Sunday, 17 June 2018

86th 24 Hours of Le Mans - Toyota slay the ghost of 2016

The strains of the French national anthem had barely finished reverberating before French army soldiers dropped from a hovering helicopter to present the starting flag to tennis legend Rafael Nadal who had the honour of waving it to start the 86th 24 Hours of Le Mans.

By 14:52 all drivers were aboard and the cars peeled away from their 'en-epi' configuration to take the formation lap. All except Dillman in the Bykolles #4 which was reluctant to start. He finally got it going and was in such a hurry to catch up he had a minor off track moment at the Dunlop chicane. At 15:00 the race started spot on time and in the first corner there was contact between Lotterer in #1 Rebellion and Hanley in the #10 Dragonspeed. Lotterer got a blinding start and was charging up behind the #8 Toyota when they touched, disloging the nose of the Rebellion before the contact with Hanley. Lotterer in #1 Rebellion made an early stop to get a new nose, followed by Jaafar in the #37 JCDC car which was going slowly on track suffering with overheating problems. #10 Dragonspeed car also stopped a little later, presumably also with damage from the 1st corner incident. The #8 had rear deck replaced as a precaution at the first opportunity.

Early leaders in P2 was Berthon in the Dragonspeed #31 followed by Chatin in the #48 Idec Sport and Duval in the TDS #28. In GTE Pro it was Bruni in the #91 Porsche followed by Estre #92 Porsche with Mucke in #66 Ford GT 3rd after 3 laps. In GTE Am it was Barker in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche leading Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferarri and Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche.

At the front, the pair of Toyotas changed places and Conway the #7 car led the first lap before letting by Buemi in the #8 car. In the first half hour the 3:17.993 fastest lap for Buemi in #8 Toyota was faster than best lap in the race last year (3:18.604 also by Toyota #8) but not outright race record (3:17.475 by Andre Lotterer in 2015. In LMP2 3:28.557 was an outright LMP2 lap record for Berthon in #31 DragonSpeed (was 3:28.632 for DCRacing #38 in 2017). At this time the fastest lap in GTE Pro was Dirk Mueller in #68 Ford GT with 3:50.108 a class lap record (was 3:50.950 for Aston #97 in 2017). Records falling in GTE Am also with 3:52.600 for Ben Barker in Gulf Racing #86 Porsche (was 3:53.320 for Aston #90 in 2017).

At 1 hour: P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,28,36,48 / Pro 92,68,91,93 / Am 86,54,88,61

At 16:50, Loic Duval set the fastest lap time in LMP2 in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca with a time of 3:27.901. Wainwright in the #86 Gulf Porsche had an off at Indy and managed to limp home but it took quite a while to repair the tyre wall and a slow zone was in place from Mulsanne corner to Arnage for sevral laps around the 2 hour mark. At 17:25 three Ford GTs were 3rd, 4th and 5th in GTE Pro, #68 ahead of #69 and #66 with #67 in 8th. At 17:29 Alonso took over the #8 Toyota from Buemi. At 17:40 there was a change of leader in GTE Pro as Fred Mako passed team-mate Laurens Vanthoor to put the #91 Rothmans-liveried car, which began on pole, back into the lead.

At 3 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,36,23,34 / Pro 91,92,68,93 / Am 77,84,88,54
At 4 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,36,39.23 / Pro 92,81,69,52 / Am 77,84,56,98

The #11 SMP car spent a very long time in the pit garage. The team contined to work on getting it back out. It was fixed after having spent over 2 hours in pits. Button was sent out in the car at 19:10. Alonso in Toyota #8 swept past Lopez at 18:23 and retook the overall lead from Lopez in the #7 Toyota. At 18:38 the #38 JCDC car shredded a tyre and distributed debris on track as Aubry returned it to pitlane. Clearing the debris required a Safety Car period. At 19:18 Dominic Kraihamer in the Bykolles #4 LMP1 tangled with the #80 Porsche GTE Am (Maris) in the Porsche curves and tagged barriers front and rear. Kraihamer was soon safely out, but the car looked very ugly. A 30 minute Safety Car period was necessary to recover the #4 and debris. At 20:52 Montoya put the #32 into the gravel at Indianapolis, causing a slow zone from Mulsanne to Arnage.

At 5 hours: P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,81,93,91 / Am 77,84,56,54
At 6 hours P1 8,7,17,3 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,81,93,91 / Am 77,56,54,84

Renger Van Der Zande in #10 Dragonspeed spent a long time in the pits with broken car after riding the curbs spectacularly. Lapierre brought the #36 Alpine up to 2nd in LMP2 at 21:30. Dumas in #94 Porsche had problems at 21:39 and returned to pits for a very long visit to the pit box. At 21:51 Dalla Lana in #98 Aston went into the tyre wall in the entry of Porsche curves bringing a slow zone for recovery until 22:03 At 22:46, Newey in #35 SMP suffererd a right rear tyre failure and crawled slowly back to pitlane, arriving at 22:55. Isaakyan in #17 SMP at 22:58 put the car into the tyres at Porsche curves. Hankey spun the #90 Aston at the same time in a separate incident. The problems for the #17 promoted the #26 G-Drive LMP2 to 5th place overall. Isaakyan had three attempts to restart the #17 and was recovered back to a safe place each time. At 23:54 Tandy in the #93 Porsche was pushed back into its pit box with problems. Just after midnight at 00:18 Buemi in #8 Toyota was penalised with a 60s stop and go for speeding in a slow zone. The #81 BMW pitted for work on brakes and dampers. Extended stop dropped the car from 3rd to 12th in class. To add insult, they were later hit by a drive through penalty for a pit stop infringement. The #6 Ginetta stopped at Tertre Rouge then got going again slowly and limped back to pit lane.

At 7 hours: P1 7,8,17,3 / P2 26,48,36,23 / Pro 92,93,91,81 / Am 77,84,56,86
At 8 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,93,81 / Am 77,84,88,56 
At 9 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,81,68 / Am 77,84,88,85
At 10 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,84,85,88
At 11 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,36,23,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,84,85,88
Retirements at 11 hours: 98,94,17,4,6
At 12 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,84,56

At the half way point the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche continued to dominate GTE Am. Similarly the #92 'pink pig' Porsche remained solidly in the lead of GTE Pro as the challenge of BMW in GTE Pro faded as they were beset by technical problems with brakes and dampers on both cars. Long time leader in LMP2 the G-Drive #26 seemed fixed at the top of the class and an impressive 5th overall. The Toyotas were predictably untouchable ahead of the pair of Rebellions #3 and #1.

'Legality' plank problems resurfaced for the #3 Rebellion which visited to the pit garage in the 13th hour. Gutierrez in the #40 G-Drive had a big slide and impact with the barrier in the Porsche curves. A slow zone was in place while the car was recovered.

At 13 hours: P1 7,8,1,3 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,54,84
Retirements after 13 hours: 98,94,17,4,6,40
At 14 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,52 / Am 77,85,54,99

On the stroke of 05:00 the #52 AF Corse Ferrari (4th in GTE Pro at the time) was given a 1 minute stop and go penalty for speeding in a slow zone. Berthon in the #31 Dragonspeed was going slowly on track and limped home to the pits with what appeared to be a tyre problem but it turned out to involve brakes and the car was pushed back into the box.

At 15 hours: P1 7,8,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,84

There was a slow zone at Indy for Sernagiotti at 06:33 in #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse stuck in gravel. At the same time Sims in BMW #82 came into the pits with tyre problems after hitting barrier in Porsche curves. Almost the same time Segal went off at Mulsanne Corner in the #84 Ferrari and had to be recovered.

At 7:04 Cairoli in #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche went into tyres at Ford chicane bringing out a slow zone to recover the car, then at 7:20 Hanley in #10 Dragonspeed went off at Porsche curves into tyres. A short time later both Toyotas #8 and #7 were then given a one minute stop and go penalty for speeding in slow zone. Hanley managed to get the #10 back to pits in poor shape.

At 16 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,85,54,99
At 17 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,69 / Am 77,85,54,99
At 18 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,48 / Pro 92,91,68,63 / Am 77,54,85,56

The retirements with 6 hours remaining were: 88,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10

At 09:13 there was a Safety Car period to re-fit and weld-down a drain cover and 'floppies' at Tertre Rouge. Maxime Martin in #97 Aston Martin was going slowly on track during SC period and was overtaken by SC and the 'train'. At the same time the #64 Corvette was pushed into its pit garage with an overheating problem. The process of fixing the broken drain required welding and quick setting cement. Also during SC period, Gonzalez in #31 Dragonspeed came into pitlane with a left rear flat tyre. At 09:42 the safety car was replaced by slow zone 3 and instruction to stay to the right to allow the cement to set.

The safety car bunched up the second and third place cars in GTE Pro with the #91 Porsche followed by the #68 Ford GT. On the first lap after SC period, Ricci in the #50 Larbre Ligier went into the gravel at Porsche curves and snagged the tyre wall. Ricci limped the car back to pit lane.

At 10:00 DiResta in United Autosports #22 Ligier had a big impact with the concrete barrier at Porsche curves. This brought out the safety cars again. The destroyed #22 became the 11th retirement of the race. DiResta was taken to medical facilities to be checked over.

At 19 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,23,36,22 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,56

From second place in LMP2, Will Stevens in the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier was pushed into pit box with technical problems. The track went green again at 10:17 except for the Tertre Rouge slow zone which remained for another 30 minutes.

At just before 11:00 Priaulx in Ford GT #67 passed team-mate Bourdais in #68 then makes the pass on Mako in #91 Porsche for 2nd in GTE Pro class. The change in position lasted until the #67 had to make a scheduled stop, leaving Bourdais to snap at the tail of the #91. The Porsche / Ford battle was the spectacle of the closing hours of the race.

At 20 hours: P1 8,7,1,3 / P2 26,36,48,39 / Pro 92,67,91,68 / Am 77,85,54,56

The desperate efforts of Fred Mako in the #91 Porsche to hold off Bourdais in the #68 Ford GT won him a driving standards investigation but it was ultimately dismissed with no action. The Ford seemed capable of making the pass but just not quick enough to make it stick on the Porsche. Both cars pitted together but Mako stayed ahead. Meanwhile Lafargue in the #48 Oreca which was 3rd in LMP2 was pushed into its box with technical problems and slid back to 5th in class when it finally rejoined.

There was a spin at Dunlop for Lopez in Toyota #7 at 11:45. He was lucky to get away with no harm done.

At 21 hours: P1 8,7,1,3 / P2 26,36,39,32 / Pro 92,91,67,68 / Am 77,85,54,56

On a pit stop exit, Nakajima the #8 Toyota appeared to spin front wheels while on jacks, flirting with the possibility of a penalty.

At 22 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,32 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,56

The retirements with 2 hours remaining were: 88,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10,22,64,25,48

There was a fright for Toyota at 13:22 when the #7 car was going slowly on track. It appears to have been a short fuel problem, necessitating most of a lap in slow zone mode before diving into pitlane for a top-up. Hankey in #90 TF Sport Aston then had a spin into gravel at Porsche curves. It looked like he would drive out but the car died at the edge of the gravel bed, bringing on another slow zone to recover it.

At 23 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,28 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,99

The #11 SMP that was delayed early on in the race but continued without incident almost the entire remainder of the 24 hours suddenly let go of its engine with just under an hour to go and in the hands of Jenson Button. It was a great effort and a cruel end. Ten second stop and go penalties were awarded to the #7 Toyota for exceeding fuel allowance and exceeding the number of laps per stint, presumably due to the whole extra lap in slow mode thing, although it really changed nothing.

In the final half hour there was no repeat of the last dash to the line we had last year in GTE. The emphasis was more on bringing the cars safely home. Final pit stops for the leaders were uneventful and under blue sky and sunshine the final few minutes counted down. There was a brief slow zone to recover debris on the Porsche Curves with 20 minutes on the clock.

Under the chequered flag, Toyota laid the ghost of 2016 and claimed victory in the 24 hours of Le Mans. It was a well deserved win also for the G-Drive #26 which led almost from flag to flag in LMP2. The same applies to the Dempsey Proton #77 in GTE Am and the #92 'pink pig' Porsche in GTE Pro, both of which ran flawlessly twice around the clock.

At 24 hours: P1 8,7,3,1 / P2 26,36,39,28 / Pro 92,91,68,67 / Am 77,54,85,99

The retirements were: 88,44,40,34,94,82,4,98,17,6,10,22,64,25,48,11,90

Dave Davies

Full Timing results HERE

Saturday, 16 June 2018

When the Talking Stops, What can we expect in the GTE classes?

GTE is in rude health and the competition is strong for victory. Of course Balance of Performance(BoP) reigns and it is a manual process for Le Mans rather than the algorithm that is applied in the World Endurance Championship (WEC). Late on Friday the final(?) adjustment came through hence the below report has been amended to take that into account.  Of course as John Gaw at Aston Martin Racing told us the Organisers want this to be a close race, so hopefully the presents that have been delivered in the form of Boost adjustments and weight changes will be received by all.. Expect 3:49s as the appropriate desired lap time from the authorities. We look forward to an exciting inspiring race! 

GTE-Pro – Porsche, Ford, Ferrari or is a surprise on the cards?

Porsche +10kg Gianmaria Bruni may be regretting that extraordinary qualifying lap, indeed dropping a 3:47.504 on Wednesday evening although not then breaking 3:50 in the subsequent qualifying sessions perhaps lifted the lid on the potential of the RSR when everything hooks up. It was evident by the number of excursions by the Porsche fleet that it was a knife edge, and for the race the positioning of an extra 10kg may be undoubtly detrimental the opportunity to adjust balance could support a better, more reliable race trim… 

Ford +8kg Expressed that they now have little opportunity to hide their performance as 3- years of pre-existing data cannot be taken back/hidden. The pursuit of Porsche in qualifying may have led to a weight penalty but similarly there are pluses & minuses to that situation. Certainly George Howard-Chappell looked like a man far from defeated when briefly discussing the revised BoP in the paddock end of day on Friday 15th June.

Ferrari – Effectively no change, although can carry an extra litre of fuel, which of course has a weight penalty to it, but may prove vital in terms of stint length and being able to return to the pits. As ever we have to expect the Prancing Horse to go the distance and be there on Sunday after the 488 Evo being both quick and well-proven now.

Corvette Racing -5kg The #63 of Magnussen/Garcia/Rockenfeller throw down some mighty laps and its sister car were loaded up with an extra 10kg earlier in the week. Half of that has now been removed, and the C7.R could be considered something of a dark horse, and a few on the roster have not forgotten how the win last year was stolen away at the end of the race.  Expect a strong show and a solid run to the chequered flag.

BMW -10kg – Well some weight off, but where to start?!  When you consider the frontal area and aspect of the BMW M8 GTE it does look formidable, but so does a strong barn door! At the speeds attained around Le Mans that bluff, bold front end has no wear to go and whilst we have little doubt about the reliability of the BMW it is clear that the bow wave is likely holding this beast back from achieving its potential..

Aston Martin Racing -10kg +Boost increase worth circa 20bhp! John Gaw was keen to get the boost increase when we spoke with him on Friday morning and the organisers have clearly listened and having inspected the data and the enormity of the gap have come back with both weight off and the extra power which another team principal estimated to be worth an extra 20bhp.  John was very clear that  the car has proved safe and reliable they just need to find its speed buttons!  In terms of reliability it was fascinating to hear that the new #95 was built in an elapsed 3x 24hour days and run down a runway before coming to Le Mans. AMR then ran it in practice on Wednesday throughout the session with no, nil nada sign of a problem!  

GTE-Am – Porsche customers looking strong in its 70th year

In terms of the -Am category of GTE the big news is the arrival of the ‘mid-engined’ RSR Porsche. The timing from both practice and qualifying shows it to be a step forward for those customer teams in the 70th anniversary year with Porsche clearly keen to score a multi-category victory…  Of course much in -Am comes down to the pace of the combined driver line-up both of the Dempsey-Proton Racing RSRs #77 & #88 and Gulf Racing #86 look strong pursued by the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE.  We should not forget that the “Old Girl” #98 Aston Martin Vantage of Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda has conquered WEC rounds everywhere except at Le Mans could this be that cars swansong?  We would never bet against it! 

Enjoy the show follow along and get involved, We fully expect Awe & then Some! 

GTE – Normalised Times – 

Again below a derived table of averages potentially more reflective of true race pace rather than a single lap. GTE-Pro pole-sitter #91 with its single flyer from Bruni drops off to seventh, but is replaced by its sister cars #93 & #92.  Note how the Corvette #63 steps up and the phalanx of massed Ford GTs..  We are still expecting a BoP adjustment as we write…

Analysis with Thanks to @theBpillar

Nick Holland - via Sportscarglobal

When the talking stops - A look at what we can expect in the prototype classes

Its is now less than 24-hours to the start of the 86th edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans.  Qualifying has been concluded and despite many cars throwing themselves at the scenery all are understood to be fit for the fit, so we express a mass grid of the 60 selected cars to take the flag (dropped by Rafa Nadal & the Grand Marshall Jacky Ickx) at 1500cet tomorrow Saturday 16th June. All the talk, banter and speculation will stop and we will see a great fight up and down the field on-track for 24-hours and the car and its crew that covers the greatest distance will be crowned champions! 

By category let us try and tackle some of the things that we think you should look out for and keep an eye on.  There will be more, you will have your favourites, but these are where we think the struggle for victory will be fought for and eventually a winner will succeed and many a story will be written into legend.

LMP1 - Toyota's to lose

With just one manufacturer entry this was always going to be a challenge for the Organisers to manage. It is important for many commercial reasons for Toyota, the Automobile Club de L’Ouest (ACO) and FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) that a fight both takes place but that the right result is reached.  Toyota have become infamous for stealing away defeat from the jaws of victory and despite all the testing, what-if scenarios etc… it is still possible that with just two-cars we could see a non-manufacturer victory. 

We can take some issue with which car, but a Toyota victory overall would be a good outcome, a dominating 1-2 would be something of a disappointment.  The gaps are too large to realistically consider any other outcome. Below it is evident that Toyota can comfortably run 3:20 laps which is at the limit of the Rebellion Racing R13 and SMP Racing BR1 performance. Hopefully that is a laurel they will rest on and pray for no significant incidents. Team orders if within range is likely and the potential for Fernando Alonso to achieve the second prong of the Triple Crown trident could not be more possible, but then Le Mans is never predictable… 

Behind the battle between Rebellion and SMP Racing could not be better and especially as they have different power units we could see a fascinating duel well-worth focusing on.  The driver line-up in the #1 of Lotterer/Jani/Senna looks tempting but then in many ways #11 Petrov/Aleshin/Button while possibly less experienced has an edge to it. No distinction in the Equivalence of Technology(EoT) will get in the way, it is a straightforward dog-fight and will be a joy to behold, noting each car also has a back-up second car in the team too! 

Furthermore the sleepers of the ENSO CLM ByKolles #4 and Dragonspeed BR1 running the same engine from Gibson Techonology (GL458) as the Rebellion could both have immaculate runs and whilst slower, has the opportunity to run both long and clean which could be the approach to achieve a win. All bar ByKolles (& Toyota) are running new equipment and hence will face issues and the serviceability (how teams cope with those challenges) will be a significant factor in who takes the third, possible second or could it just be the Top step of the podium come Sunday afternoon.

Finally Le Mans and its fans always loves a trier! And the challenges that have been thrown the TRS Manor Racing team and Ginetta have not been inconsiderable. They are both for registration purposes logged as Chinese entrants, but that funding seems to have been the root of many of their issues to-date, and a cash-strapped approach in this category will never ever be a successful option. Both cars have delivered sufficient laps for their driver squads to qualify and in the few days from Test Day to this week they have found in excess of 5-seconds with the #6 of Rowland/Brundle/Turvey start from the fifth row, and it will be a joy to see either that car or the sister car at the finish on Sunday.  That could be the biggest victory for restricted budgets in the history of motorsport!

LMP2 – Driver Squads & Tyre Choices

We have ourselves a tyre war, and its clear that the Michelins in warm temperatures that they perform. However since the warmth of the Test Day conditions have dropped from high 20s and are now more in the low numbers, and its evident from the details below that a number of the Dunlop runners are in a better place over a longer period of time. 

As a category the stock approach to LMP2 manufacturers whilst swelling the numbers and controlling the costs has resulted in a premiership and championship team situation. If you run an Oreca 07 – Gibson it is clear you are premiership and you have to look down to seventh to find a non-Oreca runner, irrespective of the efforts to improve the ‘balance’ in the category. Drivers in this category play a larger role than any other, and hence its is the slowest member of that driving squad that will hold a car back. This is evidenced on the normalised timing analysis below with IDEC Sport falling from pole to fourth. 

Whilst the squad at G-Drive #26 is formidable (Rusinov/Pizzitola/Vergne) and well practiced as a full seasonn WEC entrant, as we are in France we suggest keeping eye on TDS Racing #28 (Perrodo/Vaxiviere/Duval) & the Alpine-Signatech Matmut #36 (err. Oreca) of Lapierre/Negrao/Thiriet. Home advantage may seem more relevant in football, but at Le Mans we believe its worth at least a couple of tenths, and more likely the odd penalty for your competitors! 

The table below takes best stint values and creates an average table potentially more reflective of true race pace rather than a single lap. Hence for example we see Toyota targeting 3:18s, Rebellion in the 20s etc…  Note the changes in the running order for LMP2 with pole-sitter IDEC Sport #48 falling off to fourth in category…

Analysis with Thanks to @theBpillar

Remember last year, an LMP2 can come with a strong no-fault run and get very close to an overall victory.  There is always cause for optimism at Le Mans. Revel in the show, enjoy the weekend and engage with the story as it is written for you by the travails and tribulations of 24-hours of World Class MotorSport. 

Nick Holland via SportscarGlobal