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Lewis Hamilton takes Spanish GP pole position ahead of Valtteri Bottas

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MONTMELO, Spain — Six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton secured a record-extending 92nd pole position at the Spanish Grand Prix, nudging Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place by just 0.059 seconds on Saturday.

Bottas was ahead of championship leader Hamilton on the first two splits but lost a fraction of time when he came out too wide from a turn at the end of his lap.

“All day today I’ve been struggling a bit in (that) sector,” Bottas said after missing out on a 14th career pole. “Of course it is annoying but Lewis did a good job.”

The winding 4.7-kilometer ( 2.9-mile) Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with its combination of slow and fast corners, is one of the hardest for overtaking. This gives Hamilton every chance of claiming an 88th F1 victory that would move him within three of Michael Schumacher’s record.

As usual, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who won last week at Silverstone, looked the only driver capable of staying with the Mercedes and he qualified in third place – .708 seconds behind Hamilton.

“It is the maximum we can do at the moment, so pretty happy with that,” Verstappen said. “I hope I can apply a bit of pressure (in the race). It is very hard to overtake here, but we will do everything we can to be close to them and make it difficult.”

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who missed the last two races as he recovered from the coronavirus, was fourth ahead of teammate Lance Stroll.

It was another bad day for Ferrari, with Charles Leclerc ninth and Sebastian Vettel a dismal 11th, despite having a new chassis fitted. Four-time champion Vettel is enduring his worst start to a season since 2008 and has yet to finish in the top five of a race.

Track temperatures on the circuit reached 50 degrees C (122 F) when qualifying started shortly after 3 p.m. local time.

“It would be nice to have an ice cream in here,” Stroll joked over team radio.

Renault driver Esteban Ocon took part despite a heavy crash near the end of morning practice, where Hamilton was fastest ahead of Bottas and Verstappen. Mercedes also led practice on Friday with Bottas and Hamilton swapping places and Verstappen twice third.

Ocon went off the track when he had to swerve suddenly to the right to avoid crashing into the back of Kevin Magnussen, who hit the brakes late. He went into the wall and damaged the front of his Renault, bringing a red flag out to stop the session and giving the team just two hours to repair the car. Stewards investigated the incident and took no further action.

“The guys did a great job to get the car ready,” Ocon said.

The French driver made it through the first part of qualifying, known as Q1, where five are eliminated. They included both Haas and both Williams cars.

Verstappen won last Sunday’s race at Silverstone to end a streak of three wins for Hamilton and four straight for Mercedes. It also moved the Dutch driver up to second place in the standings behind Hamilton, with Bottas dropping to third.

Hamilton has won the last three Spanish GPs, although those were held in May in lower temperatures not so tough on tires.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here in Barcelona when it’s been this hot. Physically it’s tough, it’s so fast around here,” the veteran British driver said. “The forces to our body are pretty intense and the tires are what we are really struggling with. You see drivers crawling around just to keep the temperature out.”

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.