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Olli Pahkala wins Formula E Vegas eRace, $200,000 prize

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Finnish sim racer Olli Pahkala has won the inaugural Formula E Vegas eRace after a stunning display against a 30-strong grid in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday.

As part of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Formula E held its first eRace that saw its regular racers go up against 10 of the world’s fastest sim racers for a $1 million prize pool.

Pahkala linked up with Mahindra Racing for the race, but was left trailing behind the dominant Bono Huis who topped each part of practice and qualifying, taking pole position and a $25,000 prize in the process.

Regular Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist came closer to toppling Huis during qualifying, but could only finish second. He was, however, the only Formula E driver to qualify inside the top 10, the remaining nine slots being taken by the sim racers.

The drivers qualifying 11th to 30th were required to take part in a qualifying race to reduce the grid down to 20 cars for the feature event, with DS Virgin Racing’s Jose Maria Lopez starting from pole.

Lopez led the early part of the race before being passed by Antonio Felix da Costa, who was then able to pull clear and score victory to take P11 on the grid for the feature event. The only sim racer not to make the feature race directly from qualifying, Petar Brljak, crashed out early.

Technical issues meant that only 19 drivers took the start for the feature, with Lucas di Grassi missing out on a chance to move up the field from 18th place on the grid.

Huis made a lightning getaway from pole to establish an early lead over Rosenqvist, who managed to soak up pressure from Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola and retain P2 during the opening stages.

The sim racers managed to keep their majority on the top 10, with da Costa the only FE driver besides Rosenqvist to run in the top half of the order early on.

All of the drivers were able to make their mandatory pit stop at any time, with most waiting on an incident that may slow the field down to see any real gains.

Said incident came on Lap 11 when sim racers Uusi-Jaakkola, David Greco and Graham Carroll crashed hard while going three-wide in a battle for P3; a costly incident when each position amounted to tens of thousands of dollars for the gamers.

Huis came under pressure with eight laps to go when Rosenqvist closed to within 1.5 seconds of the Dutchman before both pitted with five tours of the virtual Las Vegas circuit remaining.

Pahkala had been one of the first drivers to pit, and made the undercut work a treat to emerge at the head of the pack when Huis and Rosenqvist came in for their late stops to enjoy a sizeable lead.

Pahkala kept his cool through the closing stages to cross the line comfortably clear of the pack, bagging himself the most significant victory in eRacing history and the top prize of $200,000.

Huis managed to hang on to second place on the final lap, fending off a rapid Rosenqvist who comfortably ended as the top Formula E driver in Las Vegas in third place.

Enzo Bonito finished fourth for Techeetah ahead of Uusi-Jaakkola, with Greger Huttu in sixth for Jaguar. Jose Maria Lopez was the second-best FE driver in P7 ahead of colleagues Sam Bird, Daniel Abt and Nelson Piquet Jr.

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.