The Race

Jenson Button wins first race of Legends doubleheader at Sebring

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Former Formula One champion Jenson Button won the opener of Saturday’s Legends Trophy doubleheader at Sebring International Raceway, leading all five laps from the pole to his first victory in the series.

The Legends Trophy is an eSports league for former racers 40 and older. There were 20 drivers in the virtual race, including Emerson Fittipaldi, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Jacques Villeneuve, Rubens Barrichello and Max Papis.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished second, 2.16 seconds behind Button, after starting fifth. World Touring Car legend Andy Priaulx took third.

Button was rewarded with a $10,000 donation to the House of Ruth, which helps families victimized by domestic violence.

β€œIt’s amazing how nervous you get on this,” Button said after the race. β€œI was more nervous on this than I am in real life. For everyone, it’s impressive to see. For Emerson Fittipaldi to get on here and be as quick as he is is really impressive at 73! This isn’t our bread and butter. This isn’t normal for us, it’s definitely different.

β€œBut it’s been a lot of fun to race against people I’ve raced against in Formula 1 and other categories. Plus drivers I wish I had the opportunity to race against. This is pretty awesome.”

In the second race, the starting grid of identical McLaren M23s was based on the reverse finishing order of the first to land five-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro the pole position. Aided by a massive multicar incident on the start, Pirro wasn’t challenged in leading all five laps.

Castroneves finished second, 2.61 seconds behind Pirro. Dario Franchitti held off Priaulx on the final lap to finish third.

Pirro became the fifth different winner in five Legends Trophy races, joining Button, Franchitti, Jan Magnussen and Rubens Barrichello.

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.