Thursday 13 June 2019

Le Mans: Wednesday practice and qualifying

Free Practice.

Wednesday was an unsettled day of sunshine and showers but mostly showers. It looked very much like free practice and the first qualifying session might be a wash-out. The practice session kicked off at 4pm on a damp circuit with isolated showers of rain occasionally dampening random parts of the track. There was however a dry period approaching 5pm and the GTE Pro & Am fastest times were already quicker than test day.

At 5:06 pm the #28 TDS racing Oreca was reported as going slowly at the entry to Indianapolis (possible transmission problem) and that the Dempsey Proton Porsche #88 was stopped on the circuit. This caused the first Full Course Yellow of race week.

Shortly after the FCY Kobayashi in #7 Toyota went straight on into gravel at Mulsanne corner but recovered and returned to pits where the car was pushed immediately into the pit garage.

At 5:38pm a few spots of rain could be seen on pit straight. It seems there may also have been a cloudburst on the Mulsanne straight as Tracy Krohn on his out-lap in the Krohn liveried Dempsey Proton #99 had a spectacular impact with the barriers at the exit of the second chicane. This caused the session to be red-flagged to recover the car and clean up the circuit. Tracy Krohn was reported as "conscious and in good spirits, but is suffering some back pain".
He was been taken to hospital as a precautionary measure.

The track went green again at 6.24 pm after a 45 minute delay. The session was not extended. There was heavy rain during the stoppage and the restart was on a wet circuit. Within 30 minutes the track was drying gain although we were still seeing tails of water from the cars in some areas. At 6:52 pm the sun was shining on pit straight and lap times were falling again. By 7:24 pm there were 51 cars on track and dry times being set, and at the chequered flag at 8pm the circuit appeared to be fully dry and ready for qualifying.


The first qualifying session began promptly 9pm. There was light rain at Arnage reported for the first 5 minutes but had gone by the time cars were on a first flying lap.  

Within a few minutes, the #68 Ford GT returned to the pits to have its door closed properly. This seems to be a recurring problem for the Ford GT. A little later the #10 Dragonspeed BR was reported as stopped on the circuit at MP11, the entry of the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight. It appeared to get going again then stopped at MP16, the second chicane, reportedly with a gearbox full of neutrals. A full course yellow was called to recover the car. 

Just after the end of the FCY Oliver Gavin in the #64 Corvette experienced a front right tyre failure early in lap and had to nurse the car around the entire circuit at a snail's pace. He managed to get the car home but the process caused damage that required a lengthy repair.

Rebellion #3 was stopped in the gravel at MP16, the entry of the 2nd chicane bringing out a slow zone as we went into the second hour of qualifying.

At 11:15 there was a bizarre incident at the Ford Chicane. Gonzalez in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca had a spin and was rolling slowly forward on the track as Conway approached he chicane in the #7 Toyota. Conway saw the yellow flags and slowed down but didn't see the #31. The Toyota was launched into the air over the nose of the #31.

Conway: "I didn't see the car... I tried to go right but it was too late"

There was a slow zone called to remove the debris and the track went green at 11:20 with 40 minutes remaining

At 11:31 pm Pla in #66 Ford GT was approaching the Ford Chicane when the car snapped sharply right and plunged into a tyre wall. From the in-car camera, it looked as if it had been hit from behind but we don't think another car was involved. A slow zone was called to recover the #66 from the gravel. Eventually the car was able to limp into pit lane.

The #7 had a relatively swift visit to the pit garage for a new nose and minor repairs. Lopez climbed in and was back on track for the closing minutes of the session. 

At the chequered flag, quickest in GTE Am was the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche, 2nd #56 Team Project1 Porsche 3rd #77 Dempsey Proton. In GTE Pro, quickest was #67 Ford GT, 2nd #93 Porsche, 3rd #97 Aston Martin. In LMP2 1st #31 Dragonspeed, 2nd #36 Signatechc Alpine, 3rd #22 United Autosports. In LMP1 quickest was #7 Toyota Hybrid 2nd SMP Racing #17 3rd RebellionRacing #3

You can't read much into the first qualifying times. Teams appeared to be getting drivers' night laps sorted and set-ups tweaked. Grid position isn't a big factor in a 24-hour race but the honour of being on the front row at the start on Saturday is not inconsiderable and will be decided at midnight on Thursday at the chequered flag of the final qualifying session.

Rebellion #1 times deleted - Stewards descision #48 - "Incorrect declaration of a fuel flow meter"