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24 Heures du Mans ... the pair of winning Toyotas were six laps ahead of their nearest rival


51  LM GTE Pro FERRARI 488 GTE EVO s_n 3826  __  Alessandro PIER GUIDI ITA P James CALADO GBR P Daniel SERRA BRA G

51 LM GTE Pro FERRARI 488 GTE EVO s_n 3826 __ Alessandro PIER GUIDI ITA P James CALADO GBR P Daniel SERRA BRA G

 

Le Mans, 15-16 June, 2019

The 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race took place over the weekend of 15-16 June, and fortunately, despite a prediction of possible rain, apart from quite literally a few drops, it was a completely dry race. The daytime ambient temperatures were very comfortable in the low twenties with plenty of sunshine, making for a very pleasant weekend for all in attendance. Talking of attendance, the official figure was a crowd of 252,500 people. Apart from the main race they had plenty of action during the course of the days leading up to the main race, there were the practice and qualifying sessions, then there were a pair of races for the Michelin Le Mans Cup (Road to Le Mans) and another for the Ferrari Challenge series, all with large fields.


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There were 62 entries for the 24 Hour Race, although this was reduced to 61 starters, after the #99 Dempsey-Proton Racing entered Porsche 911 RSR was too badly damaged in a practice accident to take any further part in proceedings. The breakdown between the four classes was 8 in the LMP1 group, 20 in LMP2, plus 17 each in the LMGTE Pro, and LMGTE Am classes, the latter being reduced by one as noted. The largest contingent in the prototype classes were Oreca 07-Gibsons with10 examples in the LMP2 class, whereas in the GT classes it was Ferrari with 3 488 GTE Evo examples in the Pro class and 8 488 GTEs in the Am class. A strong Ferrari GT entry was of relevance, as this year’s edition of the race marked the 70th anniversary of the first Ferrari win at Le Mans, when Luigi Chinetti and Lord Selsdon drove a 166 MM Touring Barchetta, chassis # 0008M, to victory in 1949.

As was to be expected it was the pair of Toyota TS050-Hybrids that headed the qualifying times, with the #7 example of Conway / Kobayashi / Lopez heading the sister #8 car driven by Buemi / Nakajima / Alonso by 0.411sec. This year the privateer non-hybrid LMP1 cars were closer to the pair of Toyotas, due to rule changes, and maybe the Toyotas not showing their full hand; the race would reveal the truth. The “best of the rest” was the #17 SMP Racing entered BR Engineering BR1-AER in the hands of Sarrazin / Orudzhev / Sirotkin, which was only 0.662sec off the pole position time, whilst the #3 Rebellion Racing entered Rebellion R13-Gibson driven by Laurent / Berthon / Menezes was a fraction under 0.3sec behind the #17 SMP entry. As an aside, the pair of Rebellion Racing entries were the first LMP1 cars to feature “Art Car” liveries, with lurid yellow, pink and green fluorescent paint schemes by Tomyboy’s Rocketbyz Studio.

In the LMP2 category the qualifying pole position was taken by the #28 TDS Racing entered Oreca 07-Gibson of Perrodo / Vaxiviere / Duval, just 0.322sec quicker than the similar #31DragonSpeed entry driven by Gonzalez / Maldanado / Davidson. The LMGTE Pro class pole position was claimed by the works entered #95 Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Thim / Sorensen / Turner, a scant 0.112sec quicker than the #67 Ford GT entered by Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK, driven by Priaulx / Tincknell / Bomarito. These were followed by the #63 Corvette, the #93 Porsche and the # 82 BMW, making five different marques in the top five places, whilst the best of the Ferrari 488 GTE EVOs was the #71 AF Corse entry of Rigon / Bird / Molina in 8th place. In the LMGTE Am group it was a Porsche lockout of the top three qualifying positions, headed by the #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing 911 RSR of Hoshino / Roda / Cairoli. The sister #77 example was 2nd quickest, with the #86 Gulf Racing entry next up, followed by the JMW Motorsport entered Ferrari 488 GTE, featuring a new vibrant yellow and orange “Art Car” livery.

At 15.00 on the Saturday afternoon after a flypast by the French national aerobatic team, the Patrouille Acrobatique de France, the French flag was waved by H.S.H. Charlene, Princess of Monaco, to signal the start of the 2019 edition of the legendary Sarthe classic. From their front row of the grid starting positions the pair of Toyotas led the field away, and unless they had misfortune the race was already theirs, as they inexorably pulled away from the pursuing pack, and as the race panned out, the leader board always showed either the #7 or the #8 Toyota in the top spot. Fortunately there was some close racing between the non hybrid LMP1 runners, and also through the three other classes. During the race there were a total of seven slow zone periods, and eight each of safety car deployments and full course yellows. Surprisingly, despite a few off course excursions, there were very few retirements during the course of the race, with 49 classified finishers from the 61 starters, although two of these, both of which were Ford GTs, were later disqualified for fuel tank capacity irregularities in post race technical checks.

The first retirement was not until just after 21.00 on the Saturday evening, when the #64 Corvette of Gavin / Milner / Fassler was involved in an accident with the #88 LMGTE Am pole sitting Porsche 911 RSR of Hoshino / Roda / Cairoli, which also resulted in the retirement of that car shortly afterwards. Another of the retirements was the #71 AF Corse entered Ferrari 488 GTE EVO in the LMGTE Pro class, which was retired just before 1.00am with engine problems, which had the team worried about the reliability of their #51 car driven by Pier Guidi / Calado / Serra. This had climbed the leader board from its 12th place in class starting position, to be mounting a strong challenge for the class lead at this point, so they really had everything crossed for the next fourteen hours, praying that the same fate wouldn’t befall this car.

Fortunately the car performed perfectly for the remainder of the race, and took the LMGTE Pro class win, against the odds from its qualifying position, but as the old saying goes, to finish first you first have to finish. In fact it led more laps than any other car in the class, with a total of 132 out of the 342 completed in the class. It was also a fitting victory to celebrate that of the Ferrari 166 MM seventy years earlier. The AF Corse Ferrari was chased home by a pair of works entered Porsche 911 RSRs, with the #91 example of Lietz / Bruni / Makowiecki, finishing just over 49secs behind, with the #93 example of Pilet / Bamber / Tandy only a further 17secs in arrears. The next four positions were held by the Ford GT contingent, in the order #68, #67, #69 and #66. However, the 4th place on the road finishing #68 example was one of the cars disqualified for a fuel tank capacity irregularity, elevating those behind by one place.

The LMP2 class win was eventually taken by the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut entered Alpine A470-Gibson driven by Lapierre / Negrao.Thiriet, which beat the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07-Gibson of Tung / Richelmi / Aubry by a lap, with the class pole sitting #28 TDS Racing entry driven by Perrodo / Vaxivierre / Duval a further lap in arrears to take the final podium spot. In the LMGTE Am class, first across the line was the lurid purple and orange Wynns liveried #85 Keating Motorsports Ford GT, driven by Keating / Bleekemolen / Fraga, having led for 283 of the 334 laps completed in the class. However, this was the second Ford GT to be disqualified for a fuel tank capacity irregularity, which handed the class win to the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 GTR, featuring another “Art Car” livery, which had finished some 45secs in arrears, driven by Bergmeister / Lindsey / Perfetti. Elevated to 2nd in class was the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE of Segal / Baptista / Lu, with another Ferrari completing the top three, this being the # 62 WeatherTech Racing example driven by MacNeil / Vilander / Smith.

In the overall standings, by the time that the chequered flag fell at 15.00 on the Sunday afternoon, the pair of Toyotas were six laps ahead of their nearest rival, and although the #7 car of Conway / Kobayashi / Lopez had led for 376 laps compared to the #8 car’s 49 laps, in the hands of Buemi / Nakajima / Alonso, it was the #8 car in the lead when the flag fell, taking victory by a mere 16.972secs after 24 hours of racing. The final podium place, and first of the non hybrid LMP1 cars, went to the #11 SMP Racing entered BR Engineering BR1-AER of Petrov / Aleshin / Vandoorne, 3 laps ahead of the #1Rebellion Racing entered Rebellion R13-Gibson of Jani / Lotterer / Senna.

 

Ferrari Entry

Race #

Model

Chassis #

Team

Colour

Drivers

Position

 

O / A

Cl.

Class GTE Pro

 

 

51

488 GTE “EVO”

3826

AF Corse

Red-Multi

A Pier Guidi /
J. Calado /
D. Serra

20th

1st

89

488 GTE “EVO”

3840

Risi Competizione

Dark & Light Blue

P. Derani /
O. Jarvis /
J. Gounon

40th

11th

71

488 GTE “EVO”

3824

AF Corse

Red-Multi

D. Rigon /
S. Bird /
M. Molina

DNF

 

Class GTE AM

 

 

84

488 GTE

4404*

JMW Motorsport

Yellow-Orange

J. Segal /
W. Lu /
R. Baptista

32nd

2nd

62

488 GTE

3838

Weathertech Racing

White-Black

C. MacNeil /
T. Vilander /
R. Smith

33rd

3rd

57

488 GTE

3828

Car Guy Racing

Yellow

T. Kimura /
K. F. Cozzolino / C. Ledogar

35th

5th

61

488 GTE

3822

Clearwater Racing

Matt Black-Red-White

M. Griffin /
M. Cressoni / L. Perez Companc

37th

7th

83

488 GTE

3832

Kessel Racing

Blue-Pink

M. Gostner /
R. Frey /
M. Gatting

39th

9th

70

488 GTE

3818

MR Racing

White-Red

M. Ishikawa / O. Beretta /
E. Cheever III

41st

10th

54

488 GTE

3814

Spirit of Race

Silver-Red

T. Flohr /
F. Castellacci /
G. Fisichella

43rd

12th

60

488 GTE

3830

Kessel Racing

Blue-Orange

C. Schiavoni /
S. Pianezzolo /
A. Picini  

46th

13th

*488 GT3 Converted to GTE “EVO” Specification

 

Keith Bluemel          06 / 2019.