Honda releases first image of F1 2015 engine, no driver announcement due at Suzuka

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Honda has released the first image of its 2015 Formula 1 power unit ahead of its home grand prix at Suzuka this weekend.

The Japanese manufacturer confirmed last year that it would be returning to the sport after six years away as an engine supplier with McLaren, rekindling the famed McLaren-Honda partnership of the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Although details since then have been drip-fed through, Honda has today released the first image of the power unit it has produced to race next season, and confirmed that more will be revealed across the course of this weekend’s race at Suzuka.

The firm’s head of motorsport, Yasuhisa Arai, confirmed that operations are now up and running at the engine powerplant in England, which works in tandem with the base in Japan.

“Working toward Honda’s F1 participation starting in the 2015 season, development of the power unit is entering its prime phase at our research and development facility in Sakura where we transferred our automobile motorsports development earlier this year,” he said.

“In addition to conducting simulations, we have moved onto the next stage where we conduct full-fledged bench tests of the engine while connecting the turbocharger and energy recovery systems. In the meantime, our racing operation base in Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, has become fully operational.

“At this time, we are unveiling an image of our power unit that is under development. The whole team is concentrating on this development, getting ready for the forthcoming start of F1 participation in six months. Please stay tuned for further updates.”

Arai confirmed to British broadcaster Sky that, contrary to speculation, Honda is not looking to make any announcement regarding McLaren’s driver line-up at Suzuka this weekend.

“We are constantly talking about which drivers we would like to see and whilst McLaren is here in Japan it is only natural that we organize some meetings with McLaren, but I don’t think we will be discussing the topic of drivers given that nothing is decided,” he said.

Honda’s return and promise of exclusivity at McLaren for 2015 is proving to be a big point of interest for many in Formula 1 as the driver market begins to fall into place. Both of McLaren’s current drivers – Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen – are out of contract at the end of this season, sparking rumors that Fernando Alonso could be set to walk away from Ferrari one year early and return to the British team.

McLaren is yet to confirm when it will first test a car using the Honda power unit, but it could be as early as the final 2014 test in Abu Dhabi following the final grand prix of the season.

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.