After crazy day, Bourdais picks up another street course podium

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Sebastien Bourdais notched his third consecutive podium finish on a street course, claiming third place at the end of a bizarre Grand Prix of Baltimore after tangling with eventual race winner Simon Pagenaud in the final laps.

With seven laps to go, Pagenaud took the lead from Marco Andretti coming out of Turn 1 and soon Bourdais followed his fellow Frenchman past Andretti as well for second. Then at Turn 7, Pagenaud went wide, opening the door for Bourdais to make the pass.

But the two wound up making contact going into Turn 8, which sent Bourdais heading for the tire barriers. The four-time Champ Car World Series champion narrowly saved his car, but his bid for victory at the Inner Harbor was done after that incident.

“I’ll let people judge it,” Bourdais told NBCSN. “I have my own opinion. We’re friends, but there are no friends on the race track, and I learned that the hard way today.”

Like many competitors, Bourdais had it rough at times on the two-mile street circuit this afternoon. Starting all the way from 22nd, he quickly moved into the Top 15 before pitting early under yellow at Lap 13.

That would lead to him inheriting the point at Lap 32 after the front-runners made their first stops of the day. Bourdais gave up the lead to pit again at Lap 40, but got it back again under yellow at Lap 41 when the leaders at the time came in for service.

Bourdais would keep the lead through caution-causing incidents at Laps 48 and 53, but was spun out by Oriol Servia on a restart at Lap 57. The spin led to a track blockage at Turn 1, and Bourdais dropped back to fifth for a restart with 15 laps left.

Three laps later, Bourdais made light contact with fourth-place finisher Justin Wilson at Turn 3, and sent him around to create yet another blockage at the right-hand hairpin.

However, he managed to escape a penalty – much to the chagrin of Wilson, who argued with Bourdais after the race and later told NBCSN that he should have been called for avoidable contact.

“That bit of front wing from Bourdais spun me around completely,” said Wilson. “What else can you say? It wasn’t because there was a car on the inside of me. He just tried to come off the brake pedal too early and hit me.”

Bourdais contended that he was paying attention to an oncoming James Hinchcliffe on the inside, and when his attention came back to Wilson, it was already too late to prevent the contact.

“By the time I put my eyes back on Justin’s car, I just barely touched him and it broke the tip of the front wing,” he said.

“I feel bad for him, but I got turned around today as well, so I think everybody got their share of incidents and running into and getting run into by people.”

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.