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LM24: Racethread, Hours 11-18

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Text: Steve Tarrant

Photos: Rick Kiewiet

Under a full moon, the race moved towards its halfway point, with an air temperature of 17'C and humidity still high, although the threat of any more rain had subsided significantly.

The #79 had a significant moment at the Ford chicane, spinning and hitting the wall backwards and once again setting off the lights of the G-sensor. But he was able to drive across the track to pitlane, although not necessarily in the approved manner, back to the welcoming arms of his pit crew, allowing them to start the fix while driver Cooper MacNeil was taken to the medical centre for assessment. But it was not to be, and the car was retired as the race approached the completion of eleven hours.

Meanwhile, the Toyotas kept rolling on, circulating with laps again in the 3:30s which no-one else could match, and constantly opening the gap to the field behind by several seconds per lap.

Becoming equally dominant, this time in LMP2, were the pair of Team WRT Oreca's, running 1-2 in class, and constantly nibbling behind the #36 Alpine for third place overall.

After running so consistently at the front of GTE Pro, the #52 AF Corse Ferrari hit trouble with damaged suspension which resulted in a lengthy pitstop for the car. But Daniel Serra would eventually be able to take the car back out onto the circuit, some nine laps behind the sister car that continued to lead the class.

Also delayed by mechanical woes was the #64 Corvette, a succession of gearbox, clutch and alternators issues delaying the car by some twenty laps from the class leading #51 AF Corse. However, the sister #63 car was having a much more reliable run, holding a twenty second gap behind the leader, but a lap advantage over the pair of Porsche GTs, the #92 leading the #91.

A spirited battle ensued between the #28 Jota Sport and #65 Panis Racing cars, Will Stevens being chased down by Sean Galael and passed after running several laps nose to tail. The gap then opened up with Tom Blomqvist at the wheel, despite an unexpected pitstop delay of sixteen seconds when the driver could not find the lead to plug it into the intercom system, despite it still being attached to the velcro pad on his helmet!

Sunrise broke as the clock ticked over sixteen hours, with mist also covering the northern end of the track. It was not enough to affect visibility for driving, or the marshals' ability to visually see neighbouring marshals postes, but the cooler temperatures allowed some to set some of their fastest laps, despite others saying the 'magic hour' didn't really happen in the normal way.

A retirement was the #72 HubAuto Porsche that shot across the Dunlop chicane before coming to a stop under the bridge. The nearby Manitou was called to remove the car to a point of safety, but the team called it a day when the driver declared the issue to be the gearbox electrics.

The #8 Toyota had been turning laps at the same pace as the leading car, but a radio transmission revealed the car had been driven around some form of issue which the team have been monitoring all through the race. Suddenly the car ground to a halt at Mulsanne, requiring a controlled restart before continuing, and the resultant delay allowing the leading car to be a complete lap ahead.

Sam Bird had a major moment in the delayed #52 Ferrari, a front tyre exploding while accelerating out of Mulsanne, and needing a very slow drive back to the pits.

So as three quarter distance approached, all of the hypercars were still running, the leading Glickenhaus fighting and swapping podium places with the Alpine, some four laps off of the lead.

Position after 18 Hours


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