LM24 Hour 18: SMP gains momentum in privateer LMP1 fight

Image by Portlock/LAT

LM24 Hour 18: SMP gains momentum in privateer LMP1 fight

Le Mans/WEC

LM24 Hour 18: SMP gains momentum in privateer LMP1 fight


We have just six hours left in the 2019 Le Mans 24 hours: just a standard WEC race distance.

For Toyota, it’s going to be a long run to the flag; its TS050s now four laps clear of the privateers. And down in the privateer ranks, the race has now firmly swung the way of SMP Racing.

After the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 lost its lead of over three minutes due to a penalty, things went from bad to worse. The hour began with Stoffel Vandoorne in the No. 11 BR1 being chased by a revved-up Gustavo Menezes in the No. 3. The American managed to get within 2.0s of the former F1 driver, who responded well and eased away again. This forced Menezes to push that little bit harder, and in doing so he had an off into the gravel at the Porsche Curves.

The Californian kept it out of the wall, but lost over a lap beached in the gravel before being rescued by the marshals. He then had to come in for a check-up, losing further time. After a quick spell in the garage, he emerged three laps behind the No. 11. It will now take something fairly dramatic to rob SMP Racing of an overall podium.

LMP2 also saw a spell of drama at the front as the race reached its three-quarter mark. This time, poor luck struck the Jackie Chan DC Racing crew, its sole remaining ORECA suffering a puncture. Gabriel Aubry did a mighty job to limp back to the pits, and retain third position.

This was a crucial moment from the WEC title standpoint. The Signatech Alpine A470, which is second in the race right now, leads the points standings and is being chased by the No. 38 JCDC crew both on track and in the title race. It’s therefore imperative for the JCDC crew to keep that car in the hunt and pile the pressure on its French rivals if it is to have any chance to take the LMP2 title.

Alpine knows that if it finishes behind the No. 38 the title will swing the other way. Thus, it continues to run a steady race, letting G-Drive pull away up front. Roman Rusinov now leads by three minutes now in the Aurus 01.

GTE Pro and Am are still cycling through without much change. AF Corse continues to hold a comfortable lead in Pro, and Keating Motorsports’ Ford is still running a near-perfect race in Am. 

With the margins between the frontrunners in both classes growing, issues and mistakes may well be the only causes of position changes from here on in. That is, unless any of the GTE Pro factories have a little bit extra in reserve for the final hours.