Nico Hulkenberg to compete in his first Race Of Champions

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Nico Hulkenberg will join fellow F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in the annual Race Of Champions this November.

Hulkenberg’s name is the latest to be added to a stellar field including fellow (and nine-time) Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, 2014 World Rallycross champ Peter Solberg, reigning ROC Champion of Champions David Coulthard, five-time 500cc MotoGP champ Mick Doohan and double MotoGP champ Jorge Lorenzo.

Other drivers are expected to be added to the field between now and the actual event, which will be held Nov. 20-21 at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park stadium.

Hulkenberg, who races for Sahara Force India in F1, was selected for the ROC field because he won this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours event. He’s the first current F1 driver to win Le Mans in more than 20 years, having driven a Porsche to the win this past June.

This will be Hulkenberg’s first ROC, and illustrates the wide breath of vehicles he’s driven and succeeded in this seaso.

Hulkenberg will partner with Vettel for Team Germany, organizers said in a media release. Vettel is a six-time ROC winner, having previously partnered with F1 great Michael Schumacher.

“I’ve always wanted to take part (in the ROC) but it never worked out, so now I’m really happy to be a part of it and looking forward to it,” Hulkenberg said in a media release. “I’m obviously stepping into big shoes to replace Michael Schumacher, which is a huge honor as well. I feel very happy and positive about that and it will be fun to team up with Seb and race and fight for Team Germany.

“The ROC track is very narrow and tight, a bit like racing on a street circuit. But it’s still quick and dynamic and entertaining to watch. There’s going to be quite a bit of car-hopping, adapting and adjusting from one machine to another. They’re all quite different so I don’t really know what to expect. But I guess I’ll get dumped into the cold water and then I’ll have to figure out how to swim.”

Vettel is looking forward to working with his new teammate.

“It’s obviously very sad that Michael can’t join us again, but in his absence it’s great to have Nico as a partner on Team Germany this year,” Vettel said. “I have massive respect for what he did in the Le Mans 24 Hours – to win it on his first attempt is very impressive.

“That’s a great race to watch because the race is long yet they race flat out from the first lap for the whole of the race. The Race Of Champions is at the other end of the scale in terms of distance but I can assure Nico we push just as hard!”

The ROC is split into two days of racing. Friday evening, Nov. 20, features the team-oriented Nations Cup, where drivers pair up based upon nationality and vie for “World’s Fastest Nation” honors.

The following day is essentially every driver for himself in the battle to earn the ROC championship.

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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.