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Lucas di Grassi stays cool to win frantic Mexico City ePrix

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Lucas di Grassi delivered a lesson in composure to his Formula E championship rivals on Saturday by claiming an emphatic victory in the Mexico City ePrix at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Starting third on the grid, di Grassi managed to pick off Renault e.dams’ Nicolas Prost for second place just before the car swaps, before then using his FanBoost to dispose of pole-sitter and early leader Jerome d’Ambrosio one lap after pitting.

Di Grassi was not able to shake off his rivals at first, with d’Ambrosio and Prost having been joined by championship leader Sebastien Buemi and Daniel Abt, but was given the break he needed when chaos ensued just behind.

Keen to not lose sight of his championship rival at the front, Buemi attempted a move on d’Ambrosio just one lap after di Grassi had passed, only to be blocked off. A frustrated Buemi tried again a few laps later, second guessing d’Ambrosio by trying to sell a dummy – only to make contact with the Belgian.

Both drivers continued without losing a position, leaving Buemi to have a third bite of the cherry with eight laps remaining. The Swiss driver slung his e.dams around the outside of d’Ambrosio at the first corner, cutting the chicane in the process and therefore being left to give the position back.

As Buemi slowed, the train of cars behind him bunched up, much to the frustration of d’Ambrosio who now found himself at risk of losing a place to Prost. Angered by Buemi’s antics, d’Ambrosio cut the final chicane to take back second place that he believed to rightly be his, restoring the status quo.

All of this gave di Grassi a healthy buffer at the front, culminating in his third Formula E victory and a return to the top of the championship standings.

D’Ambrosio edged out Buemi in a dash to the line for second place, much to the chagrin of the e.dams driver who was left to settle for P3. However, both drivers were called to see the stewards after the race, with no decision on their tangle being made at the time of writing.

Loic Duval benefitted from the late drama to finish fourth ahead of Prost, who dropped back after receiving a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits. Robin Frijns worked his way up to sixth for Andretti Autosport, while Sam Bird ended the race seventh for DS Virgin Racing.

A late spin dropped Abt down to eighth place come the checkered flag, while Nick Heidfeld and Stephane Sarrazin rounded out the points in P9 and P10 respectively.

The next Formula E race takes place in Long Beach, California on April 2.

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