Whitmarsh: No regret for not reverting to 2012 car

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McLaren have endured one of their worst starts to a season in recent years, currently lying 7th in the constructors’ championship behind one-time backmarkers Force India. However, despite the evident issues with the MP4-28 car, team principal Martin Whitmarsh is still pleased that the team did not re-introduce the MP4-27 earlier in the year.

After issues with the 2013 car in testing and at the first couple of races, many believed that McLaren would be better off switching back to the 2012 spec car, but Whitmarsh is sure that this would only have hindered the team further.

“I think looking where we are now, the fact is that if we were to switch back in the last few months, one: we’re learning and we had to learn, and two: eight months ago we had the fastest car in Formula One,” Whitmarsh said. “Our competitors have moved on and that car that was competitive then frankly wouldn’t be competitive today.”

The pace of the MP4-28 has dampened the title aspirations of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, who have amassed just 37 points between them so far in 2013; McLaren had 40 after the first race of last season. However, Whitmarsh believed that it is too easy to raise the idea of backtracking without fully understanding the circumstances.

“So, inevitably it’s easy from the outside looking in to say ‘this car isn’t as quick as you want it, why don’t you just go back’, but forgets the fact that Formula One has good, well funded teams here and people working hard and if we come back to that we lost the development time on that product as well.

“I think there are times and glimmers where we’re seeing something and learning something and having hope.”

McLaren did show good pace in China where Button finished an excellent 5th, and Sergio Perez would most probably have scored the same result barring a car failure that forced him to retire from the Monaco Grand Prix. The team is looking to switch focus to 2014, but they are by no means giving up on the current campaign.

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
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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.