September 22, 2023

Hero to zero for JOTA Porsche

After a long safety car period before heavy rain, the 24 Hours of Le Mans is once again green and hectic.

Peugeot’s lead from the previous hour didn’t last long once the race resumed, when a hard-hitting Yiefei Ye quickly passed Gustavo Menezes’ No. 94 in the No. 38 Hertz Team JOTA Porsche. Ye took the lead between Mulsanne Corner and the Porsche Curves after running side-by-side throughout what was another exciting series.

It was a dream start to the hour for the British team, who started 60th in only its second race with the 963 in Hypercar and led the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But Ye would go from hero to zero before the end of Hour 5, when he made a mistake in the final section of the Porsche Curves and went sideways into the tires at high speed. The impact tore the rear and hood of the car and damaged the right front with a secondary impact.

You then had to run back to the pits, where the mechanics pushed the car back into the garage for substantial repairs. Ye was understandably distraught when he climbed out.

“We damaged the front, rear, rear wing all and also the floor. The suspension seems fine. We are repairing the bodywork and we are going again. He just lost it in the Porsche Curves,” said team principal Dieter Gass.

All in all, it was a disastrous hour for Porsche in Hypercar, as the two factory WEC full-season Penske 963s also both ran into trouble. Dane Cameron’s No. 6 suffered a puncture on the right rear tire shortly after the restart while running second, and the No. 5 was given a drive-through for overtaking a car under the safety car.

It all unraveled so quickly for the German marque, although the No. 5 Porsche is still third after its penalty, ahead of the No. 75 IMSA crewed car who is fourth. The No. 6 is in 11th and is a lap down after coming in for a tire replacement.

With JOTA’s hopes of victory, the two AF Corse Ferrari 499Ps are back in front. Miguel Molina’s No. 50 leads Antonio Giovanazzi’s No. 51, who climbed the rank after Menezes pitted the No. 94 and Ye had his off. Although it is of course still early, it was a very calm and promising opening at five o’clock from the Italian brand.

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LM24, Hour 3: Rain adds to early hour chaos

In the other classes, the No. 41 WRT ORECA has emerged as the LMP2 leader with Louis Deletraz now on board. The No. 41 handles much better than its sister car, which has dropped to 18th in class after earlier setting off in the rain and requiring a front and rear change.

It’s a similar story for United Autosports. The No. 22 is five laps behind the leader after Frederick Lubin’s incident, while the No. 23 is second with Oliver Jarvis putting in a strong stint. The No. 28 JOTA ORECA is third.

The order of the GTE Am front-runners has changed as Francesco Castellacci’s No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari 488 has moved forward, with Martin Rump in the No. 911 Proton Porsche second. The No. 85 Iron Women’s car, which led under the safety car, is now in third place.

At the back of the Am field, Corvette Racing stays out of the first round, the team confirming to RACER that a faulty front muffler was the cause of the No. 33’s earlier trip to the garage. Initially the C8.R was two laps down after reconnecting, but has since recovered a lap since the safety car. Next on the to-do list is winning the second round back. If he can do it on pace, or if a safety car gives the team a break, then the number 33 could get back into contention.

“It was very strange. Everything went well. The car drove great and was all right. Prototypes passed me out of nowhere and then I had a strange feeling,” explains Nicky Catsburg. “Maybe this was because I had to go off-line and retrieve something, but it wouldn’t go away. The car moved a lot under braking and at all speeds. So I told the guys I think we had a problem. When we got him into the pit lane it was the muffler and we lost two laps. The crew still did a great job and couldn’t have done it faster.

“However, it is very difficult to come back from this place. It looks like a disastrous race with the safety cars. But our main competitors in the championship are out of the race, so even with zero points we will still lead the championship. So we have to concentrate and get as many points as possible. Maybe we can get into the first round again. I kind of doubt it, but we will never give up. The car is absolutely fast and everything went well. So I know we have a good car.”

Story originally appeared on Racer

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