Fontana keen to balance Formula E with junior racing

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LONDON – FIA Formula E debutant Alex Fontana does not feel that he is under a great deal of pressure at this weekend’s London ePrix despite only getting his first taste of the series’ car during practice on Saturday morning.

Fontana was announced as a last-minute replacement for Vitantonio Liuzzi at Trulli Formula E Team for the double-header at Battersea Park earlier this week.

Speaking to MotorSportsTalk ahead of the race weekend, Fontana said that he does not feel like he is under too much pressure despite being one of the least experienced drivers in the series.

“Not too much [pressure] in the end because it’s the first outing for me in the car,” Fontana said. “I knew Jarno for a bit because he’s living in my same city, Lugano, in Switzerland.

“I’m quite used to taking opportunities and just doing it without even a lot of preparations. I had a debut in Monte Carlo for the first time in the World Series, so it was quite hard as well. I love to have new challenges such as Formula E, and I’m very happy to be here.”

Fontana has completed running in cars from a variety of championships over the past few years, ranging from Formula 2 to DTM to a Lotus F1 racer.

However, he confirmed that he is interested in securing a more permanent role in Formula E following this race weekend alongside his existing commitments with Status Grand Prix in GP3.

“We had a small talk with Jarno [Trulli] and the team for maybe next year,” Fontana said. “It’s a bit too soon to maybe talk about it, even though Formula E starts very early compared to other series.

“For me, it’s a bit too soon because I just started my normal championship in GP3. So I have to check it out how the season goes, and after that it would be nice to do both, Formula E and something else, as I’m still a bit young.

“It would be good to have more experience in something else before committing to a full job here. It will be great of course to come back.”

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.