Endurance Racing

Le Mans 24 Hours – 8 Hour Report

Credit: Porsche AG

Eight hours in and Toyota are cruising away; LMP2 springs some surprises; Porsche out front in Pro; Am sees change at the top

We’re a third of the way through the race and it’s fully dark at Le Mans. Just like on Thursday, the setting sun kicked off a whole spate of incidents, some of which have dramatically altered the makeup of the race. Following on from the early action, here are the main points from Hours 4-8.

 

LMP1:

Despite having both their cars out front, Toyota are clearly pushing to get the distance record. Both cars have been turning clean, fast laps and when Nakajima and Kobayashi were battling hard between themselves, including some hairy side by side moments between Mulsanne corner and Indianapolis. What had been a fairly quiet race for the DragonSpeed LMP1 was livened up when Renger van der Zande speared across the Dunlop gravel, getting all four wheels off the ground as he crested the track.

The biggest LMP1 drama came right at the end of the eighth hour as Matevos Isaakyan, who had been fighting Rebellion’s Gustavo Menezes for third overall, flew backwards into the wall at the Porsche Curves in a monster accident. The new runoff came in handy as the young Russian – who double backflipped the same car at Spa in the first round of the WEC – went skating across the gravel and hit the wall hard enough to damage the rear deck. Isaakyan was recovered to a safe place and set about freeing the rear wheels, managing do drive into the gravel but not out. A second and eventual third recovery got the car nowhere closer to the pits, despite Isaakyan’s heroic efforts and steam and sparks flying from the engine. Unfortunately, OM’s podium pick car has since retired.

 

LMP2:

Compared to the warzone that was LMP1, the LMP2 field has behaved itself. Panis Barthez Competition continued to hold position near the top of the order, Timothé Buret’s efforts keeping the French crew in podium contention during a very strong stint from the Silver driver. Will Stevens was also fired up, fighting Paul-Loup Chatin’s IDEC Sport Racing Oreca and keeping the Panis Barthez car as by far the best Ligier. Algarve Pro have been in the wars, their car spending hours in the garage as the team worked to identify and repair or replace significant amounts of the drivetrain.

Further down the order, good work from Giedo van der Garde in the Racing Team Nederland Dallara was being hidden by the car’s track position. Gabriel Aubry had a wild ride when his front left tyre exploded at full speed on the Mulsanne – Jackie Chan DC Racing’s new Thomas Laurent replacement did brilliantly to keep control of the car and bring it back to the pitlane without further damage. Harrison Newey had a similar incident as a rear right failed, leaving the youngster to drag the SMP Dallara back from the wrong side of Indianapolis.

With eight hours gone, the #26 G-Drive Oreca had reached fifth overall in the hands of Vergne. The rest of the podium fight was made up of the Signatech Alpine in the hands of Andre Negrao following a killer hunt by Nicolas Lapierre, the IDEC Sport Racing Oreca and Panis Barthez’s very quick Ligier.

 

GTE Pro:

The battle continues. Porsche have kept hold at the top, the two retro-liveried Manthey entries swapping and sharing the lead depending on their pitstop timing. The #93 CORE Autosport-run Porsche was putting on a spirited chase as Patrick Pilet dragged it through the field and Nick Tandy came very close to the back of Fred Makowiecki’s Rothmans car.

However, the #81 BMW was pinned to the front fight too, often coming very close to Ryan Briscoe’s Ford. Martin Tomczyk was doing sterling work for the Team MTEK crew before handing over to Philipp Eng, the BMW coming into its own as the temperatures cooled. The new Astons have continued to struggle, Darren Turner telling Radio Le Mans that they know there’s more time in the car, and that he’d be more worried about the lack of pace if they were comfortable and didn’t feel like there was more to come.

The various slow zones had worked in favour of the Pink Pig, giving the car a lead of almost a minute into the ninth hour. The Rothmans car was strongly holding second, but the #81 BMW was performing brilliantly at night. The CORE-run #94 Porsche had visited the garage for repairs following rear suspension failure, but even though the crew had a spot welder on the case, the Muller/Dumas/Bernhard car was forced to retire.

 

GTE Am:

It’s been an interesting race in Am too. The biggest story in the class was Paul Dalla Lana having a high speed crash in the Porsche Curves – the Canadian was unable to repair the Aston, and the stalwart Am crew’s Le Mans curse continues.

At the front of the field, Christian Ried was being reeled in by almost ten second a lap by Jeff Segal in the white WeatherTech-liveried Ferrari. The longtime leader lost his position during the pitstop sequence, dropping him to third. The other WeatherTech Ferrari of Keating Motorsports had climbed the order as well, all three drivers consistently lapping to put the Ferrari on terms with the podium after its early off in the Porsche Curves.

Project1 had been scratching around the podium positions as Bergmeister and Perfetti drove, with third man Patrick Lindsey doing a decent job on his first trip to La Sarthe. Reported vibrations from the front meant a brake change however, dropping the team into sixth.

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