Updated: Aug 30, 2021
Text: Steve Tarrant
Photos: Rick Kiewiet
The seventh hour started with another major moment approaching the first chicane, when the #56 Porsche spun and collected the tyre wall, and the #33 Aston Martin could not stop enough to get around the corner. The #33 was able to drive away but was not sounding healthy, and the #56 was eliminated on the spot as once again the g-sensor had been triggered. Once again, the safety cars were immediately deployed to slow the pace. and the circuit staff set to work repairing the barriers.
As the clock ticked over seven hours, LMP2 was headed by a 1-2 by Team WRT, the #41 heading the #31 by six seconds, the gap back to the #22 and #65 being a further minute behind. And in GTE Pro, the #63 Corvette assumed the head of the field, with the #51 Ferrari in close attendance. It seemed every time the track went wet, the Corvette had an advantage, but the Ferrari recovered as soon as conditions went dry again.
The next retirement was the #47 Cetilar Ferrari with a deranged rear wheel, the car coming to a halt at Tertre Rouge, and requiring the services of the recovery flatbed to leave the track.
Minutes later, it was the third place Alpine which spun under braking, before running across the gravel at the first chicane. Once again, the Manitou was required to lift the car to safety, and the delay brought first of the Glickenhaus, the #708, up to third in the running order, a couple of laps behind the Toyotas.
James Wilmslow in the #74 Racing Team India Eurasia car had a narrow escape when he drove off the track and through the gravel approaching the Karting curve. Meanwhile, the Toyotas continued on their way, apparently unaffected by conditions.
Race control continued to be kept busy, the stewards assessing multiple penalties for various infractions. Usually amounting to 5 or 10 second penalties added to the next pitstops, the #709 Glickenhaus and #72 HubAuto were given a more serious penalty of a pitlane drive through for overtaking cars during a safety car period.
The #25 G-Drive spun under braking for the Dunlop chicane, turning right through the polystyrene blocks and hitting the wall behind. Once again, the blue lights of the G-sensor was set off, and the fourth safety car period was initiated while the car was removed back to parc ferme. During this, the lead changed to the #8, when they stayed out on track whereas the #7 completed a earlier than originally scheduled pitstop to top everything up.
Team WRT kept up their amazing run, leading and second in LMP2 with a 2 minute gap back to the #65 of Panis Racing. While this team under team manager Vincent Vosse has endurance experience in other categories, their first season in both ELMS and WEC has been simply sensational, and belying the fact that this was also their first Le Mans.
Amazingly, some two hours after the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin had pitted with the tyre damage, it reassumed the lead of GTE AM, heading eight Ferraris and a Porsche with Felipe Fraga still at the wheel, before he pitted and handed the car over to Dylan Pereira.
The next garage door to be closed denoting retirement from the race was for the #99 Proton Competition Porsche, which suffered suspension damage that could not be repaired.
Frits van Eerd had yet another moment approaching Dunlop chicane on exiting the pits, the car getting beached in the gravel after contact with the #66 JMW Motorsport, and the driver less than impressed. At least this time the bleep machine wasn't needed for when the TV channel played out his conversation with his team engineer!!! Once again, a Manitou was called into action to return the car back to terra firma.
The #66 car did not escape damage, a puncture meaning driver Thomas Neubauer had to undertake a very slow lap back to the pits, with the rear of the car resting on the diffuser. Sadly, the car then came to a stop exiting the pitlane, and required a slowzone down the start straight to aid its recovery off the track and into parc ferme retirement.
The Alpine recovered from his earlier spin to reclaim third place in class, but we were treated to some great dicing around the circuit between it and the #708 Glickenhaus with Olivier Pla at the wheel, The onboard cameras showed the closeness of the duel, both cars being forceful without there being any contact. And eventually the #708 claimed the third position.
Kevin Estre was also keen to make up for his error on Thursday, with some stunning laps that pushed the car to third in GTE Pro, riding his lucky at times, especially riding the kerbs at Indianapolis. at ten hours, they were in contention with the pair of AF Corse Ferraris and the #63 Corvette.
And the Toyotas kept rolling on ........
Positions after 10 Hours