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Avoiding Le Mans/F1 clash ‘mission impossible’ for Todt

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TURIN, Italy – FIA president Jean Todt claims that preventing a clash between the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula 1 races is “mission impossible”.

F1 chiefs came under fire after a clash between the European Grand Prix in Baku and Le Mans last weekend.

The winning Porsche car took the checkered flag at Le Mans just seconds before the lights went out to start the F1 race in Baku, causing a headache for fans and others following both events.

The CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship believed the scheduling to be a direct attack on Le Mans, while the president of the ACO told NBC Sports earlier this year that he hoped the FIA would do more in the future to prevent the clash.

However, Todt believes that due to the high number of top line series with ever-growing calendars, it is not possible to ensure that Le Mans does not clash with another event.

“You know it’s kind of mission impossible,” Todt said.

“We were talking about how many healthy series in motor racing, and we have only 52 weekends.

“I was in Le Mans, I never saw as many people. I don’t think that Le Mans was penalized by having Baku at the same time.

“I was in Baku, and incidentally I was watching [Le Mans] and I could follow because it started at 3pm and finished at 3pm. So it was quite easy to follow the start of the race and the finish of Le Mans if you really wanted.

“I must sympathize for Bernie [Ecclestone]. He has 21 grands prix, then it’s with national holidays [to consider] – we have a lot of things.

“With due respect, [critics] often don’t have all the ingredients in hand to be able to make the final assessment.

“It is easy to criticise, but probably if you would be in this situation, you would not have managed to do better.”

When asked if the clash was really necessary, Todt replied: “It was not possible to do otherwise.”

However, Le Mans legend Emmanuele Pirro believes that Le Mans is an event that should be protected due to its history and significance.

“I think that was not a good move. Definitely not,” Pirro told NBC Sports.

“You have to say that to design a calendar is more and more difficult because there are many races in different disciplines so it is not easy.

“However, certain pillars of motor racing should be respected.

“Baku was a really interesting race. I think altogether it was a really interesting event.

“The only problem is that it was on the same weekend as Le Mans.”

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.