Marc Gene will replace Loic Duval in the driver line-up for Audi Sport Team Joest’s #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro following the Frenchman’s free practice crash.
Duval lost control of the car at nearly 170mph going through the Porsche Curves, the impact with barriers, destroying much of car. Despite the extensive damage after medical checks it was revealed that Duval suffered only abrasions on his legs as a result of the accident.
However, officials have still failed to clear him to return to the track, leaving Audi to draft in Marc Gene to the team alongside Lucas di Grassi and Tom Kristensen.
“The accident looked horrible,” said Chris Reinke, Head of LMP at Audi Sport. “It speaks for the safety concept of the Audi R18 and the Le Mans prototypes that Loïc survived the enormous crash nearly uninjured. We’re relieved to see that he’s well, considering the circumstances.”
Gene has been part of Audi’s LMP1 program since 2011, racing at Le Mans with squad in both 2012 and 2013. Before he joined the German marque he five Le Mans appearances with the Peugeot team, claiming the 908 HDi FAP’s only Le Mans victory alongside David Brabham and Alex Wurz in 2009.
He was entered to compete this year as part of the Jota Sport team in LMP2. His place in their Zytek-Nissan will be taken by Oliver Turvey.
Duval’s crash was one of several incidents that brought out red flags during Wednesday’s running at Le Mans. Two further incidents kept the first qualifying session to a little over an hour of running. The two Audis that remained after Duval’s accident set the fifth and sixth best times of the session. However, with four hours of qualifying running to come on Thursday the Audi squad are unphased by the slow, disrupted start to the week.
“That’s why the lap times we saw tonight are not very conclusive,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “Marcel [Fässler] set a time in free practice that was two seconds below his qualifying time. Our cars aren’t optimally gripping to the track yet and have more potential than we were able to show today due to the special circumstances. The starting order will no doubt change again tomorrow. But the most important thing for the time being is that Loïc is more or less well and can celebrate his 32nd birthday on Thursday.”
The #1 car will return to the track, with new look driver line-up, the team starting to build up a new car in time for the first session which starts at 6pm UK time (7pm local).