#8, TOYOTA GAZOO RACING - JPN, TOYOTA TS050 - HYBRID, Sebastien BUEMI, Kazuki NAKAJIMA, Brendon HARTLEY 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

Its was a very long day that drew everyone together under the covid protocols and delivered almost three days of work effort into three free practice sessions and one frantic qualifying session. Thursday replaced a test day and two practice days in the normal Le Mans schedule, and it was quite remarkable that it all passed with relatively few incidents. Those that there were impacted upon just a few teams, and the hope exists that they will be able to recover from them before 1330 Saturday to still make the Grand Depart. 

#28, IDEC SPORT – FRA, ORECA 07 – GIBSON, Paul LAFARGUE, Paul-Loup CHATIN, Richard BRADLEY 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

All was running relatively smoothly until the #28 IDEC Sport at the hands of Paul Lafargue spun up and catapulted into the barriers late in the morning session.  The front right corner appeared to have taken much of the impact, but the barrier alignment was impacted highlighting the high degree of impact and subsequently on inspection it was found the car was terminally flawed and the IDEC Sport team set about a “re-tubbing”, fundamentally building up a new car with what they could salvage.  Richard Bradley, co-driving the #28 was relatively sanguine about the situation, quoted as saying it was the best feeling car he had had at Le Mans since the victorious 2015 KCMG #47 Oreca.  So if the team can apply all the same setting to the replacement tub, there is hope.  Race Direction have agreed to them starting from the pitlane, but at a one-lap penalty which will need to be clawed back… But thats the benefit of a 24-hour race right, if the gods smile on you it is possible. 

#17, IDEC SPORT – FRA, ORECA 07 – GIBSON, Dwight MERRIMAN, Kyle TILLEY, Jonathan KENNARD 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

Sadly for the IDEC Sport crew the drama was about to turn into a crisis as no sooner had they received the #28 off the low-loader, their second car #17 in the hands of Dwight Merriman had seemingly run wide at the Karting/Corvette corner over the rumble strips and speared across track to the barrier driver’s left. Superficially the car looked less damaged by the contact, but did not run for the remainder of the day. Dwight’s ongoing participation is subject to medical advice, and SportscarGlobal understand that Patrick Pilet is to replace him. Given this entry has a more youthful line-up this will bring experience and a steading hand to the team, could well be one to watch.. The rest of practice was going quite smoothly, the usual excursions into sand, gravel and the popular practice of mowing the bumpy verge between the Forest Esses and Tertre Rouge entry was carried out..

#1, REBELLION RACING – CHE, REBELLION R13 – GIBSON, Bruno SENNA, Norman NATO, Gustavo MENEZES 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

For Rebellion Racing #1 it caught a substantial issue in Free Practice 2 with no running as the team performed an engine change. Its unlikely this was planned, but hopefully moves them further down the job sheet in terms of preparation for the race.  The other R13 #3 appeared to run reliable and on averages would appear to be a couple of seconds off the pace of the hybrid Toyota TS050s. 

#55, SPIRIT OF RACE – CHE, FERRARI 488 GTE EVO, Duncan CAMERON, Aaron SCOTT, Matthew GRIFFIN, #22, UNITED AUTOSPORTS – GBR, ORECA 07 – GIBSON, Phil HANSON, Filipe ALBUQUERQUE, Paul DI RESTA 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

However, the ByKolles #4 with Bruno Spengler at the wheel brought out a red flag in the middle of the session. Spengler ran wide onto the exit curbs of Terte Rouge which lifted all four wheels off the ground. That sent the car nose-first to the barrier. Spengler was able to recover the car “sans nose” to the pits where the team went to work with an angle grinder earning themselves a pit penalty! Quite the night!

#4, BYKOLLES RACING TEAM – AUT, ENSO CLM P1/01 – GIBSON, Tom DILLMANN, Bruno SPENGLER, Oliver James WEBB 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

However Free Practice Three, Night Practice, was to be terminated 15-20minutes early and it looked to be a significant one.  Earlier in the session Johnny Mowlem had had an excursion at the Ford Chicane and brought the Red River Sport Ferrari immediately (across the grass) into the pit lane. The team swapped Bonamy Grimes into the car for some late night (proper dark) practice to round out the day. Unfortunately on his outlap on approach to the first Hunaudiares chicane, Bon lost the back of the car at high-speed, likely just into braking. The car snapped right cloating the barrier, wiping its nose off and rotated across the track to do similar to the rear-end. The result was for those that had ever wondered what a shortened (no overhangs) Ferrari 488 would look like.. That said the car appeared to be sitting on four wheels all seemingly in the right place so there is hope it will start. Bonamy Grimes was able to exit the car and retire to a safe distance.

#62, RED RIVER SPORT – GBR, FERRARI 488 GTE EVO, Bonamy GRIMES, Johnny MOWLEM, Charles HOLLINGS 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..

Numbers and data wise, the collection for most of the teams would have been great, and much sifting will be required. The relevance is yet to be understood as the weather forecast for the weekend is considerably less stable than the conditions on thursday which where fair, barmy late summer heat.  We have worked the algorithm over from its early output which seemed a little rogue, and here are same session averages that may better reflect progress to an average race pace for all… Enjoy. 

LMP1

Image Credit: The B Pillar / SportscarGlobal

LMP2

Image Credit: The B Pillar / SportscarGlobalLM GTE-Pro

Image Credit: The B Pillar / SportscarGlobalLMGTE-Am

Image Credit: The B Pillar / SportscarGlobal

One more session Friday morning and the spectacle that is Hyper-Pole! That 6-runners max. from each category (23-cars) so less than half the field, no traffic excuses, going max-attack for 30-mins on a Friday morning.  A driver that drops it will be buying their team beers and eats for the foreseeable future! Lets see how it plays out… 

#38, JOTA – GBR, ORECA 07 – GIBSON, Anthony DAVIDSON, Antonio-Felix DA COSTA, Roberto GONZALEZ 2020 FIA World Endurance Championship Season 8 Round 7 24h Le Mans, Le Mans, France. Photo © John D Stevens..