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Rossi edges out Vinales for MotoGP pole at Mugello

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Nine-time motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi scored a popular pole position in qualifying for the MotoGP Italian Grand Prix at Mugello on Saturday, edging out future Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales by less than one-tenth of a second.

Rossi arrived in Italy chasing his first home pole position since 2008, and duly delivered a popular result for the droves of fans that had made their way to Mugello for the weekend.

A fastest lap of 1:46.504 was enough to give Rossi his second pole position of the season, much to his surprise after a difficult Friday practice running.

“I‘m very, very happy because it has been a long time since I last had pole here in Mugello, in the last years I was always struggling a lot,” Rossi said.

“From free practice this afternoon we made a good step with the bike and I had a good pace. Qualifying is always difficult, but we followed the right strategy in the right moment of qualifying and I am very happy to start from first position, first of all for all the fans, but especially here it‘s so important that I ride in front.”

Rossi and Vinales spent much of qualifying using each other for tow, allowing them to surge to the top two positions in the timesheets. Vinales finished just 0.094 seconds behind in second place, giving Suzuki a boost.

Andrea Iannone qualified third to ensure that there were two Italian riders on the front row of the grid, beating Honda’s Marc Marquez in P4. Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo was left to settle for fifth on the grid, finishing three-tenths of a second down on teammate Rossi.

Aleix Espargaro finished the session sixth on the second Suzuki ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Bradley Smith, while Danilo Petrucci and Scott Redding rounded out the top 10.

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.