April 15 in Motorsports History: Bourdais’ 3 in a row at Long Beach

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Sebastien Bourdais clearly knows his way around the streets of Long Beach.

The Frenchman entered the 2007 edition of the Long Beach Grand Prix as the two-time defending champion.

But Bourdais found himself in unfamiliar territory in the point standings entering that weekend. The three-time defending Champ Car champion was ranked 13th overall after crashing out of the season-opening Vegas Grand Prix.

Sebastien Bourdais celebrates with legendary filmmaker George Lucas after winning the 2007 Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Darrell Ingham/Getty Images)

However, Bourdais proved that the Vegas race was a fluke.

After starting from the pole position at Long Beach, he led 58 laps and survived multiple restarts to win by 2.614 seconds over Oriol Servia, becoming the first driver to win three consecutive at Long Beach since Al Unser Jr. did it from 1989-91.

“I guess everything that could happen to us in Vegas happened, and here, the McDonald’s car showed what it could do,” Bourdais told NBC Sports in Victory Lane. “I can’t thank these (Newman-Haas Racing) guys enough because really they work their tails off.”

For the remainder of the 2007 season, Bourdais would continue to work his tail off, winning seven more times en route to his fourth consecutive Champ Car title. The following season, he moved to race for Toro Rosso in Formula One before eventually returning to IndyCar in 2011.

Also on this date:

1978: Danny Ongais won the Coors 200 at Texas World Speedway. Despite winning a series-high five races during the 1978 USAC Champ Car season, Ongais finished eighth overall in the final points standings because of 10 DNFs and missing the second race at Texas World in August.

1984: Tom Sneva won the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, the first of three victories for the previous season’s Indianapolis 500 winner. Sneva finished second to Mario Andretti in the 1984 CART standings.

1993: Jack Harvey was born in Bassignham, England. Harvey and Meyer Shank Racing are scheduled to make their full-time IndyCar debut when racing begins later this year. The duo previously competed in 19 races between 2017-19 as a part-time entry.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.