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FIA’s Herbie Blash to leave Deputy Race Director post at year’s end

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Michael “Herbie” Blash, FIA Deputy Race Director, has announced he’ll step down from that post at the end of the year. He’ll still assist the FIA in other areas going forward.

The FIA announced the decision on Tuesday in a release.

Blash has enjoyed 50 years in Formula 1 dating to 1965, starting with Lotus privateer Rob Walker before moving to Lotus, then Brabham and Yamaha. He took on the FIA Deputy Race Director role in 1996 and has held it to this day.

Laurent Mekies will replace him in the post. He’s been the FIA Safety Director since 2014 and came from Scuderia Toro Rosso prior to that.

F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting said in the release, “I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to Herbie for his years of tireless work for our sport. It has been a huge pleasure to be alongside him for almost two decades. Of course Herbie will be hard to replace but, with Laurent’s extensive experience in F1, I’m sure he will be a worthy replacement, he will also be able to bring a new dimension of experience to our team of F1 officials.”

“I would personally like to thank Herbie for all of his hard work for the FIA over the past 21 years, and especially for his contribution in maintaining Formula One’s place at the pinnacle of motor sport,” FIA President Jean Todt added in the release. “Along with Charlie, Herbie has been instrumental in the seamless running of grand prix races for over two decades, and we are pleased that he will continue to work with the FIA in future.

“Replacing someone with Herbie’s immense experience was never going to be easy. However, we are fortunate to be able to appoint Laurent Mekies to this position. Laurent brings a wealth of Formula One experience, and has been responsible for driving the FIA’s safety agenda since joining us. Combining his strong Formula One history and work as the FIA’s Safety Director, I am confident that he will ensure that the FIA’s flagship single-seater championship continues to set the benchmark for race management and safety – a status that his predecessor, Herbie, can take great pride in helping to nurture.”

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.