Hulkenberg surprised by Force India mileage in Barcelona

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Nico Hulkenberg has admitted that he did not expect Force India to complete so many laps with its new car following its debut on Friday afternoon in Barcelona.

The VJM08 was subject to a number of delays, meaning that the team could only roll it out on track for the first time on Friday with Hulkenberg behind the wheel.

However, in the past day-and-a-half, the German driver has managed to complete 234 laps, with 157 of them coming on Saturday.

Speaking to the media after his running had finished, Hulkenberg admitted that he was surprised by the mileage that had been completed and the lack of problems on the new car.

“I think that’s a surprise even to myself,” Hulkenberg said. “It’s very good that we brought it here and shook it out of our sleeve like this. That was a surprise I think to me, to the team and to everybody.

“But obviously that’s what we needed and helps us a little bit. I think we’ve achieved a lot today. I think everybody is as happy as they can be at the moment. Going back now, there’s a lot of data.

“Tomorrow is another day with Checo [Perez] in the car so hopefully there will be a lot more data and the engineers will have a lot of stuff to go through between now and Melbourne.”

Having debuted its car some 26 days later than the rest of the field, Force India heads into the new season playing catch-up. As a result of the limited running, Hulkenberg is unsure where the team will lie in the pecking order come the first race of the year on March 15.

“I think it’s impossible to judge that right now,” he said. “It’s going to be tough. We can be sure about that, it’s not going to be an easy one in Melbourne. A big challenge for us, but to be honest I’m very relaxed and open-minded.

“We go there as prepared as we can be with this limited running, and we’ll just make the most of it. We still have a lot of work in front of us. I can already see and identify some of the problems again this car has, but also some positives.

“I think overall we just need to stay focused and keep working hard in trying to develop this car.”

Sergio Perez will close out pre-season testing for Force India in Barcelona on Sunday in what will be his first run in the VJM08 car.

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.