The Le Mans 24 Hours is in full darkness now as we slowly edge towards the halfway mark. The seventh hour of the race was yet another 60-minutes of drama, with another safety car period that lasted around 30 minutes.
This time the race had to be neutralized due to an off at the first Mulsanne Chicane. Egidio Perfetti in the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche was sent veering into the Armco in the braking zone to the chicane, ending up lodged in the tire barriers. As this happened, Felipe Fraga, right behind in the GTE Am-leading TF Sport Aston Martin, also went straight off and into the tire barriers. It emerged later, once the TF Aston made it back to the pits, that Fraga had suffered a puncture and also had rear damage. It is believed that both cars suffered punctures from going over the same piece of debris on the stretch of tarmac.
TF Sport’s Aston got off lightly in the scheme of things, though it is now down to fifth in class after its trip to the pits for a change of tires and rear diffuser. The No. 56 meanwhile, suffered heavy damage and has been forced into retirement as a result.
Elsewhere in the GTE ranks, during the safety car period, the No. 64 Corvette was forced to make a trip to the garage for a rear diffuser change, dropping Alex Sims, Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy to seventh in class and off the lead lap.
In better news, the No. 38 JOTA ORECA is back out after its off and subsequent oil leak early in the race. The car now sits 30th overall, 19th in class and five laps off the class lead.
— WEC (@FIAWEC) August 21, 2021
Anthony Davidson, who had the off while leading the class, provided an update on his off and the team’s day so far.
“I just lost it, plain and simple,” he said when asked about his off at Turn 1. “It was wet, the Porsche went off in front of me, distracted me. The whole circuit was dry to that point, and my memory was that the pit exit was much drier than it was. Hands up, it was my fault. It’s not normal that I ruin things for everyone, but this time I did. I’m gutted. It was too difficult to manage.
“I was in the lead of the race, I didn’t want to give it up. It’s a balance with risk. I never throw it off with slicks in the wet, I’m always the one that survives. I’m gutted because it was all going so well, the car was flying; a dream all week. I didn’t make any errors before the race, I chose the worst time to do it.”
It’s been a tough time for JOTA, though its No. 28 ORECA is still firmly in the fight. It has however lost precious time recently, falling to fifth in class after a 90s stop-hold penalty for running over the white line at pit lane.
Another driver who provided WEC TV with an update was Sophia Florsch, who thankfully is ok after her big off at the Porsche Curves in Hour 6 when the No. 26 G-Drive Aurus came out of nowhere and collided with her Richard Mille ORECA.
“I’m fine, really frustrated but fine,” she said. “We had a slow zone before Indianapolis, we exited Arnage and the G-Drive car came out of nowhere, he just came sideways in front of me and we ended up in the wall. I was left in the middle of the road and another car crashed into me. I don’t know how he didn’t see me?
“I was trying to get first gear, but it wasn’t working. Then after the second hit, everything was broken, I had to go to the medical center for checks too. It’s tough because we were running P11, and it’s annoying to have a race ended like this. It’s tough to swallow.”
Up front in LMP2, the No. 41 WRT car now leads with Louis Deletraz a few tenths ahead of the hard-charging Julien Canal in the No. 65 Panis Racing ORECA. WRT’s sister car, with Ferdinand Habsburg at the wheel is also in the fight for the lead heading into Hour 8, just a second off Canal.
In Hypercar, Toyota’s GR010s are back on slick tires and now both have a lap on the Alpine that is a distant third. GTE Pro is currently being led by the No. 63 Corvette Racing C8.R after the most recent round of stops, though AF Corse’s No. 51 Ferrari is within a second.
In GTE Am, AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari now leads once again thanks to the TF Sport Aston’s woes. The No. 80 Iron Lynx Ferrari sits second, 2.5s back, with the No. 57 Kessel Ferrari third.
As the hour ended, there was further trouble for the Cetilar Racing crew, the No. 47 Ferrari, running sixth at the time, ended up in the barriers at Tetre Rouge after running side-by-side with another Am Porsche. The damage on Roberto Lacorte’s Ferrari looked significant with the rear-wing dislodged.