Michael Benham and Duncan Tappy took a convincing win for Lanan Racing, their Norma M30 taking the race to John Falb and Sean Rayhall in United Autosports’ Ligier JS P3 who put up a great fight but in the end didn’t quite have the speed.
Rain was threatened but never troubled an otherwise incident filled 55 minute race. The pole sitting #39 Graff car lost the Norma drag race at the start to Laurents Horr’s #30 CD Sport car, then being tapped from behind in the Dunlop chicane compression to rotate the car over the kerbs. The drama didn’t end there as another strong contender, yesterday’s winner the #11 Eurointernational car, became the innocent victim of the accident at the front of the GT3 field that would bring out an early safety car.
Mike Benham for Lanan Racing was caught slightly napping at the restart, falling back behind Horr with the TFT-SO24 and Ultimate Normas tucked in behind, Julien Piquet’s #60 CD Sport Norma losing ground from fourth. Jean-Baptiste Lahaye got past Benham for second a lap later.
The #79 Ecurie Ecosse / Nielsen Ligier was off with rear damage at second chicane as Colin Noble tried too hard to make up two positions under braking, making the move stick on the #24 Cool Racing car but misjudging the gap and going off at the entry just before the field started to think about pit stops. The #21 DB Autosport and 3 DKR Engineering Normas were among those that stayed out, an epic scrap between Schatz and Hoogenboom developing down the Mulsanne straight.
As the order resumed, Adrien Chila for Graff led Sean Rayhall for United Autosport, who made strong progress to take the French driver for the lead into the second chicane. Duncan Tappy was on a charge though in the #25 Lanan Norma M30, the McLaren factory driver disposing of Chila, who was carrying some frontal damage, and drawing in half a second from Rayhall.
Tappy stood onto the brakes into the slow zone at the start-finish line to be right on the back of the leading Ligier, but Rayhall controlled the gap all the way down the Mulsanne before Tappy made a move around the outside into Mulsanne Corner, then pulling a 2 seconds gap in traffic. Rayhall tried hard in the last two laps but Tappy had it all pegged down for the Lanan win.
Nicolas Schatz in DB Autosport Norma was 12 seconds back in third, Hoogenboom two and a half seconds away for fourth having had an off-track excursion at Tertre Rouge.
Both the #9 and #24 Cool Racing cars received late penalties for pit lane speeding that would adjust the order in the top ten.
“Yeah, thanks firstly to the team, I won’t try and name everyone in the team, because I’ll forget one,” an emotional Michael Benham said after the race. They’ve been rewarded for all the hard work, and I’m happy that we’ve been able to do that.”
🏁🏁🏁 @LananRacing wins #ROADTOLEMANS Race 2, kudos to all the team! @spiritofrace #51 takes the honour in GT3 class! Congratulations to all the racers for the show on track!#LEMANS24 pic.twitter.com/F98rf09VnQ
— Le Mans Cup (@LeMansCup) June 16, 2018
“Back on the podium at Le Mans, that’s five times for me, I love it!” Falb said. “We wish we had the win here, Sean had a hell of the race, he just didn’t have the straight line speed to keep the #25 behind us. The guys behind the wall did a great job, they called me in as soon as possible to put our speeding bullet in the car.”
Early leaders and main contenders Marco Cioci and Sergio Pianezzola collided into the braking zone for the second chicane on the opening lap. This was a wild late braking move by Pianezzola that also claimed one of the main LMP3 contenders. The #71 AF Corse got car back to pits with frontal damage but both cars were out, Cioci predictably (and correctly) furious.
The position at the pit stops was the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari leading the #69 Stile F Squadra entry, Spirit of Race’s #51 car third. The #51 Ferrari got the better stop though, Maurizio Mediani resuming after taking over the car from Christoph Ulrich, ahead of his team mate Louis Soenen. The #77 Kessel Racing car worked its way into second position, the #54 Ferrari now falling into the clutches of Gino Forgione in the #69 Stile F Quadra car, however a Stop/ Go penalty for Forgione effectively decided the 3rd place.
“I’m without words, winning at Le Mans, the most famous track. Even if it’s not the 24 hours, it’s fantastic. He’s done an amazing job,” said Ulrich.
“I was quite busy early with keeping my wheels on the tarmac, so I didn’t see the incident at the start. It was a big mess. Luckily we survived.”