We are three quarters into the race and the GTE Pro class continues to make headlines, with more drama in the battle for the win during Hour 18.
Corvette Racing’s chances of winning GTE Pro in its final year came to an abrupt end in the final minutes of the hour, when AF Corse LMP2 driver Francois Perrodo made contact with the No. 64 Pro-leading C8.R of Alex Sims. Perrodo hadn’t cleared the C8.R when he was running side-by-side with another LMP2 runner down the Mulsanne Straight. He moved over on Sims, the Briton sent veering off into the Armco after the contact.
It was a heavy impact that caused a retirement on the spot for Corvette. To make matters worse, it came just moments after the team announced the retirement of the long-delayed No. 63 sister car.
💔Heartbreak for the #64 Corvette
It was all getting abit tight down the Mulsanne – with the prototype pushing the LMGTE Pro leaders into the barriers.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) June 12, 2022
The contact also caused rear suspension damage to the No. 83 AF Corse ORECA which crabbed its way back to the pits. Perrodo looked visibly shaken and upset when he arrived in the pits and climbed from the car.
The incident shook up the Pro class yet again. The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado now leads by 20 seconds over Fred Makowiecki in the No. 91 Porsche. The No. 51 hadn’t shown pace pre-race, but, in this race of attrition, a clean run has proved fruitful.
Also during the hour, GR Racing’s Mike Wainwright moved across on Matthieu Vaxiviere (No. 36 Alpine) at the start of the Porsche Curves, sending the Frenchman through the gravel and into the barriers, damaging the front end heavily.
Vaxiviere was able to rejoin the race and get back to pit lane for repairs, but it was a further, lengthy delay for the team.
“I went to overtake as we do every time and he just moved when I arrived next to him. I think he didn’t see me and only saw the LMP2 behind. It’s a shame because we aren’t taking any risks; we are just trying to finish. It’s a difficult race for us,” Vaxiviere said.
Up front in Le Mans Hypercar, little has changed. The No. 8 still leads by over a lap over the No. 7. The No. 709 Glickenhaus continues to circulate in third.
In LMP2, the No. 38 JOTA ORECA has a full lap lead over the No. 9 PREMA ORECA — which falls to third every time it pits out of sequence with the No. 28 JOTA behind — making it a 1-2 for the British team in the middle portion of each hour.
GTE Am is still led by TF Sport. Henrique Chaves is on board and pushing to maintain a healthy lead over the fast charging Nicki Thiim in the Northwest AMR Vantage behind.
“I just did three stints and offered to stay in for a fourth because I felt really good,” Ben Keating said on WEC TV after handing over to Chaves during the hour.
“In the early morning hours, I got passed by Ben Barker and I got to follow him around. With all the slow zones, they were worried I would go over four hours of drive time. I’ll be in for another triple stint after a three hour break now.” he said.
The TF Sport Aston leads the race by just over three minutes.