Welcome to the third part of the review brought to you by GP24.ro live from Le Mans.
Right at the start of the 7th hour here at Le Mans Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid profits of the long Safety Car Situation gaining 55 seconds on Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid and bringing the gap down to just 18 seconds. Right around the same time Thomas Laurent showed his quality on the partial wet circuit by passing the #11 SMP BR1 driven by Michail Aljoschin round the outside in Maison Blanche. Unfortunately shorted after his excellent move on Aljoschin Thomas Laurent spun into the wall at the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight causing a new Full Course Yellow. During the impact he lost part of the front bodywork which was collected by the Aljoschin in the SMP car. Meanwhile, there is a tough battle in the GTE-Pro Class, with the sunset setting in the #92 Porsche driven by Kevin Estre is leading the #51 Ferrari driven by Allesandro Pier Gaudi by less than 3 seconds.
In GTE-AM the news comes that after being involved in a near crash and a crash with Marcel Fassler Satoshi Hoshino in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche has decided to retire from the race. As he did not do the minimum amount of time required for a Le Mans driver in the race the team was forced to withdraw the car.
Around the same time of this news about the withdrawal of the #88 Porsche there was a change of race-leader, the #7 Toyota driven by Jose Maria Lopez managed to pass Nakajima while they were getting into traffic. The Toyota’s are in a fierce inter-team battle so it seems. In the LMP-1 non Hybrid class (privateers) both SMP BR1 Dallara’s are copying Toyota’s driving. They have about 50 seconds advantage over the # Rebellion driven by Thomas Laurent.
We started the 8th hour with a leader change in LMP-2 Class as the #26 G-Drive driven by Jean Eric Vergne used his fresh tires to pass the #36 Signatech Alpine with Andre Negrao at the wheel. At this time in the race there is only 1 class (GTE-AM) where the #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT is leading by quite a margin. In the other 3 classes the battle is fierce.
Shortly into the 8th hour Jose Maria Lopez locks up the brakes on the #7 Toyota and goes straight into the gravel trap at Mulsanne which gives the lead back to Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota.
Halfway the 8th hour here at Le Mans we see that the #92 Porsche has extended its lead in GTE-Pro Class to about seconds and Toyota is changing the Aero package on the #8 car for the night stints. (More Downforce). A change which had not been done for the #7 Toyota. There also was a very long pitstop for the # Rebellion, but it is not clear why.
As a result of the collision between Satoshi Hoshino in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche and Marcel Fassler in the #63 Corvette the Stewards handed out a fine of 7.000 Euro and 6 penalty points to the Corvette Team. We have also seen that Marcel Fassler made it back from the Medical Center and seems to be in good shape.
Towards the end of the 8th hour we saw the retirement of the good old #98 Aston Martin V8 Vantage (Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda) which fell way back after a spin by Dalla Lana and had to retire permanently due to technical defects. There is also a fierce battle going on between the 2 equally strong Toyota’s in LMP-1 Class while in GTE-Pro the hunt on Kevin Estre is opened. Kevin in the #92 Porsche enjoys a 10-second lead, but places 2-6 are all within 20 seconds.
At the start of the 9th hour of 24 hours of racing here at Le Mans we see the #8 Toyota driven by Kazuki Nakajima growing an advantage over the #7 car with Jose Maria Lopez at the wheel. It seems the change to the “Night Aero Package” makes a positive impact on the speed.
As good as everything goes for Toyota, this is not the case for BMW. Both Aston Martin and BMW are somewhat hindered by the BoP and now technical problems are added to that for the #81 MTEK BMW driven by Catsburg, Tomczyk and Eng as it wheeled backwards into the garage. They stayed in the garage for 4 laps before they re-entered the race. Fingers crossed…
During a pitstop, the positions at the lead have changed again: The #7 Toyota (Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez) suddenly leads again. Both Toyota TS050 Hybrid squads are hunting for the race win. Once again a duel between Mike Conway and Sebastien Buemi. Revenge for the Swiss guy, after he had no chance against the Britt earlier.
In GTE-AM Wei Lu in the #84 JMW Ferrari spun and lost quite a bit of time but managed to hang on to his second place in the GTE-AM Class. Like this however it seems only a matter of time until the #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT driven by Jeroen Bleekemolen, Felipe Fraga and Ben Keating will have lapped all of them.
Towards the end of the 9th hour in the battle for 10th position (in GTE-Pro Class) Sven Muller in the #94 Porsche and Olivier Pla in the #66 Ganassi Ford GT could not agree on who had the racing line going into a turn, and they touched sending Oliver Pla who was on the outside line into a spin from which he recovered very smoothly and continues the race without damage.
After the recent series of pitstops, the #7 Toyota (Conway/Kobayashi/Lopez) now has an 8 second lead. So Conway is pulling away from Buemi again, but not as clearly as at the beginning of the race. In LMP-2 the G-Drive Racing driven by Job van Uitert and the Signatech Alpine with Pierre Thiriet behind the wheel currently are separated by 6.5 seconds. And in the GTE Pro class, the front of the pack has come much closer together. James Calado in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari (Pier Guidi/Calado/Serra) has come very close to the leading #92 Porsche (Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor). Only in the GTE-Am Class we see the #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT having a 2-minute lead, mainly thanks to the luck in the SC phases, although we can not deny them great driving.
And right at the closing of the 9th hour here at Le Mans James Calado in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE passed the #92 Porsche but pitted immediately afterwards handing the lead back to the #92 Porsche.
- Source: Frank van Nunen @GP24.ro
- Photocredit: ACO / Le Mans
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