Bruno Spengler and BMW go 2-for-2 in IMSA iRacing Pro Series

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Bruno Spengler claimed his second consecutive victory in IMSA’s iRacing Pro Series, leading yet another 1-2-3 finish for BMW in Thursday’s race at Laguna Seca. Spengler previously led BMW to another 1-2-3 finish in last month’s season opener at Sebring.

Driving the No. 7 BMW IMSA Team Red M8 GTE, Spengler won by 1.772-seconds over Shane Van Gisbergen in the No. 97 AIM Vasser Sullivan entry. Nicky Catsburg finished third in the No. 10 BMW.

Polesitter Rodrigo Pflucker got a great start to the race in the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Ford GT, leading until just before the halfway point of the race.

However, the defending IMSA Prototype Challenge champ’s pit stop went longer than expected, and Spengler emerged at the front of the field with fellow BMW drivers Nicky Catsburg and Philipp Eng right behind him.

Eng passed Catsburg for second place with 34 minutes remaining in the race and then sat his eyes on Spengler. With 17 minutes remaining, Eng took the lead when Spengler had to brake hard to avoid hitting the No. 76 BMW of Paul Holton.

But Eng only got to lead for three minutes. A few laps later, Eng was involved in a massive crash with Corey Fergus in the No. 0 BMW, and just like that, Spengler was back in the lead.

Spengler held off Van Gisbergen for the remainder of the race to collect his second consecutive victory.

“It was never boring,” Spengler said. “It was a very interesting race. There was quite a lot of preparation on the team’s side. We’d just see how close the lap times were and qualifying was amazing. The lap times were so close. People were driving on the edge. There was so much traffic out there, which almost cost me the victory because I was leading the race, and I think in Turn 5, a car came back on the track out of nowhere pretty much, and I had to brake massively to avoid him and then I lost the lead.

“You had to take risks, but at some point, you had to be super careful and be on your toes because a lot of things were happening and going on, but yeah, the ending was fun.”

Spengler currently leads the iRacing Pro Series championship standings with 70 points, eight ahead of second-place Catsburg.

The next round of the IMSA iRacing Pro Series will take place on Thursday, April 30 at the virtual Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

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

24 Hours of Le Mans
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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.