Welcome to the fourth part of the review brought to you by GP24.ro live from Le Mans.
Shortly after midnight problems for Alex Lynn in the #97 Aston Martin, after having suffered strongly from the BoP changes the next sign of bad luck. Alex goes straight in the Corvette Corner and lands in the gravel trap from which he can not escape on his own and needs to towed out by the marshals. Unbelievable, only a few minutes after the #97 Aston Martin goes of the track it is now the “Dane Train” Aston Martin #95 driven by Marco Sorensen that goes of as he enters the Indianapolis turn, looses the rear and has a tough impact after which it is towed back to the pitlane.
Just a little later the Le Mans night claims it’s next victim being the ARC Bratislava #49 Ligier that also needs to be towed back to the pitlane and causes a Safety Car Situation. This caused the GTE-Pro category to be divided a bit more as the #92 Porsche is in the first safety car train and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari is behind the other safety car train. The very same situation in LMP-1 and in LMP-2, a sad situation for the #8 Toyota and the #36 Alpine, both of them second in their class.
So the situation at the end of the 10th hour and the Safety Car Situation that mixed things up:
In LMP-1, Both Toyota’s having stopped in the box it is now the #7 car that has a lead of 1:12 minutes over the sister #8 Toyota.
In LMP-2 the #26 G-Drive leading the #36 Signatech Alpine by 1:17 minutes, the jackpot for the team that won the race last year but was stripped of their win after an infraction with the fuel tank was discovered during post race scrutineering.
In GTE-Pro, the class where there is still a direct battle for the lead. During the restart the #51 AF-Corse Ferrari managed to overtake the #92 Porsche and together they have a 1:18 minute lead over the #63 Corvette directly followed by 5 more GTE-Pro cars among which there are 3 Ford GT’s. Sadly the last Safety Car Situation saw Ford lose with all 3 of its contenders in GTE-Pro.
In GTE-Am the #85 Ford GT did not loose out and managed to keep its advantage.
Midway the 11th hour the Safety Car was back on track, this time caused by the #17 SMP BR1 Dallara driven by Egor Orudzhev as he went of hard in the Corvette Curve exactly where also the #Aston Martin went of into the tire barrier. Egor remains unharmed but the car suffers major damage. The Safety will remain deployed for a while until the SMP is towed back to the pitlane. Many teams seem to be using this Safety Car Phase for pitstops including driver changes. Only shortly before the end of the 11th hour the Safety Car Phase is ended, and we have green flags.
After this last Safety Car Situation the situation on track is as follows:
In LMP-1, Both Toyota’s are close together again with the #8 car now having a small lead of 2,8 seconds over the sister #7 Toyota.
In LMP-2 the #26 G-Drive managed to once again profit from the Safety Car and is now leading the #36 Signatech Alpine by 2:13 minutes.
In GTE-Pro, not many changes here, it is still the #51 AF-Corse Ferrari leading the #92 Porsche.
In GTE-Am the #85 Ford GT lost out this time ans saw its advantage shrink to 1:24 minutes.
We started the 12th hour here at Le Mans with a leadership change between the Toyota’s and saw the #8 driven by Sebastien Buemi take the lead over Mike Conway in the #7 car. Shortly after we received news from Aston Martin, the #95 car will not come back on track anymore and their garage door closes as the Le Mans tradition prescribes. After this it is once again the #49 ARC Bratislava Ligier LMP-2 driven by Henning Enqvist that loses control and slides of track and comes to a halt in the gravel trap next to Indianapolis causing a Slow Zone. Henning manages to leave on his own but comes to a halt in the Porsche Curves shortly after causing the next Safety Car Phase. This Safety Car did not cause any major changes in the field, and brings us halfway the 2019 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 13th hour sees a driver change for the #8 Toyota where Formula 1 start Fernando Alonso takes over. Last year Fernando showed fireworks during the night stint recovering a full 2 minutes. For now, he first has to recover some time against the #7 sister Toyota which is leading by about 12 seconds at this time. In the meantime the #49 ARC Bratislava Ligier LMP-2 driven by Henning Enqvist somehow made it back to the pitlane and disappears into the garage, the door does not close so the team has hope to get the car back in the race.
In GTE-Pro the field has been torn apart, this time not by a Safety Car Phase but due to a puncture on the #92 Porsche. Because of this it is foreseen that the lead will change back and forth between the #92 Porsche and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari as they make their pitstops.
Meanwhile in LMP-1 Fernando Alonso in the #8 Toyota is not coming closer to the #7 sister car, and they plan a pitstop to change the front and back bodywork indicating a change in the Aero Package. He returns to the racing action having now completed 201 laps.
More drama for the #92 Porsche which is wheeled backwards into the garage indicating major repairs have to done to keep it in the race which see the lead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari grow to 1:20 minutes at the end of the 13th hour in the 2019 edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans.
Right at the start of the 14th hour the #4 ByKolles ENSO CLMP1/01 grinds to a halt. It is only their 2nd race with the Gibson engine and as they were to make a planned pitstop that very lap it is very unlucky to have the problem on track.
After Having changed the front and back end of his #8 Toyota Alonso keeps losing time to the #7 sister Toyota and Fernando Alonso asks the team if the car could have suffered damage to its underbody causing it to lose aerodynamic ground effects (downforce) So at the next pitstop halfway through the 14th hour his mechanics had a critical look at all components to verify for damages. The 37 Toyota had been at the pits for a new front which probably has other Aero settings and is now leading by 1:07 minutes over the #8 Toyota.
The 15th hour starts bitterly for Aston Martin as the #90 TF Sport car driven by Euan Hankey loses control at Mulsanne Corner and digs itself into the gravel while holding second place in the GTE-Am class. This way Aston Martin lost its last car that had a position with view of the podium. This causes the #84 JMW Ferrari to move into 2nd place in class and in 3rd place we see the #56 Project 1 Porsche which is now on course to the WEC Super Season title.
Shortly after that the news came that the #49 Ligier of ARC Bratislava-Kaneko is being withdrawn of the race after repairs were found to be to extensive and it would not be justified doing them.
Halfway the 15th hour Thomas Laurent seems to have found some serious pace in his #3 Rebellion R-13 as he is lapping at the same pace as the Toyota cars. Unfortunately he lies 3 laps behind the leaders but is on good course for 3rd position.
Throughout the pitlane there are cars with signs of rubbing and racing and with the closure of the 15th hour there are 9 more hours of racing and daylight starts to break here at Le Mans. The actual standings of the race at the end of the 15th hour:
In LMP-1, it is the #8 Toyota leading over the sister #7 Toyota by about a minute.
In LMP-2 the #26 G-Drive is still leading the #36 Signatech Alpine which has mounted new rear bodywork by over 1:30 minutes. In 3rd place it is the #38 Jackie Chan DC Oreca.
In GTE-Pro, the class is led by the #51 AF-Corse Ferrari..
In GTE-Am the #85 Keating Motorsport Ford GT hangs on to the lead.
- Source: Frank van Nunen @GP24.ro
- Photocredit: ACO / Le Mans