Max Chilton, Alex Buncombe complete Nissan LMP1 lineup

1 Comment

One Nissan veteran and one former Formula 1 driver have rounded out the lineup for the Nissan GT-R LM NISMO in the FIA World Endurance Championship this year.

Max Chilton will join Nissan for the full season with Alex Buncombe in the lineup at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the team’s third car.

Buncombe is a Nissan regular, having worked his way up through the manufacturer’s GT program and mentoring Nissan GT Academy drivers on their way up. Some of his on-board passing videos have garnered huge numbers of hits on YouTube.

Chilton, meanwhile, is a surprise choice. The Englishman had appeared to focus on North American racing with an extensive Indy Lights testing program with Carlin Racing this winter, although he was never confirmed to the team’s second seat alongside the previously confirmed Ed Jones.

MotorSportsTalk has learned Jenson Button had been close to a Nissan deal had his McLaren Honda deal not been signed, and a Swiss report a couple weeks ago linked Adrian Sutil to the seat, as well. Chilton, by all accounts, has not been publicly in the frame until now.

Chilton’s signing means two seats he could have been in the frame for – the aforementioned Carlin Indy Lights seat and the second seat at Manor Marussia F1 – remain vacant.

Chilton joins Marc Gene, Michael Krumm, Jann Mardenborough, Olivier Pla and Harry Tincknell for the season-opening race at Silverstone on April 12. The configuration of the driver line-ups for the No. 22 and No. 23 Nissans will be announced at a later date.

Buncombe will join the team at Le Mans, where he will race in the No. 21 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO with Tsugio Matsuda and Lucas Ordonez.

LMP1 testing continues this week at Sebring International Raceway with Chilton, Gene, Pla, Mardenborough, and Tincknell on driving duty.

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
1 Comment

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.