Due to the delay in a full result, DSC has waited a bit longer to post its full wrap up of the LMP classes. Unfortunately, like last year, fans trackside left the circuit having not known the full result, the biggest changes coming in LMP2. It’s a disappointment, but nevertheless neccesary for the stewards to make changes if need be.
In light of that, here’s a full report on what we saw last weekend at Le Mans in the LMP2 class:
The LMP2 race was all about #26 G-Drive Racing with the team of Roman Rusinov, Andrea Pizzitola and Jean-Eric Vergne at the wheel. They took the lead on lap 10 and never lost it; well, until after the race! Post-race technical inspections ended with the car (and the sister #28 TDS Racing ORECA (which finished fourth) being excluded irregularities were discovered in the team’s fuelling rigs.
During the race, G-Drive Racing completed 369 laps. For 359 of those, the team was in the lead. It was an absolutely dominant performance. None of the three drivers made a mistake and the car ran faultlessly. But it wasn’t to be and Signatech Alpine A470 of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre and Pierre Thiriet was promoted to the top step of the podium, the French team scoring its second Le Mans win in LMP2 (its last back in 2016) as a result.
Behind, the SO24 GRAFF ORECA was moved up to second, and due to the #28’s exclusion the #32 United Autosports Ligier of Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Owen and Hugo de Sadeleer filled the last podium spot.
Throughout the race, the battle for the podium, behind G-Drive’s ORECA, was hotly contested. After qualifying and when one looks at the results, it appears as though it was an ORECA domination but it was not the case.
To start with, there was the #23 Panis Barthez Competition team with Timothé Buret, Julien Canal and William Stevens. Having been the highest Ligier qualifier, the French team battled their way through the early stages of the race, and proved to be the surprise package in the entire field.
Involved in a major tactical battle with the Signatech Alpine and Idec Sports cars, they were able to cement second in class by Sunday morning. They kept building a gap over stints, consistently surprising the other runners.
However a mechanical gremlin crept into the car. A simple fluid leak proved to be podium-ending for the team and on lap 292, their chances ended. They were able to get back out to finish 11th in class (later promoted to ninth) but the laps lost there proved vital. Despite that though, everyone involved in the programme should keep their heads held high. It was an extremely promising showing from both the drivers and crew, as well as for Ligier’s updated JS P217 and Michelin as a tyre supplier.
Equally, the #32 United Autosports Ligier had more pace than their fifth (and eventually third) in class would suggest. The team lost seven minutes early in the race with a communication issue from the car to race control and Juan Montoya put the car in the gravel at Indianapolis. Even after those two incidents, they were in the hunt for a podium coming into the final hour. But a puncture for Hugo de Sadeleer finally meant that the team with the third driver of Will Owen had to give up its pursuit of a podium.
The team will nevertheless be delighted to have been rewarded for its efforts after the results were amended. It was a long, hard week for United Autosports, so their set of trophies will go a long way in keeping team spirits high going into the rest of the season,
Its race was a tough one, mainly because its other United Autosports JSP17 crashed heavily in the Porsche Curves with Paul di Resta behind the wheel. The Ligier hit an unprotected concrete barrier in the 19th hour and retired on the spot.
For the Jackie Chan DC Racing team, after an incredible 2017 race, its four-car effort, with an almost completely new line-up, struggled during this year’s event.
The team ran two Ligiers and two ORECAs and all suffered offs, punctures and mechanical issues. The top ranked Ligier for the team was the #33 car coming home eighth in class while the #34 Ligier retired after 195 laps.
The two ORECAs didn’t serve much better with troubles hampering the run of both cars. The fancied runners Ho-Pin Tung, Stéphane Richelmi and Gabriel Aubry. The trio had to fight back from an early setback with a puncture in the second hour. This dropped them to the back and set in motion a tough day.
They would struggle for the race and end up in eighth in class.
The standout for the team was a trio of Asian rookies in the Sepang Circuit-backed 07 Gibson (above). With Jazeman Jaafar, Nabil Jeffri and Weiron Tan behind the wheel, they were consistent and with the exception of a couple of minor off track excursions, stayed out of trouble to finish fourth in class.
The two Dallaras were never really in the hunt. For the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse, the major win was to make the race. A massive crash in qualifying had the potential to end their weekend. The car found the barriers at Indianapolis in hour 16 and lost a lot of time. They would end up 13th in class.
For the Racing Team Nederland crew, it was a quiet race with the exception of a minor engine bay fire. Though it was possibly Jan Lammers final race at Le Mans so to be able to finish, in seventh, with Guido van der Garde and Frank van Eerd is a reasonable reward considering the Dallara is clearly not where it needs to be in this company.
The Ligier of the #50 Larbre Competition made it to the end, albeit last in class and 37 laps down while the Algarve Pro Racing #25 had numerous gearbox issues and retired with 237 laps in the books.
For #48 Idec Sport, they had the pace to reflect their pole position, battling for a podium. Without the pace to follow the G-Drive, they were in a fight for second with Alpine and Panis Barthez. But they would retire with just over three hours left.
Mechanical issues meant that Paul Lafargue, Paul Loup Chatin and Memo Rojas didn’t get the result they deserved.
With the absence of their main competitors, the way was open for the #36 Signatech Alpine to take a podium spot with Nico Lapierre, André Negrão and Pierre Thiriet. In the end though, the team had a relatively untroubled run, and were handed the biggest prize in LMP2, a victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours.