Graf earns overall pole for American Le Mans at CTMP

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Muscle Milk Pickett Racing appears to be the odds-on favorite to win tomorrow’s American Le Mans Series event at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Klaus Graf, who co-drives the No.6 Muscle Milk HPD-ARX 03c with Lucas Luhr, put his team on the pole for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix with a lap of 1 minute, 5.871 seconds during Saturday’s qualifying session – almost four seconds ahead of their closest competition in the P1 category.

“Shortly before the end of the second practice session, I wasn’t too happy but we made another adjustment and we hit the sweet spot with our Muscle Milk car and it was really good in qualifying,” Graf said in a team release. “The track changes they made here improved some areas in terms of grip as well so it was a good day.

“The Michelin tires also came in perfect, we hit the sweet spot as well with the pressure and the temperature which is almost always a little bit critical especially on a quick track like here – it’s not always easy.”

Mike Conway landed his first career P2 pole for Level 5 Motorsports with a time of 1 minute, 8.785 seconds in the No. 552 HPD ARX-03b. The P2 front row will be all-Level 5, as teammate Marino Franchitti qualified second (1 minute, 9.031 seconds) in the No. 551 HPD.

Also earning pole for the first time was Jonathan Bomarito in the GT class. The former open-wheel prospect drove the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R to P1 in the class with a time of 1 minute, 15.462 seconds – less than two-tenths of a second ahead of Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing entry.

Jeroen Bleekemolen will start on the GT Challenge pole following a lap of 1 minute, 21.310 seconds in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. As for the Prototype Challenge class, the field there will be set by points after an incident involving the class championship leader, Mike Guasch, cut the session short.

However, even though Colin Braun set the fastest time in PC, the session didn’t meet the 10-minute minimum requirement. As a result, Guasch will be on the PC pole in the No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09.

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.