I apologize for being a day late on this piece, but I was on a trans-Atlantic flight to get back home after a long weekend away in France at some silly race or another. Honestly, though, that was the best race I’ve ever watched. Endurance racing is absolutely insane these days, and the fact that all four classes had first and second separated by less than a minute for most of the event makes everything more amazing. Just blown away, and that finish!
Formula 1 – Baku
Does anyone care? Mercedes was over one second a lap faster than the rest of the competition. Nico won the race by 17 seconds over Seb Vet. Sergio Perez managed a podium in third in his Force India. F1 is dumb, and I don’t care. The FIA’s better series was running in France, that’s more important.
Oh, and Bernie is still a major douche. This is what he said in regards to his conscience on the historically poor human rights record of Azerbaijan:
“The minute people tell me what human rights are, you can look at how, why and when it applies. Does anyone know what human rights are?”
Oh, and he also referred to Montreal, which hosted the prior Grand Prix, as a “Shit hole” in comparison. Bernie has succeeded in being the only guy to ever piss off a Canadian.
World Endurance Championship – Le Mans
This photo above was taken by a fan in the stands. His name is Dom Scarff, and he posted this picture in the Midweek Motorsport Listeners Collective on Facebook. He had this to say about it:
Just finished letting it all sink in. I have taken quite a few photos at Le Mans over the years. But this was possibly the hardest and most emotional photo that I have ever taken. I almost feel a bit guilty having taken it. Cracking race nonetheless, and I feel Toyota may have a few more supporters going into next years race.
That was, without doubt, the best endurance race I have ever had the privilege of watching. I was there when it happened, I stayed awake for the entire race, and I enjoyed every minute of it. You’ll hear more about my experience at Le Mans on the Cammed & Tubbed Podcast this Friday, and you can read all about it on FlatSixes.com later this week when I finally get it all down on the page. For now, here’s a race report of what exactly happened in each class.
The sad part about the 2016 LMP1 battle is that it will go down in the history books that the pole winning car won the race, and if you don’t look any further than that, people will think “yeah, the fastest car won”. It was so, so much more than that. It was an interesting and delicate race among equals in a parry-and-thrust battle that ran down to the last lap, and saw three cars fighting on the lead lap for about 20 hours straight, never putting an inch wrong.
Say whatever you want to about the Toyota teams, but never fault any of their drivers for one second. The #5 team executed their strategy flawlessly. They knew going in that they weren’t quite as quick as the Porsches, and in order to win they would have to have a flawless race. They would need to pit for fuel every 14 laps (versus the Porsche’s 13 laps). They knew they would need to triple stint tires for every set. They knew they would have to keep free of traffic every lap. Execute executive order: Win Le Mans 24. They did that. The fact that they didn’t win was beyond the power of the drivers or the team even. As a matter of fact, they still don’t know what happened to the car in the final minutes.
At the end of the 24 hours, it was Porsche that came to the surface victorious. They’d won the race simply by completing more laps than anyone else. The Toyota was excluded because it was not able to complete the final lap of the event in the required time. Porsche don’t want to win races that way, but they fought just as hard as Toyota did, made the same moves, drove the same race, for 24 hours, and their car didn’t break down within a lap of the finish. Without wanting to sound crude, it’s the 24 hours of Le Mans, not the 23 Hours and 57 Minutes of Le Mans.
Here are a bunch of facts straight from Porsche PR:
• 32.11 gigabytes of data from car number 2 were transmitted to the pits during the 24 hours.
• Car number 2 was leading the race for 51 laps. The number 1 sister car of Timo Bernhard (DE), Brendon Hartley and Mark Webber (AU) was leading for 52 laps in the first third of the race.
• Due to the many phases with reduced speed because of safety car periods and slow zones, the race distance was almost 150 kilometres short of the distance covered in 2015.
• For 327 of the 384 laps the number 2 car was able to go at full race pace. On 57 laps either the safety car was on track or at least one so called slow zone was in place – this means that only 80 km/h was allowed for safety reasons at certain parts of the 13.629 km long track.
• In total the race saw four safety car periods (16 laps) and 24 slow zones.
• Car number 2 spent a total of 38 minutes and five seconds in the pits for refuelling and tyre changes. Because of a water pump change and repairs for the subsequent damage, car number 1 was in the pits for a total of two hours, 59 minutes and 14 seconds.
• The average speed of the winning Porsche 919 Hybrid was 216.4 km/h.
• The highest top speed of a Porsche 919 Hybrid in the race was 333.9 km/h and was done by Brendon Hartley on lap 50.
• The Porsche 919 Hybrid recuperated and used 2,22 kWh (8 megajoule) per lap. If it was a power plant, a family home could be supplied with electricity for three months.
• Car number 2 was refuelled 30 times, car number 1 was refuelled 20 times.
• Car number 2 used 11 sets of tyres in the race. The first set were rain tyres, all others were slick tyres.
• The longest distance covered with one set of tyres was 53 laps with Marc Lieb at the wheel.
• The fastest pit stop, including a tyre and driver change, by the Porsche Team was 1:22.5 minutes.
• The fastest stop for refuelling was done in 65.2 seconds.
• The winning Porsche’s gearbox mastered 22,984 gear changes (up shift and down shift) during the 24 hours.
• The longest time behind the wheel in the winning car was for Neel Jani with nine hours and 24 minutes. Romain Dumas spent the longest continuous time in the car.
Here’s what Romain Dumas has to say about his team’s victory (from Porsche PR) –
“For sure we feel sorry for Toyota. It was a great race. But of course if you get the chance to win Le Mans, you won’t say no thank you. It’s impossible to realize right now what just happened. This year, the lap times were a bit slower due to the regulation changes.”
The P2 category was won by the Signatech Alpine of Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi, and Gustavo Menezes. While the race started under wet conditions, Signatech initially did well until they stayed out just a little too long on the wet tires and fell back. In the second phase of the race, the Manor LMP2 team took over the lead, until hitting a safety cone caused a puncture and the subsequent lengthy pit stop dropped them out of contention.
In hour 5, the Thiriet by TDS car took over the lead. They had a nearly one-lap lead over the Signatech team at Midnight, thanks to a safety car that worked out in their favor. Safety car giveth and safety car taketh away, as the next FCY period saw the Thiriet car lose almost all of its advantage, and a very slow pit stop saw the Signatech move into the lead.
Overnight and into the early morning, Menezes put on a killer stint and had full control of the race in his Signatech drivers seat. Slowly building a lead on second. By sunrise it was a four car race. At hour 17, however, the second placed Thiriet and the fourth placed Baxi DC both crashed out of the race, making it a two-horse sprint. For the final quarter of the race, the Signatech was simply maintaining their gap back to the G-Drive Oreca in second place. Rene Rast put on a hell of a drive in that car, but the best they could manage was second place, just over two and a half minutes back from the winning Alpine.
GTE Pro –
In the game of Le Mans, you either win, or you are BoP’d out of contention. Call me a cynic, but Ford spent the most money, have the most to win from this as a marketing exercise, and made for the best ‘story’. Ford pulled out all of the stops to win this race on the 50th anniversary of their first win. Having witnessed their speed first hand, it seems pretty clear to me that the sanctioning body wanted Ford to win just as badly as Ford wanted Ford to win. They had mega power advantage, and they’re super slippery on the straights.
By sandbagging significantly, the Fords were able to trick the ACO into giving them performance breaks with lighter weight and additional fuel capacity and less restrictive intakes. In the pre-race test, they ran reasonably similar to the rest of the GTE field, but then showed up at qualifying and ran over 4 seconds quicker than they had previously. Balance of Performance sucks, and this is precisely why I hate it. The race organizers then put some weight back on the Fords, and awarded them a restrictor resizing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, and they ran away with the race anyway. The Corvettes and Astons and Porsches didn’t have a chance. The Ferraris, also turbocharged, were close, but not close enough to win. Ford got their win, they got what they came for. I’ll be rather surprised if they even bother finishing the rest of the season at this rate.
I’m salty as hell about this, in case you couldn’t figure it out. Maybe a few more days will see me mellow a bit, but for now I’m steamed.
GTE Am –
In the wet/drying conditions early in the race, it was Porsche that dominated everybody, helped of course by their rear-engine weight balance assisting with traction. As the race settled in, however, the Ferraris started to make gains, moving up the field. Porsche maintained the lead of the Am field for most of the race, with the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton car being the predominant leader. Patrick Long and David Heinemeier-Hansson doing the lion’s share of the work. Unfortunately, it was Khaled Al Qubaisi’s stint in the car that would be their undoing, as he lost a number of seconds per lap to the competition. A pro-am team is only as good as their am. That’s not a slight against Khaled, he’s faster than I am, but his performance was only good enough for third, which is where they finished the race.
The major contenders that I was sad to see end up crashing out were the WeatherTech Porsche, and the #98 Aston Martin. Sadly the WeatherTech car faced trouble all weekend, as Cooper MacNeil was initially determined to be too sick to drive (he says Salmonella), and their replacement driver Gunnar Jeanette was not allowed to race as he didn’t run any laps in the pre-race practice sessions (he did, however, run 20 laps in the LM Test just a few weeks prior, and he’s participated at Le Mans 8 times, so he’s hardly a rookie). The team started the race with just Leh Keen and Marc Miller, who were going to do about 12 hours of running each. Unfortunately on leaving the pits for his first lap in the car after Leh had done a long stint, Miller hit a patch of coolant laid down by an LMP2 car, and spun into the wall. The 98 Aston had a similar crash to the one they suffered last year, with Paul Dalla Lana binning the car again.
Replay: Super slo-mo of the No. 89 crash.
— SPEED (@SPEED)
So, with a few other major contenders knocked out, it was the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 that won the class. Townsend Bell, Jeff Segal, and Bill Sweedler ran really well the whole race, and while their car ended up really dirty, it never needed any major repairs, and looked pretty showroom fresh otherwise. Bell was hellishly quick on Sunday morning, and managed to put the pass on the #88 Porsche to take the lead, where they stayed for the rest of the race. Segal finished the race some 3 minutes ahead of the AF Corse car with Emmanuel Collard aboard, who passed the #88 Porsche in his final stint.
Garage 56 –
A special entry that makes me smile every time I think about it. The Garage 56 entry of Frederic Sausset’s quadruple amputee driven modified LMP2 car finished the race. Read more about it .
Stuff We Le Mans You Should Read –
(this one really chapped my ass…)
Other Races –
V8 Supercars at Darwin –
Race 1 – Caruso wins in his Nissan running away from Jaimie Whincup and Chaz Mostert
Race 2 – Shane Van Gisbergen wins from pole. Lee Holdsworth suffers a fractured pelvis in a bad Sunday smash-up.
GP2 Baku – Antonio Giovinazzi runs from last to first for Prema Racing in a crazy safety car shaken sprint race on Saturday. A final lap pass on his teammate moved him into the lead. I might need to watch this one…
GRC Daytona –
Race 1 – Steve Arpin wins for Chip Ganassi Ford
Race 2 – Tanner Foust wins for Andretti Racing Volkswagen
NASCAR Iowa –
Trucks – William Byron, a rookie, wins again with a late race pass for the lead.
Xfinity – Sam Hornish, Jr. hasn’t run in NASCAR since November, but managed to take a win on Saturday with a last-minute Joe Gibbs Racing ride. He led 183 of the 200 laps.
Nissan Micra Cup @ St-Eustache –
Both rounds were won by Olivier Bedard, who now owns the championship lead.
Things You Should Watch –
If you haven’t seen the LM24 finish, here’s the last 10 minutes. Honestly, I’d suggest watching at least the final hour.
Porsche’s LM PR video
1968 911L Petrolicious
Nissan powers LMP2 victory
Porsche and Toyota post race –