24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

24 Hours of Le Mans: Hour 6 – More Rain Equals LMP2 Clashes

4 Mins read
Sophia Florsch suffered an intense crash during the sixth hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The past five hours of racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans have been fairly uneventful, but hour six brought the return of the rain that caught out most of the LMP2 field.

In the Hypercar class, racing has been fairly quiet, with the two Toyota Gazoo Racing cars leading the way, #7 still ahead of #8. Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi have been doing their best to put a lap advantage on the sister car, whilst Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley have been trying to recover the time lost in the lap three incident. The third drivers from each car – Jose Maria Lopez and Kazuki Nakajima respectively – have not yet climbed aboard the GR010 Hybrids.

The #36 Alpine Elf Matmut still holds a steady third place overall and in class whilst the two Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus cars have fallen down the overall order into the fight with the LMP2s.

Probably the most action-packed class has been LMP2, which saw most incidents happen during the sixth hour of the race as rain began to fall again.

Prior to the sixth hour, the #38 JOTA that had been dominating the class from the start of the race, befell some back luck. Towards the end of the third hour, Anthony Davidson was caught out by a puddle at the Dunlop Bridge that was obscured from him by the Absolute Racing #18 Am Porsche, and went spinning into the gravel. Both cars were caught out by the wet patch, but where the Porsche managed to keep moving and get out of the gravel trap, Davidson went in too deep to be able to get out under his own power. The recovery time cost the team their dominant lead and, at the time, third overall, putting them a lap down on the LMP2 class leaders.

But hour six brought the action and the second Safety Car of the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans. With the rain returning to the track for the third time but much heavier, the decision to change onto wet weather tyres was being discussed. The LMP2 class proved that it was the way to go as six of the cars spun off track within ten minutes. Most costly was the incident between the #26 G-Drive Racing and Sophia Florsch in the #1 Richard Mille Racing.

She had made contact with the #26, which put her into a spin, stopping horizontally on track. As she tried to get the car moving again after the medical light had come on, the #74 Racing Team India Eurasia came around the corner, possibly not seeing Florsch in the dying light, and careered straight into the side of the car.

Florsch is fine but due to the medical light coming on she could not continue to race without being checked out. This meant she could not drive the car back to the pits and it was forced to retire from the race.

#33 TF Sport has held the lead of GTE Am since the second hour of the race
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

Just before this incident, the #32 United Autosports potentially suffered a brake failure coming through the Dunlop Bridge, shooting over the gravel trap. As it, quickly, returned to the track, it crashed into the side of the sister #23 car, putting a lot of damage on both cars.

The rain spell not only caused these incidents, but saw spins from the #29 Racing Team Nederland and the #24 PR1 Motorsports Mathiasen, the second of which ended in a tyre barrier. All drivers involved in these spins and crashes are OK.

Disaster struck twice for the JOTA team as, after the race restarted following the Florsch crash, Stoffel Vandoorne in the #28 was handed a 25 second stop/go penalty and a drive through penalty for not respecting the restart procedure.

After a hectic hour six, the order in LMP2 is nothing like it was six hours ago, with only one of the favourites from before the race currently in contention for class victory (#26). The class is lead by #41 Team WRT with the FIA World Endurance Championship entry #22 United Autosports, and only Untied Autosports car not currently in the garage for repairs, second. The sister #31 Team WRT closes off the top three.

At the end of the sixth hour some of these cars still owe pit stops, so this is not a net reflective top three in class.

In comparison, both GTE classes have been fairly quiet. AF Corse still have a dominant hold in GTE Pro, leading the Corvette Racing cars with a one-two (#51 leading) over third-placed #63 Corvette. Although it has not been the cleanest six hours of racing, Kevin Estre and Neel Jani have done a great job to get the #92 Porsche GT Team entry up to fourth in class. Ahead of their pit stop, Jani and Sam Bird in the #52 Ferrari were having a fantastic battle on track for class position.

The #52 did have a coming together with the #71 Inception Racing Am Ferrari at the Ford Chicane, but both cars managed to continue racing without much damage or loss of position.

GTE Am saw the first Safety Car of the race and first – and currently only – retiree of the 89th rendition of the 24-hour event. The #98 Aston Martin Racing had been performing well, sitting second in class behind the sister Aston Martin #33 TF Sport during the fourth hour of the race. Sadly disaster struck when Marcos Gomes went off track, skidding quickly through the gravel trap and buried the Vantage deep into the tyre barrier at Indianapolis. Gomes was OK and got out of the car, but there was significant damage to the front of the Aston Martin and it could not be driven back to the pits, meaning that it was retired from the race.

At the end of hour six, #33 TF Sport has held onto the lead, with the #83 AF Corse and #57 Kessel Racing entries chasing it down. Hanging on to the top three in fourth is the #80 Iron Lynx, which Callum Ilott stepped into at the end of the hour for his first stint at Le Mans.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional: a Digital Account Manager at Patterrn offering Social Media and Digital Marketing for Brands, Teams and Drivers in all disciplines of motor racing.
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