his mom introduced us! – and through every successive climb up the racing ladder. Although he never turned a lap in a racing car, T.E. McHale embodied passion for the sport and its populace that will far, far, outlive his time on earth.

Words and Photos By Anne Proffit 

Tags: NTT IndyCar Series, Honda, Honda Performance Development, Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

W Series to end 2021 season at COTA

The drivers pose for a photo

(Except as noted all photos courtesy W Series)

W Series, the international open-wheel championship dedicated to gaining access to the driver’s seat for women in the racing game, is making its first foray outside Europe, ending its 2021 season with a doubleheader at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) outside Austin Texas in late October. W Series will serve as a companion pair of races to the Formula One round scheduled for the venue on October 22-24.

W Series was launched in October of of 2018 as the no-cost avenue to place a women in Formula One cockpits; it’s been 45 years since a female driver last started a championship F1 race and this series is the response to remedying that situation. The series does provide equal opportunities to women and, since entry is predicated on abilities, it removes financial barriers that have historically prevented qualified women from progressing to the nosebleed territory of F1.

Drivers are selected purely on ability rather than how rich their backers might be to drive the equally built and prepared open-wheel cars. The cars are mechanically identical and, for that reason, remove hardware advantages from competition. W Series races and championships will be won by the most talented drivers, rather than those with the deepest pockets and fastest cars.

Emma Kimilainen (FIN) leads Alice Powell (GBR) and Jamie Chadwick (GBR) at the start of the race

Nearly three years since its birth, the seventh and eighth rounds of the 2021 season of W Series racing mark the first events events staged outside Europe. After six rounds this season, Alice Powell of GBR and Jamie Chadwick (also from Great Britain and the series’ first champion) both have earned 109 points to top the championship standings. Powell holds the advantage despite their equal points-scoring tallies as she has one more race victory than Chadwick (three wins to two). Emma Kimilainen of Finland holds third-place points, 34 behind the leading duo. A maximum of 50 points is on offer for the two, season-closing rounds at COTA.

Sabre Cook (USA)

In this paddock, there is a single American racer to follow, Sabre Cook of Colorado. The 27-year-old won the 2018 Renault Infiniti Engineering Academy competition at COTA; on the same weekend she also raced in SCCA’s Formula 4 U.S. Championship at the Austin circuit. Ayla Agren, born in Norway but residing in Houston for the past five years, has raced in the Road to Indy feeder series, as well as driving the INDYCAR safety car and spotting for the series. “Racing with W Series at COTA in support of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be the highlight of my career so far,” Agren said.

Ayla Agren (NOR)

Lyn St James, the first woman to achieve Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year status, followed that success with an additional six starts in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. She has two class victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and one at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. She has participated in the 24 Heures du Mans and is the former president of the Women’s Sports Foundation. As an advocate for women in motorsports, St James said, “I’m very excited to be able to see the W Series drivers race in person at COTA. I met most of them when I was part of the selection committee prior to the opening season. To be able to see how they’ve progressed over a few short years, and see the new ones, will be very rewarding.”

Lyn St James at the 2019 Indianapolis 500 (Anne Proffit photo)

St James, who has taken the mantle of advocating for women throughout the sport acknowledged, “One of the goals of W Series was to provide the driver with the opportunity to race in quality cars with quality support, which would fine-tune and showcase their talents, resulting in the drivers having the opportunity to race in other categories. 

“This is exactly what has happened and I believe W Series has been a catalyst for other racing programs focused on women drivers,” St James noted. “The efforts of the FIA, W Series, the newly announced IMSA Driver Development Scholarship, ShiftUp Now, the INDYCAR Race for Equality and Change, and the Next Gen Foundation are all examples of leaders in the sport taking action to help open doors for women in motorsports.”

The precise schedule for W Series’ activity at its COTA season finale weekend will be announced as the event draws closer. The action can be seen across W Series’ digital and social channels, as well as being broadcast – beIN SPORTS covers W Series in the US – in more than 175 territories. 

By Anne Proffit

WEC Hypercar era begins this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing. World Endurance Championship. Prologue 25th to 27th April 2021 Spa Francorchamps Circuit, Spa, Belgium

The FIA’s World Endurance Championship kicks off this weekend at Belgian’s Spa-Francorchamps road circuit, one of the most famous racetracks in Europe. The occasion marks the start of the Hypercar category, which replaces the LMP1 class that was, most recently dominated by Toyota, the second Japanese manufacturer to win the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans. Hypercars will compete against LMDh cars from IMSA once the series changes from its current DPi premier category.

24 Hours of Le Mans ACO American Le Mans Series Andretti Autosport Audi BMW CART Chevrolet Chevrolet Camaro Dallara Dario Franchitti Don Schumacher Racing Ferrari Firestone Ford Formula 1 Formula One Funny Car Honda IMSA Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis Motor Speedway IndyCar IndyCar Series IZOD IndyCar Series John Force Racing Mello Yello Drag Racing Series NASCAR NASCAR Sprint Cup NASCAR Sprint Cup Series NHRA NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Nissan Porsche Pro Stock Rolex 24 at Daytona Scott Dixon Target Chip Ganassi Racing Team Penske Tony Kanaan Top Fuel Toyota Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Verizon IndyCar Series World Endurance Championship

On the projected 37-car entry list, there are five Hypercars expected to be at the circuit for the six-hour race. Toyota Gazoo Racing has entered two of its GR010 cars for reigning champions Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez (in the No. 7) and Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley in the No. 8. 

Their competition is a single Alpine Elf Matmut Alpine A480-Gibson for Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviera, which is a grandfathered LMP1 car. Two entries from the American Glickenhaus Racing (Glickenhaus 007 LMH) notes only two drivers, one for each car: American Gustavo Menezes and Ryan Briscoe, each the lead driver for the No. 708 and 709, respectively. Romain Dumas, Pipo Derani, Olivier Pla, Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux are team drivers but their car assignments haven’t been confirmed. All but the Alpine still have to be licensed by the FIA and its WEC tech department prior to the first practice session.

The WEC held a two-day Prologue test at the track earlier this week in anticipation of the six-hour race and it was then that one issue cropped up: the LMP2 prototypes, which are all powered by a V8 Gibson engine, using either Oreca, Aurus or Ligier chassis, lapped the 7.004 m (4.352 mi), 19-turn circuit quicker than the Toyota Hypercar. During the test session LMP2 cars took first through third places with Toyota’s two entries fourth and fifth. These results show the speed differences compared to the LMP1 predecessors. No doubt the Hypercar will develop well; it’s still quite an infant without a single competitive lap turned.

Toyota, which considered its new hybrid Hypercar a direct descendant of the 1980s and 1990s Group C period, conducted thousands of miles of testing in advance of the Prologue testing, has carefully constructed this new car with a front motor generator unit that delivers 272PS of hybrid power and four-wheel-drive traction at speeds over 120km/h. It’s combined with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, giving its drivers 680PS. In comparison, last year’s TS050 Hybrid weighed 162 kg less and boasted 1,000PS.

The drivers are hoping the team can overcome issues they experienced during the test and have the team start the season as they ended it, in Victory Lane. “It’s been a challenging week, but the mechanics did an exceptional job to get us back on track,” said Mike Conway after having to spend much of the first day waiting for hydraulic and electrical issues to be resolved. “The balance feels okay and we’ve been working on race pace, which means consistency and reliability.”

The six-hour race, which also features the Corvette Racing No. 63 Corvette C8.R driven by Oliver Gavin and Antonio Garcia in the LM GTE Pro division of five cars, takes the green flags at 1:30PM CET, which computes to 7:30AM Sunday, May 1st.

By Anne Proffit

Politics and Racing

Is it right and proper for racing organizations to publicly endorse candidates for office? While we all see individual racers and teams who lean one direction or the other, it’s not often that we see a trade group visibly asking racers to favor one candidate over another.

This summer, NHRA was faced – during its return to racing after a near five-month hiatus as the novel coronavirus struck the country – with racers who placed large decals on their cars favoring one presidential candidate over another. 

Because of broadcast rules, NHRA could not show those race cars on national television and declared those involved in the sport of NHRA professional drag racing would be able to show their preferences – just not as large as they originally wanted to do.

Most of the racers understood the series’ dilemma in meeting its obligations to the broadcast partner with whom they’d just extended a contract. The decals became smaller and, in many cases, more were added to the cars in question in order to make the point heard. No further discussion was necessary and the season concluded the first of November in Las Vegas.

The United States’ national election was held a few days later and most results have been tabulated and accepted. In one case, elections for both senate seats was too tight to call and a runoff election has been set for early January. 

This week a racing trade organization got involved with that statewide election, asking its members in the state to favor certain candidates over the others because of the candidates’ affection for the sport and acceptance of racing in the state where the candidates are campaigning. 

While we all want our elected officials to enjoy the same love we have for the sport of racing, voting is a private decision and not one that should be influenced by a trade organization. That this particular group is set on influencing votes is very disturbing. A press release asked members of the organization and ancillary voters to cast their ballots strictly on support for motorsports, giving info that could lead to invalidate votes coming from out-of-state. 

We all want support for racing at the local, state and federal level, but it’s imperative that voters make their own educated choices without influence peddling of this type. And that’s exactly what Performance Racing Industry has asked its membership to do: support strictly on the basis of what they believe is best for racing.

Perhaps PRI has forgotten that, once ballots are cast and elections are won or lost, politicians tend to conduct their business by herd. If the balance of the party they’re affiliated with disagrees with the elected’s stances on racing, you can bet your last dollar the two candidates for senate in this particular state will turn away from the sport and advance the party’s stance. 

In this writer’s opinion, it’s not right for a trade organization to be this strident in support of certain candidates for office. No matter how much they profess to love our sport.

By Anne Proffit

Long Beach’s corruption continues unabated

It’s humiliating to think the citizens of Council District 2 still aren’t ready for proper representation and prefer a 9-0 “clowncil” that bows to the whims of Dr. Robert Garcia, our upwardly mobil “mayor.” From the time of, at least, Dan Baker on through to Suja Lowenthal and Jeannine Pearce, it’s plain to see how CD2 became a wasteland of other peoples’ priorities. 

In selecting Cindy Allen, you have decided you prefer: road diets, rampant density, a Garcia supplicant who will back him on every single issue, far less accessible parking, more bike lanes on major thoroughfares, more mentally disabled homeless destroying our district and, even more important, someone who will allow both fire and police (who back her with massive union dollars) to increase their pay without any consideration towards the welfare of the community. Like her, they’re all in to win, not to serve our needs.

Cindy Allen, a longtime Orange County resident who was a republican up to about two years ago, who lied about selling her business – twice – whose stated rationale for running is that she’s a “social butterfly” (her words, not mine), based her campaign on lies about her opponent, Robert Fox. Fox, a 36-year resident, homeowner and small businessman in CD2, has been extremely active in his community. Is that such a horrible idea for a council representative? She called the life-long democrat a republican, said he was a poor landlord and did everything possible to debase him. Sounds “trumpian” to me.

So that’s what you get for the next four years. A clowncil member who can’t vote on certain issues because she has skin in the game – kinda like Pearce – and who won’t even discuss massive legal problems about her former business, preferring to leave a pre-election forum rather than explain her stance on those issues, who won’t even discuss her time as a police officer in this city in the 1990s. Dr Garcia had his clowncil conveniently destroy all police records from that era prior to the election.

So I’m disgusted with my neighbors. You didn’t do your homework and your choice will bring our community even more dismal problems than those we currently face. As to you, Cindy Allen: prove.me.wrong. 

By Anne Proffit

Lexus’ 2020 ES300h is an unexpected pleasure

front side view

There was a time when Lexus’ ES model induced yawns. It was wallowy and boring, and didn’t stand out from the crowd. To many, it was simply a tarted-up Toyota Avalon with, perhaps, better customer service at the point of sale and beyond.

Forward to today’s Lexus ES300h and discover a fun, rewarding four-door, front-wheel-drive sedan that can be driven (rather than simply operated) and enjoyed. An 11-day trip to the midwest to attend NHRA’s return to racing back-to-back races outside Indianapolis, afforded the opportunity to live with and enjoy this mid-size hybrid sedan, which celebrated a redesign last year.

rear side view

The 2020 Lexus ES300h sedan in Matador Red exudes elegance. It’s inviting from the first ignition and rewarding over the road. Its looks aren’t generic, but do have a Lexus familiarity to them, from the exaggerated waterfall grille at the front to the upswept rear trunk area with its winglet. Chrome accents abound at the grille, window surrounds, at the trunk opening and lower rear fascia. It’s all very cohesive and, yes, elegant.

side view

Lexus’ ES hybrid has been around for ten years now and has evolved to be an excellent machine, as have all Lexus and Toyota hybrid vehicles. Under the hood, Lexus matches an Atkinson cycle 2.5-liter inline four cylinder engine of 215 horsepower and 163 lb-ft of torque together with a battery pack that lives below the rear seats, keeping the trunk usably large.

engine

Lexus employs an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) that adds to this sedan’s efficiency but doesn’t hunt and peck for gears as many of its ilk do. For those that intend to use the sport setting, rather than eco or normal modes, Lexus fits paddle shifters that encourage spirited driving. Front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspensions keep the ES300h planted to the road, while [optional] P235/45R Bridgestone Turanza tires adorn 18-inch twinned five-spoke alloy wheels.

Brakes are excellent and handily recharge the battery pack, while electronically controlled power steering has only a slight vagueness on-center. When the car is placed in sport mode, everything tightens up and feels more sporting; you’d almost think this was an F-sport, not a hybrid as it dances through the wooded area roads where we spent our Indianapolis-area visit.

front view

This sedan is extremely comfortable, with dual power seats up front and plenty of space for those in the rear. The driver’s seat has a seat-bottom extension for the taller folk. There’s even sunshades for both the active and the porthole back-seat windows, as well as the rear-facing window, which is power operated. These shades are awfully nice when the summer temps in Indiana creep towards triple digits. Rear passengers have their own air flow and USB/auxiliary outlets.

rear air flow & outlets

Lexus equips this 3,704-pound vehicle so nicely, with standard items such as 10 airbags, Bi-LED headlamps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Lexus Enform WiFi that’s compatible with smartphones and smart watches, Sirius XM satellite radio, electrochromic heated folding outside mirrors, dual-zone climate control, three memories for the driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, heated and ventilated front seats, wood trim and ambient lighting. There’s a small, usable sunroof as standard equipment and all seating is leather-faced.

office

Of course there are a pile of options on the 2020 Lexus ES300h that increase its entry fee of $46,685 including destination to a grand total of $55,550.. Some of these items, in this writer’s opinion, should be included but not my call. Lexus charges $1,900 for blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert, intuitive parking assist with auto braking, rear pedestrian detection and panoramic view monitor. The wireless charging pad ($75) sits inside the central storage area, while the 18-inch wheels carry a $950 charge.

On this car, Lexus fits a 10.2-inch head-up display ($500) and triple-beam headlights for $1,515. The big option is Lexus’ Navigation/Mark Levinson audio package ($2,900) which includes the nav system with a 12.3-inch color multimedia display, replacing the standard 8-in unit, Lexus Enform dynamic navigation, dynamic voice command, Lexus Enform destination assist and the luscious Mark Levinson PurePlay 17-speaker, 1,800-watt premium surround sound audio system. There’s also a heated wood and leather trimmed steering wheel with windshield wiper de-icer and fast response interior heater ($480), door edge guards for $145 and illuminated door sills for $400.

We flew into Chicago and drove this 2020 Lexus ES300h to the Indianapolis area. It is exceptional over the road and gets an easy 44mpg at outrageous speeds (don’t ask; don’t tell) from the 13.2-gallon tank, using regular unleaded fuel. A massive shopping trip en route to our friends’ home didn’t even start to occupy the trunk’s 16.7 cubic feet. This foot-operated trunk is massive, has a first-aid kit and a pass-through to the cabin. A small spare is fit below the trunk floor with tools.

rear seats

The head-up display is excellent, showing the speed limit, actual speed, economy report and lane departure; the display can be raised and lowered as needed. It was easy to sync with the phone on this ES300h, which isn’t always the case with this manufacturer. The large, split screen notes freeway exits on main roads and a little box on the gauge cluster shows the speed limit – it’s rimmed in red when even one mile per hour over the limit.

Lexus’ infotainment system has received some upgrades and is becoming even easier to use. The navigation system is excellent and has little difficulty finding some of the back, back roads used on this trip. The wireless charger is efficiently placed in the small central storage area with its clamshell opening on both sides for easy access. There are USB/aux/12-volt plugs inside, as well as inside the front cup holder that can also be closed.

It was surprising to drive this big, heavy car and find it as agile as it is, particularly in sport mode. Staying away from interstates and using back roads was enticing and with the excellent mileage it was quite rewarding. While the four-cylinder engine doesn’t scream with power, it’s capable enough to get around farm trucks and folks who just like to mosey down the road.

So thanks, Lexus, for restoring my faith in your ES model and giving me a great machine for this midwestern visit. Putting more than 1,000 miles on the Es300h was, unexpectedly, a great pleasure.

Words and photos by Anne Proffit