Porsche, Audi lead Friday practice in WEC opener at Silverstone

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The first day of the 2014 World Endurance Championship season is in the books, with Porsche and Audi leading today’s two practice sessions for Sunday’s curtain-raising Six Hours of Silverstone.

Porsche’s No. 14 919 Hybrid for drivers Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, and Marc Lieb set the fastest time in Practice 1 at 1:44.042, which was four-tenths quicker than the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Lucas di Grassi, Tom Kristensen, and Loic Duval.

Also not far behind in third place was the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, and Sebastien Buemi, who were just less than two-tenths of a second behind the No. 1 Audi.

Those three manufacturers’ sister cars also claimed positions fourth through sixth, with privateers Rebellion Racing winding up seventh in the session at 1.5 seconds off the No. 14’s pace.

The No. 26 G-Drive Morgan/Nissan of Roman Rusinov, Olivier Pla and Julien Canal topped the P2 category (1:51.004), while GTE-Pro was led by Porsche’s No. 91 911 RSR (Patrick Pilet, Jörg Bergmeister, Nick Tandy; 1:58.981). In GTE-Am, the No. 81 Ferrari 458 Italia of Sam Bird, Stephen Wyatt and Michele Rugolo was quickest (2:01.210).

As for the more recent Practice 2, Audi and Toyota turned the tables on Porsche with the No. 1 of di Grassi/Kristensen/Duval logging a 1:43.134 with di Grassi at the controls. The No. 2 Audi (Andre Lotterer/Marcel Fassler/Benoit Treluyer) moved up to second on the time sheets, as Lotterer turned in a 1:43.534.

Toyota’s No. 7 Hybrid for Alex Wurz, Kazuki Nakajima, and Stephane Sarrazin was third-quickest (1:44.097 with Wurz). The WEC’s most-hyped newcomer, Mark Webber, got Porsche’s No. 20 919 up to P4 (1:45.051).

G-Drive’s No. 26 was fastest again in P2 (1:50.401 with Rusinov), while Porsche’s No. 92 911 RSR (Marco Holzer, Frédéric Makowiecki, Richard Lietz) went to the top in GTE-Pro (2:00.455). Another 911, the No. 88 of Christian Ried, Klaus Bachler, and Khaled Al-Qubaisi, led in GTE-Am (2:00.570).

A third practice session and qualifying will take place tomorrow at Silverstone to lead into Sunday’s main event at 7 a.m. ET (12 Noon local time).

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.