24 Hours of Le Mans 2021 – the first hours

Finally, it was time for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite the two-month delay due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 with Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway started the race from Pole Position, ahead of Toyota Gazoo Racing #8 with Brendon Hartley, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, while Alpine Elf Matmut #36 with Nico Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Matthieu Vaxiviere had qualified in front of Glickenhaus Racing #708 and #70.

JOTA #38 with Antonio Felix da Costa, Roberto Gonzalez and Anthony Davidson would start from LMP2 Pole, ahead of Team WRT #41 with Louis Deletraz, Robert Kubica and Yifei Ye, and with Panis Racing #65 with Will Stevens, James Allen and Julien Canal in P3.

HubAuto Racing Porsche #72 with Dries Vanthoor, Maxime Martin and Alvaro Parente had taken the GTE Pro Pole, ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #52 with Daniel Serra, Sam Bird and Miguel Molina, and with Corvette Racing #64 with Nick Tandy, Alexander Sims and Tommy Milner in third.

Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche #88 with Julien Andlauer, Dominique Bastien and Lance David Arnold was on GTE Am Pole, ahead of GR Racing Porsche #86 with Ben Barker, Mike Wainwright and Tom Gamble, while Team Project 1 Porsche #56 with Matteo Cairoli, Egidio Perfetti and Riccardo Pera was the third fastest.

Le Mans 2021 start
Photo: JJ Media

While the weather was dry the entire week, it began raining before the start, which meant that the race would start behind the Safety Car. The rain almost stopped during the warm-up lap, but there was much water on the track.

There was drama for High Class Racing #20 when Dennis Andersen didn’t move when the car was about to do the warm-up lap. It turned out that the team hadn’t removed the ?? furthest back under the car before they lowered it. The Dane had to start from last. On the lap, Kevin Magnussen in the team’s #49 spun, but he could recover and come back to his position.

Iron Lynx Ferrari #80, TF Sport Aston Martin #33, Kessel Racing Ferrari #57
Photo: JJ Media

After two laps at a slower speed, the race got started for real, and there was drama already after a few metres. Glickenhaus Racing #708 outbraked itself in the Dunlop chicane and hit Toyota Gazoo Racing #8, which got sent out in a spin.

In GTE Pro, HubAuto Racing Porsche #72 got pushed off the track by Racing Team India Eurasia #74, and both had to wait until there was a hole in the incoming traffic to continue.

Later on the same lap, there were problems for the Toyota again, going off the track.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 had a run-off but could come back quickly.

Glickenhaus Racing #708 & #709
Photo: JJ Media

Corvette Racing had a 1-2 lead in GTE Pro, after the chaotic start of the race.

Porsche #92 had a solo spin in the first chicane at Mulsanne straight, when Kevin Estre came a bit too fast.

Alpine Elf Matmut #36 had a spin on the way out of Indianapolis, when Nicolas Lapierre was just a bit hard on the speeder.

High Class Racing #20 went off the track but Dennis Andersen could quickly recover.

There was a Slow Zone as IDEC Sport #48 had to be removed from the gravel in one of the Mulsanne chicanes.

JOTA #38 had taken the lead inLMP2, while Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 was the new leader in GTE Am.

Aston Martin Racing #98
Photo: JJ Media

Duqueine Team #30 had some problems with the car radio as well as other problems, so they had to do an extra pit.

Glickenhaus Racing #708 got a 10-second time penalty for the contact with the Toyota at the start of the race. They also had to change the nose of the car since one of the headlights dangled after the contact.

There was a Slow Zone when Roberto Merhi in G-Drive Racing #25 got stranded on the gravel, after the Dunlop Bridge.

High Class Racing #20 got a Drive-through for not having the tires mounted, when the 3-minute sign was shown at the start of the race.

HubAuto Racing Porsche #72 got a Drive-through as Maxime Martin had ignored several Track Limits warnings.

Racing Team India Eurasia #74
Photo: JJ Media

Inception Racing Ferrari #71 had to crawl back to the pits due to a puncture.

Duqueine Team #30 got en Drive-through for not taking the correct entry to the pits instead of a shortcut.

There was contact between Absolute Racing Porsche #18 and D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777, but both cars stayed on the asphalt and could continue.

SRT41 #84 went off the track around the Dunlop Bridge and needed help to come back to the asphalt. It meant a short Slow Zone until Takuma Aoki was back on the track.

D’Station Racing Aston Martin #777 got a Drive-through speeding in a Slow Zone.

It began raining a little bit, but not as bad as at the start of the race.

JOTA #38 spun in the pit exit and ended up far over the gravel. Right before that, Absolute Racing Porsche #18 also went over the gravel but could continue by itself. There was a new Slow Zone in order to get Anthony Davidson out of the gravel. It took an entire lap before he could continue.

AF Corse Ferrari #83, Team Project 1 Porsche #56, Iron Lynx Ferrari #80, Inception Racing Ferrari #71
Photo: JJ Media

GR Racing Porsche #86 pitted with big damage on the bottom of the car, where Michael Wainwright got pushed back into the garage straight away, so more mechanics could work on the car.

After three hours of racing, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 led the Hypercar category, G-Drive Racing #26 in LMP2, Racing Team Nederland #29 in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #52 in GTE Pro, and TF Sport Aston Martin #33 in GTE Am.

TF Sport Aston Martin #33 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for starting the engine when they refuelled.

High Class Racing #49
Photo: JJ Media

There was a Safety Car when Aston Martin #98 with Marcos Gomes crashed in Indianapolis. He was already in a spin entering the corner, and came without braking over the gravel, and deep into the tire wall. Gomes could climb out of the car by himself, but the doctors kept an eye on him since it was such an impactful accident. The contact with the tire wall was so hard, that the Armco behind it got bent and had to be repaired.

There were problems for ARC Bratislava #44, where Miro Konopka spun at the exit of the Porsche Curves, after he tried to come side by side with Realteam Racing #70. Konopka couldn’t get the car back to the pits as he stalled in the pit entry. It required a Slow Zone to get him to safety, and after that, it was his job to restart the car and get back to the pits. He managed to do it after a few minutes. The team refuelled the car and sent him back to the track. One lap later, he went in again due to a big flat spot on the tires after the spin.

G-Drive Racing #26 was very close to pushing Panis Racing #65 off the track, when Franco Colapinto outbraked himself in the Mulsanne corner. Luckily he stayed on the asphalt.

It began raining a bit again, but nothing that would require wet tires on the cars.

High Class Racing #49 had an exciting moment at the exit of the Porsche Curves, where Anders Fjordbach had to use all the asphalt available to get the car back under control. Luckily without hitting anything.

Proton Competition Porsche #99
Photo: JJ Media

Even with the earlier penalty, TF Sport #33 managed to keep the lead with almost a minute down to Kessel Racing Ferrari #57 in second place.

Corvette Racing #63 came to take the lead in GTE Pro after they had done a perfect job in the tires and refuelling lottery. The lead was, however, only eight seconds ahead of Porsche #92, and a further five seconds ahead of AF Corse Ferrari #52.

Dennis Andersen in High Class Racing #20 spun in the Ford chicane when he was about to get squeezed in the traffic. It was a wild ride over a curb, but he could quickly recover.

There was a big battle for the lead in LMP2. United Autosports #23 was right ahead of JOTA #28, while G-Drive Racing #26 was a few seconds behind. It changed back and forth, depending on how the three cars hit the traffic.

Proton Competition Porsche #99 got pushed back into the garage due to technical problems, after an otherwise good first part of the race. A suspension was broken and a bolt got stuck, so they had to remove it in an alternative, violent way.

Duqueine Team & United Autosports #23
Photo: JJ Media

PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports#24 got stuck in the gravel at the exit of the Arnage corner, and Patrick Kelly was helpless. It required a Slow Zone to pull him free.

There was an incident between Inception Racing Ferrari #71 and AF Corse Ferrari #52 in the Ford chicane, where #52 tried to dive from the outside and there was contact between the two cars.

Inception Racing Ferrari #71 got a-10 second pitstop penalty for driving too fast in an earlier Slow Zone.

There were problems for Racing Team Nederland #29 when Frits van Eerd went off in one of the Porsche Curves and got stuck deep in the gravel – but luckily a few metres from the tire barrier.

The sky opened up, and with that, there were a lot of problems all around the track.

United Autosports #23 and #32 hit each other when #32 skated over the gravel in Turn 1, right into the side of their poor sister car. #32 couldn’t move, while #23 could come back to the pits with big damage.

Corvette Racing #64, AF Corse Ferrari #52, WeatherTech Racing Porsche #79
Photo: JJ Media

G-Drive Racing #26 and Richard Mille Racing Team #1 had a collision on the way into the Slow Zone that occurred due to van Eerd. #26 had big damage, but Franco Colapinto could drive the car back to the pits. While Sophia Flörsch was about to get #1 to work again, she got hit from the side by Racing Team India Eurasia #74.

The Safety Car was deployed, to avoid more accidents on the track as well as clean up.

It took about twenty-five minutes before the race got restarted.

ARC Bratislava #44 spun in the first chicane on Mulsanne straight, but could retreat when Matej Konopka finally found the reverse gear.

Racing Team India Eurasia #74 got a 10-second pitstop penalty for driving too fast in an earlier Slow Zone.

Both United Autosports #32 and Richard Mille Racing Team #1, unfortunately, had to retire from the race since they couldn’t get the car back to the pits.

JOTA #28 got a Drive-through for driving the wrong way in the pits earlier in the race – and the day just got worse when they also got a 90-second Stop & Go penalty for not doing the right Safety Car procedure.

Spirit Of Race Ferrari #55 had a spin on the way out to Tertre Rouge, but Duncan Cameron got the car back in the right direction, but he hit a cone on the way there. It triggered a Full Course Yellow.

Team WRT #41 & Glickenhaus Racing #709
Photo: JJ Media

It didn’t take longer than a couple of minutes, but shortly after that, there was another yellow when Cetilar Racing Ferrari #47 got stuck in the gravel in the first chicane on Mulsanne Straight. It caused a Slow Zone.

After six hours, Toyota Gazoo Racing #7 was still leading Hypercar, Team WRT #41 in LMP2, Realteam Racing in LMP2 Pro/Am, AF Corse Ferrari #51 in GTE Pro, and TF Sport Aston Martin #33 in GTE Am.

Only 18 hours left…

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