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Kamui Kobayashi to race for Toyota WEC team in 2016

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Ex-Formula 1 driver Kamui Kobayashi will race for Toyota’s LMP1 team in the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship.

Kobayashi, 29, made his F1 debut with Toyota back in 2009 as a replacement for the injured Timo Glock, taking part in what would be the Japanese manufacturer’s last two races before quitting the series.

Kobayashi spent three years with Sauber before moving into the WEC with Ferrari’s factory GT team, AF Corse.

However, he chose to walk away from this in 2014 for another shot at F1 with Caterham, only to spend the year languishing at the back of the grid and being something of a ‘second choice’ at the end of the year when the team was beset by financial problems.

Kobayashi will now return to the WEC for 2016, replacing Alexander Wurz in the six-man line-up at Toyota following the Austrian’s retirement having previously tested for the team last year.

“I’m really excited to be an LMP1 race driver and I would like to thank Toyota for this opportunity,” Kobayashi said. “I tested the TS040 Hybrid a few times and it was a seriously impressive car; the power of the hybrid system in particular was amazing.

“Now I can’t wait to see what the new car feels like; I am sure it will be a big step forward and put us back in the fight at the front. Racing in LMP1 will be a new experience for me and I am looking forward to it a lot.

“There will be plenty to learn but I know my team-mates will support me and I am sure I can be competitive right from the start. Now my focus is on preparing properly for the new season and being absolutely ready for Silverstone.”

Kobayashi will race alongside Stephane Sarrazin and Mike Conway in 2016, while the second Toyota will once again be shared by Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima.

Toyota confirmed that it will be announcing a new test/reserve driver in place of Kobayashi next month.

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.