We’ve reached the quarter mark of the Le Mans 24 Hours, after an hour full of drama. Just as the race was beginning to settle down into a rhythm, it became chaotic once more, as light rain caused incidents all over the circuit, catching many drivers off guard.
All of them involved LMP2 cars, at the Porsche Curves, Dunlop Bridge and at Arnage. The first incident was the PR1 ORECA having a small off into the gravel at Arnage, seconds before the Racing Team Nederland ORECA also had an off-track excursion, losing Frits Van Eerd and his team further time after being in contention for a podium early.
Then, all hell broke loose. The first incident saw the two United Autosports ORECAs come together at the Dunlop Bridge. Manuel Maldonado in the No. 32 went straight on over the gravel at the Turn 1 kink, and speared Paul Di Resta in the No. 23. The impact was huge, and has severely hampered Richard Dean’s team’s chances of winning this one.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) August 21, 2021
The No. 23 made it back to the garage for repairs and is down to 12th and was able to rejoin before the race went green again, the No. 32 meanwhile, was craned behind the barriers.
Moments later another major incident occurred, the No. 26 G-Drive Aurus of Franco Colapinto spinning at high speed on the entry to the Porsche Curves, colliding with the No. 1 Richard Mille Racing ORECA of Sophia Floresch in the process. This sent both cars into the barriers and the No. 1 back onto the track.
The No. 74 Eurasia Ligier, blind to the car stranded sideways in the road, then went straight into the side of Floersch, Tom Cloet a passenger.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) August 21, 2021
The incident caused the medical light on the No. 1 to come on. This meant Floersch — who as the onboard footage showed, was given a fright by the second impact — was forced to visit the medical center just as she was attempting to restart (watch below). The car was therefore retired.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) August 21, 2021
The No. 26, meanwhile, did recover and make it back to the pit lane, although the left-rear corner needed replacing. It is now back out, down to 19th in class.
All this has had a major effect on the running order in LMP2. The No. 65 Panis Racing ORECA now leads, Julien Canal board, with the No. 41 WRT ORECA second. The No. 22 United Autosport 07, realistically the only United entry still in with a chance, is third, with the No. 31 WRT car fourth. JOTA’s only contending car, the No. 28, is down to fifth during the pit cycle over the end of the hour.
The sister JOTA ORECA, the No. 38, has lost further time in the garage, after the off by Anthony Davidson into the gravel caused an oil leak which forced the car in for a repairs, after fuel alarms began to sound in the cockpit.
In the other classes, the No. 7 Toyota leads the No. 8 up front, although Toyota has opted to gamble on tire strategy, both cars switching to inters during their seventh stop as the weather is still very unpredictable.
In GTE Pro, AF Corse is holding station at the top with its pair of 488 GTE Evos, though there was a small moment early in the hour for Sam Bird in the No. 52, sitting second, the Englishman coming together with the Inception Racing Ferrari at the Ford Chicane. The pair had a spin and got going. This has left the No. 52 in the clutches of the No. 92 Porsche which is less than a second behind, Neel Jani lapping fast in third trying to reel Bird in.
In GTE Am, it’s as you were. The No. 33 TF Sport Aston of Dylan Pereria leads, ahead off the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari, now driven by Alessio Rovera. Mikkel Jensen is third in Kessel Racing’s No. 57 example.
The hour ended with a full-course yellow period, with the Cetilar Racing Ferrari beached in the gravel at the first Mulsanne chicane — a really disappointing moment for the Italian team, which has spend the entire race to this point in and around the top three in Am.