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Tequila Patron ESM back to IMSA for ’17; switches WEC lineup to end ’16

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Two bits of news from the Tequila Patron ESM camp, which won the opening two rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at Daytona and Sebring and has been on the podium multiple times in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but is yet to win there.

The team on the whole will be back in IMSA full-time next year with a Nissan power unit and two Onroak Automotive Ligier JS P217 chassis, although the stylized bodywork for the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) is yet to be finalized.

“Tequila Patrón ESM has had an incredible experience over the last 24 months going to some amazing race tracks, but we are very excited to return to the IMSA WeatherTech Championship,” said ESM owner Scott Sharp.

“The DPi program is going to be really exciting, and it will be fantastic to be able to compete not only on our home turf, but for the overall win,” added Patrón Spirits President and Tequila Patrón ESM driver Ed Brown. “It’s going to be wonderful to be associated with a world-class brand like Nissan! I think the synergies between the two companies and each of our consumers will give us great opportunities to activate our brands.”

Sharp, Brown and Johannes van Overbeek, meanwhile, have stepped out of the team’s current No. 30 Ligier JS P2 Nissan for the remaining three races of the FIA WEC season.

Instead, the Indonesian branch of KFC, JAGONYA AYAM, will take over the livery and lineup for that car, and will see Giedo van der Garde, Sean Gelael, and Antonio Giovinazzi in the No. 30 car.

“Jagonya Ayam expressed interest in getting a taste of a P2 program, and we already had the car, crew and full season entry,” Sharp said.

“We are really proud to be part of this program with a professional team such as Tequila Patrón ESM,” said JAGONYA AYAM Sporting Manager Francesco Principe. “The cars look competitive and we are confident our line-up will do their best during each session.”

The No. 31 trio of Ryan Dalziel, Pipo Derani and Chris Cumming rounds out the season in the FIA WEC in the lone remaining Patron-liveried car.

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.