Despite impressive depth in the GTE Am ranks, team JMW dominated a largely unremarkable contest in GTE Am and took a well deserved and extremely popular victory in the West of France.
The JMW Ferrari was piloted competently and competitively by Will Stevens, Dries Vanthoor and Rob Smith, cruising into the lead after starting seventh. The Yellow and Red Ferrari ran flawlessly throughout the twice-around-the-clock race, and as minor niggles (and one rather more major incident) hindered the competition, no one managed to finish the race on the same lap as the JMW car.
At the start of the race, polesitter Fernando Rees got off to a good start he quickly found himself fighting through the tail end of the GTE Pro runners, territory he is rather familiar with. His scintillating performance very much lived up to expectations, as Rees reeled off the GTE Am lap record half an hour into the race. Rob Bell was the other man on the move in the TF Sport Aston, powering into third place.
On the hour all of Rees’s good work was undone by a a sluggish pit stop, and the Larbre Corvette faded to fourth place. As expected, when Rees vacated the car for his Bronze teammates the Garishly painted Corvette faded into irrelevance. Matteo Cairoli was proving he is just as competent as the other more illustrious, and experienced pro drivers when the #77 Proton car got a puncture, and dropped well down the field. And Proton Competition’s second hour became very sour indeed when the #88 car was hit by an LMP2 entry, ending Khaled Al-Qubaisi, Stephane Lemeret and Klaus Bachler’s very prematurely.
The AMR Aston had inherited a comfortable lead, and the JMW Ferrari, now in second, did not threaten for the lead of the race. Eventually, Dries Vanthoor got in the Ferrari and strong pace and quick pitstops saw the Belgian take the lead as the fourth hour came to a close. However, the cars then swapped roles when bronze rated Rob Smith took the helm of the JMW Ferrari, and Mathais Lauda swiftly charged through to a one minute lead in GTE Am
It did not last. Two front punctures terminated team AMR’s dominant performance, dropping them out of the top ten. The JMW Ferrari inherited the lead, and drifted off into a distant lead. Attention now turned to the battle for the runner up position, with the Beachdean and TF Sport Aston Martins, the #55 Spirit of Race and #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferraris and the #77 Proton Porsche all in the hunt. The Proton Porsche struggled with pace, but it stayed in the hunt thanks to good strategy and Cairoli’s brilliance.
At 5am the TF Sport car, which was running in the podium positions still with a chance of of victory stopped on track, but restarted shortly after. Yoluc, ever confident, ended up piling into the gravel, and had to be extracted, as the #90 TF Sport car started to stutter and consequently fade out of contention. The race settled down, with a new lap record from Rob Bell and a minor, harmless spin from Dries Vanthoor being the only things to report not just from the rest of the morning, but practically the race as well.
The JMW Ferrari took victory followed by the #55 Ferrari of Aaron Scott, Duncan Cameron and Marco Cioci with the #62 Ferrari following them home to complete an all Ferrari podium.
Picture courtesy of dailysportscar