September 30, 2023

Cadillac ahead of the chaos

The frantic, incident-packed start to the centenary Le Mans 24 Hours continued in the second hour of the race, which is currently being led by the No. 2 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R or Earl Bamber.

Hypercar has been exhilarating but complicated thus far, with so many variations in pit strategy and slow zones causing constant changes to the running order.

At the end of the hour, with so much about the true running order still unclear, the Cadillac led with the No. 5 Porsche 963 of Michael Christesen second, 2.9s behind.

The No. 75 IMSA-crewed Porsche is currently third with the No. 8 Toyota that led at the start of the hour down to fourth having completed a second stop.

The No. 38 JOTA is up to fifth. It’s been a remarkable run for the Hertz-liveried 963 from 60th on the grid, the team has completed three stops and using the safety car in hour 1 and slow zones to move Antonio Felix da Costa up the order strategically.

LMP2 has seen a complete order change up front, too, with the pit cycle being so drawn out. Currently, the No. 41 WRT ORECA of Robert Kubica finds itself out front, 7.6 seconds ahead of the No. 36 Alpine. The JOTA No. 28 07 Gibson is third.

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GTE Am was hugely entertaining in Hour 2. With the pit cycle being extended by safety car gamblers, the lead changed multiple times, culminating in a nose-to-tail battle for the lead between three Porsches towards the end of hour 2.

It’s been a great start for Porsche’s customers. After zero 911 RSRs made it into Hyperpole, Porsche now sit 1-2-3-4, with Matteo Cairoli in the “Rexy” Project 1 AO RSR having fought his way past Ben Barker’s GR racing Porsche, Alessio Picariello’s Iron Lynx Porsche and Rachel Frey in the No. 85 Iron Dames example during his stint.

Into Hour 3, Cairoli leads, with Ben Barker in the GR Racing 911 second and Frey’s No. 85 thirds. The No. 911 Porsche is fourth with Richard Lietz at the wheel.

During the hour there was drama for so many cars. First was Nielsen Racing’s ORECA having a huge off at Dunlop halfway through the hour. Rodrigo Sales lost the rear and went head-on into the tires on driver’s right, ripping the right front off the car.

Rainier Ehrhardt

While that was being repaired there was another big off, this time for Ricky Taylor in the Tower Motorsports ORECA, who veered left at high speed, damaging the front and rear of the No. 13 07 Gibson.

In GTE Am, Corvette Racing, in for its second stop, had to have its No. 33 pushed C8.R pushed into the garage for minor front-end repairs which cost the team two laps early. It was a hugely frustrating early development for the popular team in its final Le Mans with the C8.R. It will now shift its focus to fighting to get back onto the lead lap.

Alex Riberas a few minutes later was then spotted in the No. 98 Northwest AMR Aston Martin running slowly down Mulsanne with its hood unclipped. He had to pit immediately for work in the garage to the car’s front end. Riberas has since rejoined 18th in class and a lap down

With the end of the hour approaching, there was a three-way incident at the Dunlop Chicane. The No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari or Ulysse De Pauw, GMB Aston Martin or Gustav Birch and No. 3 Cadillac of Sebastien Bourdais had a coming together into the slow zone, Bourdais getting rear-ended, with both GTE cars ending up on either side of the circuit severely damaged.

Bourdais was the only driver to continue, who limped back to the pits with rear-end damage from the contact. It wasn’t clear who hit the Frenchman, though Renger van der Zande reported on the circuit radio commentary that he believed it was De Pauw.

It was better news though for Action Express Racing. It’s no. 311 was successfully repaired and sent out in Hour 2. Jack Aitken was re-installed after his lap 1 incident, rejoining the race 16 laps down.

In all the chaos, the No. 55 GMB Aston, No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari, No. 13 Tower Motorsports ORECA and NO. 14 Nielsen Racing ORECA are all almost certainly already retirements.

Story originally appeared on Racer

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