The 19th hour of the race, remarkably, saw the safety car make its first appearance. The neutralisation of the race was called for an incident from Robin Frijns in the No. 31 WRT ORECA.
Frijns made an error on the exit of Indianapolis 40 minutes into the hour, putting a wheel on the gravel, losing the rear and darting into the Armco barriers on driver’s left. The impact caused an on-the-spot retirement for the No. 31 — the car which won the class last year.
🚨 Safety Car 🚨
For the first time, the Safety Car is out as the marshals recover the #31 @followWRT Oreca.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) June 12, 2022
The body language in the WRT pits said it all — heartbreak for the Belgian outfit. It’s been a tough run for the No. 31 crew. After taking pole, the car was penalized for the crash in the opening seconds of the race, and ever since has been playing catch up.
The No. 31 retired from sixth in class; Frijns forced to abandon the car after the blue impact light turned on following the hit, meaning he must head to the medical centre.
There were more scenes of despair from the pits earlier in the hour as the WEC TV cameras followed Francois Perrodo into the Corvette Racing pit box following his mistake which led to the retirement of the GTE Pro-leading No. 64 C8.R
Perrodo, along with AF Corse boss Amato Ferrari, in a moment of humility, apologized to everyone in the Corvette garage. In what was a rather emotional moment, Perrodo took the time to shake the hands of the team management.
“I have made mistakes, but nothing like that,” he said to the broadcast. “There are no words. I ruined their weekend. It was a stupid mistake from me and I feel absolutely awful.”
The safety car period continued into the 20th hour, with multiple teams opting to dive into the pits to take advantage of the situation.
It’s not yet clear just how this has affected the key battles in each class. It has wiped the lead margin for the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Alessendro Pier Guidi, as Fred Makowiecki in the No. 91 is now right behind in the safety car queue. This means we have a GTE Pro dog fight to look forward to in the next hour.
As we go racing again, the No. 8 Toyota leads LMH by over a lap to the No. 7. JOTA sits one-two in LMP2 with the No. 38 holding a huge lead. In GTE Am, the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin heads the field.