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Ford completes its quest, wins Le Mans again 50 years later

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The Ford GT came back to Le Mans with one goal and one goal only: to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans 50 years after the memorable and legendary 1-2-3 in 1966 with the Ford GT40.

Following a dominant performance in the GTE-Pro class all week with a car that was clearly the pacesetter, plus a car that was super reliable thanks to the work and efforts of the Chip Ganassi Racing and Multimatic crews, the car has done just that.

The trio of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais will go down in history as the trio that delivered the accomplishment, driving the No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team US Ford GT, one of the two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Fords joining the two full season FIA World Endurance Championship Fords.

It’s the first Le Mans win for all three drivers, and particularly Bourdais who was born in Le Mans, it’s going to mean quite a lot.

IMSA teams have locked out the class podium, with the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and second U.S.-entered Ford – the No. 69 entry – completing the top three in class.

Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and Matteo Malucelli (Risi) and Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook (Ford 69) completed great drives of their own.

It all looked set to go away from Risi in the last half hour courtesy of a controversial leader light penalty assessed, although the team stayed out and did not serve the penalty. Once the podium ceremony began, the car was not demoted.

After the race was complete, two post-race time penalties were assessed, but they didn’t change the outcome.

The No. 68 Ford received a total of minute and 10 seconds assessed for two separate penalties, while the Risi Ferrari was docked 20 seconds for not adhering to the black and orange flag assessed to serve that penalty.

While the No. 68 Ford was flawless it wasn’t the only U.S. entry to post success in the GTE classes.

The same was true in GTE-Am, with Scuderia Corsa going two better from a podium last year to win for the first time at Le Mans itself – a fantastic effort from Giacomo Mattioli’s Los Angeles-based team, with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell winning along with co-drivers Bill Sweedler and Jeff Segal.

The remainder of the GTE-Am class podium was the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari (Emmanuel Collard, Rui Aguas, Francois Perrodo) and the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR (Patrick Long, David Heinemeier Hansson, Khaled Al Qubaisi). Collard made a late race of “DHH” for second in class.

The frustration beyond Ford and Ferrari in GTE-Pro occurred for Aston Martin, Corvette and Porsche, which were never factors.

F1: Valtteri Bottas urges Lewis Hamilton to clear up Mercedes future and sign

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MONACO (AP) — Valtteri Bottas is urging Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to sign a new contract, even though his own future is uncertain.

Bottas needs to convince Mercedes to give him a new deal for next year. Hamilton, meanwhile, is stalling on signing a new one even though an offer is in place. Hamilton was again asked about his contract situation on Wednesday, and maintains he’s in no hurry.

“There isn’t any sticking point. There just hasn’t been any rush,” Hamilton said. “There’s no discussion with anybody else, there’s no consideration for anybody else, it’s just (me) taking my time.”

But Bottas would like Hamilton’s future cleared up.

“For sure I would. First of all, I would like to stay here. That is my goal for the long term. It would be nice if Lewis wants to stay and finds an agreement,” Bottas said at the Mercedes motorhome. “I enjoy working with him, I enjoy the challenge he gives me. I enjoy the fact he’s four-time world champion and at the moment I’m none. It makes me try harder to be better.

“It wouldn’t change my mind that I want to stay here, but I think we work well together,” he added.

Last season was their first together. Bottas was drafted in from Williams as an emergency replacement after Nico Rosberg retired. He won three races but he stood out more as the ideal support driver as Hamilton reclaimed the F1 title.

Bottas understands Mercedes expects improvement.

“We had a chat before the season and naturally we expect performance gains compared to last year, being closer to Lewis,” Bottas said. “That’s what you need to do in the second season.”

However, Bottas says he has not been set a specific target in terms of points or where he finishes overall.

“There’s no magic number,” he said. “There’s no clause or anything, so it’s how the team feels I’m performing.”

Bottas finished third overall last year behind Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton.

He is in the same overall position – 20 points behind Vettel and 37 adrift of Hamilton – heading into this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

The Finnish driver would be closer if not for a dramatic finish at the Azerbaijan GP last month. With victory seemingly guaranteed, he sustained a tire puncture and ended up with no points. He bounced back with a fine drive for second place in Spain two weeks ago.

“I feel like I’ve met my performance targets. Pace-wise I’m on the level I need, but result-wise I’m not happy,” Bottas said. “It’s been strange. But I know if I keep improving very good things will come.”

He has faced a considerable amount of criticism with observers questioning whether he can compete at the top level. Yet driving under the constant pressure of having a point to prove has also made him more resilient.

“For sure it makes you tougher and better,” he said. “From each difficult weekend, I feel I’ve been able to turn it (around).”