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Alonso to race with updated Honda F1 power unit in Japan

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Fernando Alonso will race with an updated Honda power unit in this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as McLaren looks to impress at its partner’s home race.

Alonso took a 45-place grid penalty last time out in Malaysia so that McLaren could update the power unit on his car and move to prevent further penalties in 2016.

The new power unit did not offer McLaren any extra performance or power, but instead focused on improving its reliability.

Alonso confirmed on Thursday that he would be using the updated power unit throughout the upcoming race weekend at Suzuka, but stressed it would not offer the team any increase in pace.

“It’s just an engine that we fitted in Malaysia just for reliability issues more than performance,” Alonso said.

“Also, we didn’t have engines to finish the season, so we chose Malaysia to fit new engines, to pay the penalty and then have the rest of the races without any more concerns.

“We plan to use that engine here but, as I said, the engine has exactly the same power, so we will fit the engine and we will try to do our best.”

Alonso also spoke about the improvement in performance that McLaren and Honda has enjoyed over the past year, with the Japanese Grand Prix marking 12 months since his infamous “GP2 engine” radio outburst.

“I think let’s say we are happy with the progress we made this year and definitely we are able to fight with some competitive teams there, like Force India, Williams, and now we finished now like four times seventh after the top three teams in the last five races,” Alonso said.

“Definitely a step forward that we are enjoying, this process of starting to be competitive but I think looking for next year I don’t think we can see anything that is clearly positive or negative.

“I think the biggest step has been done, from last year to this year, but we need another big step next year, which is going from the last Q3 spot and some points to fight for podiums and wins.

“I think it’s still possible. We have the potential, we have the facilities, we have the talented people. This project, as we have said many times, it’s a question of time that we will be able to win.”

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.