Niki Lauda’s son preps for season in NASCAR Euro Series

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Mathias Lauda, the son of three-time Formula One World Champion Niki Lauda, has done a little bit of everything in his driving career from open-wheel (GP2 and A1GP) to touring cars (DTM) and sports cars.

Now, the 33-year-old will try his luck in NASCAR-sanctioned competition. Lauda will drive for the two-car, Austria-based DF1 Racing team in this year’s NASCAR Whelen Euro Series alongside former 24 Hours of Le Mans champ Christophe Bouchut.

Lauda got to sample the NASCAR Euro machine recently on the “Indy” course at England’s legendary Brands Hatch, where his father won the British Grand Prix three times in his stellar F1 career.

“It’s totally different,” Lauda said about the car in a release from Motorsport Vision. “The DTM car has so much downforce and carbon brakes, and this car is like going back 20 years. But it’s really fun because it’s a proper driver’s car and only by driving can you make the difference.

“You have to rethink your whole driving style and watch the tires, watch the brakes – it’s so easy to lock up and you have to shift down not too early, so as not to over-rev the car. I think that it’s like when you start racing a little bit, but it’s a lot of fun and I enjoyed it a lot, so I can’t wait until the season starts.”

Lauda isn’t a complete novice with stock cars, however. In 2008, he competed in the now-defunct Speedcar Series, a Middle East-based stock car series, in addition to running in DTM.

This year’s NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season begins with a pair of races in Valencia, Spain on April 12 and 13. The series will then make its way to Brands Hatch for its third and fourth events of 2014 on June 7 and 8.

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.