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Buemi holds off di Grassi to take Monaco Formula E victory

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MONACO – Sebastien Buemi extended his lead at the top of the FIA Formula E drivers’ championship after holding off title rival Lucas di Grassi in the closing stages of Saturday’s Monaco ePrix, taking his fourth win of the season.

Buemi picked up his first pole of the campaign in qualifying earlier in the day, with long-term rival Lucas di Grassi taking second on the grid to set the stage for another tense battle between the pair.

Buemi made a clean start and forged an early lead over di Grassi through the first stint of the race, but a safety car period following a clash between Nelson Piquet Jr. and Jean-Eric Vergne allowed the Brazilian to close up once again.

With the strategy options on offer to teams removed by the safety car, forcing the majority of runners to pit on the same lap, Buemi was left to fight di Grassi through the second half of the race while keeping a careful eye on energy usage given the extended stint.

Buemi’s lead over di Grassi stood at over a second at one point, but the Brazilian made inroads in the closing stages of the race, leaving the pair to run nose-to-tail in the final few laps.

Di Grassi darted behind Buemi as he looked to make an overtake on the last lap, but the Renault e.dams driver was able to hold on and record his fourth win of the season.

Nick Heidfeld followed the pair home in third place for Mahindra, having gained a position at the start and then benefitted from the clash between Piquet and Vergne. Piquet was able to continue and finished fourth, but Vergne was less fortunate, being eliminated on the spot.

Maro Engel took his best result in Formula E with fifth place for Venturi ahead of Felix Rosenqvist, while Daniel Abt finished seventh for ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport. Esteban Gutierrez was eighth for Techeetah as Antonio Felix da Costa and Nicolas Prost rounded out the points in P9 and P10 respectively.

The next Formula E race takes place in one week’s time in Paris, France.

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.