Le Mans 2020 – the first hours

The 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was run on the very untraditional September date, since the COVID-19 situation had made it impossible to run in June.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez had Pole Position, ahead of Rebellion Racing #1 with Gustavo Menezes, Bruno Senna and Norman Nato, and Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley.

United Autosports #22 with Paul Di Resta, Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque tog Pole in LMP2, ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 with Jean-Eric Vergne, Roman Rusinov and Mikkel Jensen, while Racing Team Nederland #29 with Nyck de Vries, Giedo van der Garde and Frits van Eerd started P3.

GTE Pro had Porsche #91 with Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki on Pole, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #51 with James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra in second, and Aston Martin Racing #95 with Marco Sørensen, Nicki Thiim and Richard Westbrook in the third position.

GTE Am was led by Luzich Racing Ferrari #61 with Come Ledogar, Ozz Negri Jr and Francesco Piovanetti, ahead of Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #77 with Matt Campbell, Riccardo Pera and Christian Ried, and Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Matteo Cairoli, Larry ten Voorde and Egidio Perfetti on P3.


Le Mans 2020 Start
Photo: JJ Media

There was a lot of action from the start of the race, where Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 and Rebellion Racing #1 swapped positions several times, on the first lap, but #1 ended up keeping second.

AF Corse Ferrari #51 took the GTE Pro lead on lap 1, while Porsche #91 kept dropping back, over the next laps.

The race got off to a really bad start for Signatech Alpine Elf #36, since they had to pit very early due to an issue with the radiator.

The first real dramatic moment of the race happened with Luzich Racing Ferrari #61 spun on its way up towards the Dunlop Chicane, when it was surprised by a faster Toyota. That sent #61 into a spin, that Thomas Preining in the Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 tried to avoid. He managed to do so, but the Austrian ended up hard in the tire barrier, and the car was out on the spot. He thankfully was able to step out of the car himself, but it was such a shame for Adrien de Leener and especially Dominique Bastien, who wasn’t going to be the oldest driver to compete in the race. That title would go towards Mark Patterson, who would have been surpassed by 7 years.

Luzich Racing #61, Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88, JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66
Photo: JJ Media

Racing Team Nederland #29 also had issues with their radiator, so they had to pit too, to get it fixed.

Eurasia Motorsport #35 spun off the circuit, going up towards the Dunlop Chicane, which resulted in the first Slow Zone of the day.

IDEC Sport #28 had a bit of trouble with one of its door, that would flap around in the wind. They had the exact same issue in the Warm-Up earlier in the day.

Slowly but surely, the Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 closed the gap to the leading #7, and even took the lead of the race.

Risi Competizione Ferrari #82 had a quick off-track excursion, which Michael Christensen in Porsche #92 used to his advantage, to get past.

Eurointernational #11 went off the track, right after the Dunlop Bridge, and parked alongside the Armco – without hitting it. Unfortunately, Eric Manis wasn’t able to restart the car, and the team had to retire due to electrical issues.

Eurasia Motorsport #35
Photo: JJ Media

ByKolles Racing #4 had to be pushed into the garage, since the alternator would have to be changed. That cost them laps to the LMP1 opposition.

There was another Slow Zone, when G-Drive Racing #26 had lost a few parts on the track.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 miraculously reappeared, even though it had lost 43 laps to their competitors, which is well over two hours behind the Armco. The team put Dominique Bastien in at the very first chance, so it would set the new record after all.

SO24 Has by Graff #39 and AF Corse Ferrari #83 made contact at the exit of the Porsche Curves, where #39 ended up in the gravel. Vincent Capillaire was able to reverse out of the gravel by himself.

There was drama at the exit of the Indianapolis corner, when G-Drive Racing by Algarve #16 spun around. Team Project 1 Porsche #57 was fully on the brakes, but the pair couldn’t avoid contact, and the impact was so hard, that #16 was push 90 degrees around the track. That gave a lot of damage to the front of both cars. While #16 was able to do a quick nose change, #57 had to be pushed into the garage. High Class Racing #33 was just a few centimetres away from hitting both cars, when they were stranded.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7
Photo: JJ Media

There was a lot of debris left on the circuit, after the two damaged cars, so Race Control decided to make a Slow Zone, so it could be collected.

After the first four hours of racing, it was Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, leading #7 and Rebellion Racing #1 and #3 plus ByKolles Racing.

Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 was leading LMP2 ahead of G-Drive Racing #26 and United Autosports #32.

GTE Pro had AF Corse Ferrari #71 as leaders, ahead of Aston Martin Racing #97 and AF Corse Ferrari #51.

AF Corse Ferrari #83 was leading GTE Am, ahead of HubAuto Racing Ferrari #72 and Team Project 1 Porsche #56.

High Class Racing #33 and Gulf Racing Porsche #86 were both handed a 1 minute Stop & Go penalty for speeding in a Slow Zone.

United Autosports #22 had a few issues with their refuelling, where they lost a few seconds each time, based on their own calculations.

Cetilar Racing #47
Photo: JJ Media

There was an issue for Porsche #92, that had to be pushed into the garage for power steering repairs. That cost them several laps, before they could return to the track.

Nielsen Racing #24 also lost some time in the pits, when they had repair the telemetry on the car, since it’s sending live data to race control. That has to work all the time, so they can keep track of fuel economy and more on all the cars.

The two AF Corse GTE Pro cars were ganging up on AMR #97, to try and take the GTE Pro lead after just shy of 5 hours of racing.

Team Project 1 Porsche #56 was also handed a 1 minute Stop & Go for speeding in Slow Zone.

Harry Tincknell in AMR #97 had a lot of problem of getting traction out of the first chicane, so he had to give up the spot to AF Corse Ferrari #71. #51 was lurking behind, so Tincks ended up losing two spots in a very short time.

Eurasia Motorsport #35 was stuck in the gravel for the second time in the race, and for the second time it was with Nobuya Yamanaka behind the wheel. This time around, it was at Arnage. That resulted in a Slow Zone in that area, so the Japanese driver could be lifted out of the gravel, and back on the tarmac.

High Class Racing #33 had to pit for repairs, which cost them several laps, with them dropping like a stone in the LMP2 ranks. Gearbox issues were marring them.

High Class Racing #33
Photo: JJ Media

Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 had contact with United Autosports #22 on the way up towards the Dunlop Chicane, which sent the Ferrari car into a spin. Duncan Cameron thankfully didn’t hit anything, so he was able to drive back to the pits, to get a new door. The spin had caused a left rear puncture too. That dropped a lot of tire and other debris on the circuit, so another Slow Zone was called.

Team Project 1 Porsche #56 got a Drive-through penalty, for overtaking under yellow flags.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 was off the track again, but this time without a long delay. Dominique Bastien did, however, have to get a push by the marshals in the Arnage corner.

There was an issue at Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, where a mechanic had to clean the brake cooling on the right front. That pitstop took about one minute longer, sending #7 into the lead of the race.

United Autosports #32 had a moment through the Indianapolis gravel trap, but could continue on without further issues.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #55
Photo: JJ Media

High Class Racing #33 returned to the track, after forty minutes of repairs. Anders Fjordbach would have to just drive like clockwork, and hope for some interruptions from the weather, for them to gain major positions in the race.

But it didn’t last long, until he pitted again, since they still had some issues.

The Safety Car was called, shortly before the 6-hour mark. AF Corse Ferrari #52 had spun off in the Porsche Curves. Swedish driver Alexander West had hit the SAFER Barrier so hard, that the left front wheel had been ripped off the car. West tried to leave the scene of the crime, but the wheel had its own opinion on that, so it would be tough to get the car back to the pits.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 instantly pitted, with Jose Maria Lopez getting a tankful of fuel.

After 6 hours of racing, the leaders were Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 in LMP1, Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 in LMP2, AF Corse Ferrari #71 in GTE Pro, and Aston Martin Racing #98 in GTE Am.

Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 was ready to race again, after 20 minutes of repairs in the garage. The car had however changed colours, since they had grabbed the first available door from the Ferrari spare parts truck, so the car was green, white, red and black.

DragonSpeed #27 got a 10 seconds pitstop penalty, since they had made an error during one of their previous pitstops.

JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66
Photo: JJ Media

Spirit of Race Ferrari #55 chose to pull the car out of the race, since it didn’t drive ok after the accident. A shame for the ELMS team.

G-Drive Racing #26 took the LMP2 lead when Jackie Chan DC Racing #37 stopped at Arnage. #37 was completely dead, without lights or anything else. Gabriel Aubry somehow managed to get it going back to the pits, where mechanics were ready to repair the car.

While all that happened, the G-Drive Racing by Algarve #16 also came to a stop, in the same area of the track. Oliver Jarvis managed to get that car back to the pits for repairs.

It was all action within the same 15 minutes of the race, since the ByKolles Racing #4 crashed at high speed after the Dunlop Bridge, when the rear wing flew off the CLM ENZO. They had about 12 kilometres back to the pits, that he managed to do. After a bit of thinking and checking, they decided to retire from the race. This is definitely a Le Man that Bruno Spengler wants to forget as fast as possible, with three crashes in three days, with two of them resulting in quite a lot of damage.

ByKolles Racing Team #4
Photo: JJ Media

That resulted in a Safety Car, and just as the flags were deployed, the Duqueine Team #30 with Tristan Gommendy crashed a full speed, going into the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight. He first hit the Armco on the right side of the track, sending him across the track, where he hit the Armco on the left side too. Doctor and ambulance were sent to the scene of the crash, since the 20G warning lamp had switched on on the car. Thankfully he was ok and was able to walk away from there, once he was allowed by the doctor.

The guardrail was so damaged, that they opted to remove the Safety Car, and let the repairs continue under a Slow Zone.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 pitted during the SC period, since they had some brake cooling issues, that they wanted to get solved, while the others were running slowly anyway.

Race Control decided to call Wet Track, since there was a marshal post reporting about a few raindrops. That didn’t however transgress into more.

After 8 hours of running, the leaders were Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 in LMP1, United Autosports #32 in LMP2, Aston Martin Racing #97 in GTE Pro, and AF Corse Ferrari #83 in GTE Am.

Only 16 hours left…

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