WSR: Rowland wins Formula Renault 3.5 season-opener at Motorland Aragon

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British racer Oliver Rowland claimed the first win of the 2015 Formula Renault 3.5 season at Motorland Aragon on Saturday, inheriting the victory from Meindert van Buuren after the Dutchman was slapped with a time penalty.

The Formula Renault 3.5 series is the headline event on the World Series by Renault (WSR) package, and is intended to be a rival to GP2 as the final step for young drivers before reaching Formula 1.

The new season kicked off in Spain on Saturday, with Lotus driver Matthieu Vaxiviere claiming pole position. However, a poor start saw him drop down to fifth by the end of the first lap, narrowly avoiding contact with his teammate, van Buuren.

Jumping from fourth to first on lap one, van Buuren looked to take control of the race and open up a lead to Rowland in second place, only to be hit with a time penalty after the stewards found that he had jumped the start. With 20 seconds to be added to his final time, the race became a case of damage limitation for the Lotus driver.

Rowland remained in a comfortable second place throughout the race, knowing that so long as he kept van Buuren in sight, he would win the race. However, he was kept honest by Fortec teammate Jazeman Jaafar in third place whilst Vaxiviere was stuck in fifth behind Red Bull junior driver Dean Stoneman.

The race was largely uneventful in the way of overtaking, with the most notable fight coming between Manor F1 driver Roberto Merhi and Bruno Bonifacio, with debutant Roy Nissany also duelling with the drivers despite being two laps down.

Van Buuren crossed the line with a 3.6 second advantage over Rowland, but dropped to fifth after his penalty was applied. Jaafar was classified in second place, 2.1 seconds behind race winner Rowland, with Stoneman completing the podium ahead of the two Lotus drivers.

“I wasn’t expecting to win,” Rowland admitted after the race. “The low downforce configuration brought so many differences and if someone told me yesterday, I wouldn’t have believed them!

“At the start, the Lotuses didn’t leave me any room and I did everything I could to avoid contact. I soon wondered if Meindert hadn’t maybe jumped the start because mine was good.

“I tried to maintain the gap between myself and Jazeman and I am very happy with this victory!”

For the complete classification of race one, click here. Race two takes place on Sunday at Motorland Aragon, with qualifying being held in the morning.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.