Luke Smith

MATOSINHOS, PORTUGAL - MAY 22:  Kris Meeke of Great Britain and Paul Nagle of Ireland celebrate their victory during Day Three of the WRC Portugal on May 22, 2016 in Matosinhos, near Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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Meeke dominates in Portugal for second WRC victory

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Kris Meeke stormed to his second victory in the FIA World Endurance Championship on Sunday after dominating all four days of Rally Portugal.

Despite not competing for 13 weeks and missing the last two rounds of the WRC, Meeke produced a flawless display to lead 18 of the 19 stages in northern Portugal.

The Citroen driver finished almost half a minute clear of Volkswagen’s Andreas Mikkelsen to pick up his second WRC victory following his maiden success in Argentina last year.

Meeke is only running a part-programme in 2016 while Citroen focuses on developing a new car for the WRC next year, making his success both surprising and all the sweeter.

“It was nearly a perfect weekend, a text book performance,” Meeke said.

“It’s another step for me as a driver. This year is all about gathering experience and I couldn’t have done any more.

“We’ll use these rallies this year for our benefit and try to mount a title challenge next year.”

Defending world champion Sebastien Ogier continues to lead the drivers’ championship after finishing third in Portugal, having suffered two punctures on the final day of running.

The next WRC round takes place in Sardinia from June 10-12.

Sarrazin hopeful of Toyota’s Le Mans chances after Spa showing

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 17:  The Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid of Stephane Sarrazin, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi drives during the FIA World Endurance Championship Six Hours of Silverstone race at the Silverstone Circuit on April 17, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
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BERLIN, Germany – Stephane Sarrazin is hopeful that Toyota can fight for its first overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June after a strong showing at Spa earlier this month.

Toyota has made significant progress with its new car, the TS050 Hybrid, and cut the gap to LMP1 rivals Audi and Porsche.

In the last FIA World Endurance Championship race at Spa, Toyota looked to be in a position to claim its first race victory since the end of 2014 before both of its cars were forced to retire with an engine issue.

Sarrazin, who shares the no. 6 TS050 Hybrid with Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, hopes that Toyota can get in the mix for overall victory at Le Mans, but believes reliability will be critical.

“The TS050 is a very fast car, a very good car,” Sarrazin told NBC Sports.

“We showed at Spa we can fight for the win. Unfortunately we had an issue.

“Le Mans will be tough this year for everybody. We have to really focus on each detail.

“Reliability is really the key.”

Sarrazin balances his Toyota commitments with a drive in Formula E, racing for Venturi. The Frenchman confirmed that he will remain in the championship for its third season, starting this fall, but is yet to commit to Venturi.

“I will stay in Formula E. I like Formula E,” Sarrazin said.

“I am [doing] very well in my team, with Venturi. We started from zero last year, we created the team, and now it’s a proper racing team.

“I’m very happy and proud about that, on the smallest budget in the championship. We are doing a good job.

“I feel well. But let’s see.”

Gutierrez: Ignoring Monaco distractions ‘a challenge’

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 18:  Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico drives the Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo during day two of F1 in-season tests at Circuit de Catalunya on May 18, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
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Esteban Gutierrez concedes that it is difficult to ignore the distractions posed by the Monaco Grand Prix weekend as Formula 1 prepares for its annual glamor event.

Monaco has a reputation not only for being one of the most challenging races on the calendar due to its tight and twisting nature, but also for welcoming numerous celebrities and big names to its red-carpet weekend.

While the drivers must remain fully-focused on the job at hand, Gutierrez conceded that the outside distractions are often difficult to ignore.

“It is one of the most demanding circuits, but it’s very special,” Gutierrez said.

“It’s very important to keep your focus all weekend, which becomes a challenge, as you have many different distractions around.

“It’s a very intense event because it’s small, everything’s compressed.”

Gutierrez also explained how the drivers can have a greater influence on proceedings in Monaco, which may help him following Haas’ struggles in Spain last time out.

“The car never stops being a factor, but it is true that the driver can have a lot of influence because it’s a track that is very demanding,” Gutierrez said.

“You can make a lot of difference with different driving styles, and by having the confidence in your car in order to push and get the maximum out of what you have.”

Alonso visits Mugello, calls MotoGP riders ‘heroes’

SCARPERIA, ITALY - MAY 21:  Fernando Alonso of Spain (F1 driver) speaks with Carmelo Ezpeleta of Spain and  Dorna CEO (L) during the qualifying practice during the MotoGp of Italy - Qualifying at Mugello Circuit on May 21, 2016 in Scarperia, Italy.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso heaped praise on MotoGP riders after watching the Italian Grand Prix race weekend live at Mugello during a visit with Honda, calling them “heroes”.

Honda powers Alonso’s McLaren Formula 1 car, as well as running a factory team in MotoGP.

The tie-up allowed the Spaniard to get a taste of a MotoGP bike in a special event last December in Japan, which he followed up by heading to Mugello this weekend.

Alonso said he was impressed by the atmosphere as the local fans gave their support to nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, having raced at a home race himself last weekend in Spain.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far, great atmosphere,” Alonso said on the grid ahead of the race.

“A Valentino pole position has been a good boost for the grandstand.”

Having driven an F1 car around Mugello in the past, Alonso knows the challenge that the Tuscan circuit poses, and was full of respect for the MotoGP riders.

“It’s unbelievable, it’s quite impressive,” Alonso said.

“I went into the braking for Turn 1, the bike is moving there at 350kmh. It’s quite impressive.

“They’re heroes for us. It’s very impressive to watch it live. Quite different from television.”

Lorenzo edges Marquez in Mugello MotoGP thriller as Rossi retires

SCARPERIA, ITALY - MAY 20:  Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rounds the bend during the MotoGp of Italy - Free Practice  at Mugello Circuit on May 20, 2016 in Scarperia, Italy.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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Jorge Lorenzo extended his lead at the top of the MotoGP drivers’ championship on Sunday by claiming a narrow victory in the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello.

Lorenzo started the race from fifth on the grid, but a good start took him into the lead on the first lap ahead of pole-sitter and Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi.

Rossi scored his first pole position on home soil since 2008 on Saturday and hoped to give the partisan crowd something to cheer for in the race.

However, an engine failure on lap nine when battling for the lead with Lorenzo denied Rossi the chance to do so, resigning him to a second retirement of the season.

The mantle was duly picked up by Honda rider Marc Marquez, who went wheel-to-wheel with Lorenzo for the remainder of the race, resulting in a last-lap drag race to the checkered flag.

The grunt of Lorenzo’s Yamaha engine proved to be enough as he edged out Marquez by just 0.019 seconds, scoring his third victory of the season in the process.

Lorenzo revealed after the race that when Marquez passed him on the last lap, he nearly gave up on winning before remembering an old move he had seen before.

“The pace wasn’t very fast so I couldn’t escape like I wanted,” Lorenzo said after the race.

“Marquez stayed strong all the race and I used a lot of energy to go at the front in the race. I thought Marquez would have more energy at the end when he passed me.

“I thought to stay in second place and take the points, but finally I remembered a little bit 2005 when I was in 250 [CC] and I passed De Angelis in this corner in the last chicane for second and I thought maybe I could do the same.

“I tried a crazy move and it was OK but I was going right in the second corner of the chicane. Finally my bike was quite fast and I could get past Marc for an unexpected victory.”

Andrea Iannone capped off his home race weekend by finishing on the podium in third, beating Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso, the latter ending a three-race streak of retirements.

Maverick Vinales dropped back early on before fighting back to finish sixth for Suzuki ahead of Bradley Smith and Danilo Petrucci, while Aleix Espargaro and Michele Pirro rounded out the top 10.

The MotoGP season continues in two weeks’ time at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.