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Hembery: Losing Austin would be “phenomenally negative” for F1

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Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has expressed his dismay over the uncertain future being faced by the United States Grand Prix, believing that Formula 1 should be doing more to appeal to the American audience.

Just three years after the US GP was revived at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, its future looks bleak following the state’s decision to cut the tax relief the event receives. The race is listed as being ‘subject to agreement’ on the 2016 F1 calendar as a result.

In an interview with British newspaper The Guardian, Hembery raised the idea of a three-part F1 world championship that would focus on particular regions.

Hembery’s idea features one championship in Europe, one in Asia and Australasia and one in the Americas, before crowning an overall champion at the end of the year.

“I will be talking to Bernie [Ecclestone] (pictured left) shortly about this,” Hembery said. “I haven’t worked out the logistical problems. It’s up to the teams to do that. But this is all about getting more interest in Formula 1, and particularly in the Americas.

“The market people all say the same thing, which is that the biggest problem in F1 is with the timings. They are all for Europe, which means in America they have to get up ridiculously early to watch the racing.

“There are so many barbed comments about F1 being boring. And if we’re not careful we’re going to talk ourselves into a sport which nobody wants to watch. We are in danger of creating our own downfall.”

Hembery spoke out about the possible loss of Austin, saying that it should be joined on the F1 calendar by more races in the USA to raise the sport’s profile in the American market.

“To lose Austin so soon after getting there – and it’s a good circuit and a well organised show which the fans enjoy – would be phenomenally negative for the sport,” Hembery said.

“I also think it’s important to have a race in California. With this regional idea we could create a concentrated interest in the sport and help build a real fanbase.

“If we carry on making Formula 1 for European television we will end up with a Europe-only audience.”

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

24 Hours of Le Mans
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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.