LMP1 has long been considered the peak prototype class, drawing fans and coverage in greater numbers than the ‘lower’ LMP2 cars. It seems we could be at a turning point, since the latter is now the one making all the headlines.
The race started with some weaving around for the LMP1 cars, leaving the #26 LMP2 leading the class. The first two slow zones are caused by the #36 and #26 with only damage for the latter, purely bodywork, though.
After an hour, Rebellion were leading with the #31 ahead of Manor, the second Rebellion and both Jackie Chan DC cars, fifteen minutes later and contact with the #88 GTE-AM Porsche left the #26 stuck at the side of the track waiting to be recovered, meaning they were probably out of contention already, but half an hour later, retirement came for the pole sitter.
At 2h45 in, the #38 hit the wall at Indianapolis, and ended up falling to sixth in class, damage was minimal at this point, just a nose change after a limp back to the pits. Rebellion #13 took the lead from its sister car, the #31.
At hour three, Ben Keating makes contact with the #91 Porsche, taking out some foam advertising boards:
— 24 Heures du Mans (@24heuresdumans) June 17, 2017
After hour four, the lead lap was as follows:
LMP2 Lead Lap: 13, 31, 38, 24, 37
Drivers were suffering small mistakes with spins and lockups fairly often, including the #37 Jackie Chan Racing LMP2.
Hour seven hands a drive through penalty to the #31 Rebellion for overtaking in a slow zone, putting its one minute lead over the #13 at risk.
Hour eight’s lead lap looks like this:
LMP2 Lead Lap: 31, 13, 38, 24, 25, 35
At 8hr53, the #13 had a rear wing swap, moving it back behind its teammate, the #13, lots of battling between the sister cars.
Just before hour 10 is where it started to hot up, the LMP1 cars began to fail, where the LMP2’s stayed running, meaning they are ahead of Toyota at this point, a real turn up for the books!
At hour twelve, the lead lap was as follows:
LMP2 Lead Lap: 31, 38, 13
The #31 pitted for repairs, albeit quickly, they lost out to the #38, putting the latter second overall.
LMP2 Lead Lap: 38, 13, 31
At this point, people were starting to believe in at least two LMP2 cars appearing on the podium, something extremely rare, considering there were two Porsche LMP1’s running still.
LMP2 Lead Lap: 38
Yes, just the one car, and not the ones you’d have expected either. Jackie Chan Racing seemed to be doing something extraordinary, even with the gearbox problems on the #31 Rebellion, they were making great progress.
Porsche’s lead car stops on track, meaning the #38 storms toward an overall lead, slow zones mean Porsche’s second car cannot catch up. The potential for an LMP2 victory was real.
#13 Had to return to the pits to serve a penalty, but needs the engine cover removing to restart the engine, classic hit it with a hammer and it’ll work tactics. This later plays a large role, so take note!
The #38 still maintained pace, which was ten seconds slower than the Porsche, they had to be hoping for slow zones to prevent them being caught. They made a driver change but were eventually caught, the pace of the LMP1 was just too much. The speed difference on the straight was sorely apparent, unfortunately, the dream for an LMP2 win was over, a real shame, but they still had a class win and podium to fight for.
With a clear gap, the #38 eventually took that class win and finished second overall with the #13 Rebellion next in the rankings.
1. Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley GER Porsche 919 Hybrid 367 laps LMP1
2. Jarvis/Laurent/Tung CHN Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 366 laps LMP2
3. Cheng/Brundle/Gommendy CHN Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 363 laps LMP
4. Panciatici/Ragues/Negaro FRA Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 362 laps LMP2
5. Owen/de Sadeleer/Albuquerque USA United Autosports Ligier JSP217 362 laps LMP2
However, this wasn’t the end of the story….
After the champagne had finished spraying and the celebrations had ended, disaster for the #13 – they were disqualified. Remember the starter motor-hitting incident? It turns out they cut a hole in the bodywork so that they didn’t need to remove the whole rear section to do it. It’s even been claimed that the mechanics had a small piece of bodywork, roughly that size which was intended to hide it. Sneaky.
Later they were supposedly caught in parc ferme trying to conceal this opening, a definite no-no with the stewards.
The below quote is from Racer.com:
According to the stewards’ finding, “Mr. Benjamin Caron (an FIA assistant technical delegate) saw the hole the competitor placed in the homologated bodywork. He then stated that while he was downloading information from the car, mechanics from the team came to the car and placed ‘bear bond’ (which is large sections of sticky tape commonly used to effect quick repairs to bodywork in motorsports) with a white tape cover similar to the color of the bodywork, over the hole.”
Caron and Vaillante Rebellion team member Ian Smith, who was attached to the car while in Parc Ferme, then had an exchange.
“Mr. Caron stated that he told Ian Smith… that it was not permitted to touch the car in Parc Ferme, and Mr. Smith attempted to remove the tape before being stopped by Mr. Caron. Mr. Smith was only able to remove the white covering in the process, but not the ‘bear bond.’”
So there we have it, close battled, fairytale stories and dastardly deeds, it seems like LMP2 had it all in spades and at a fraction of the cost of LMP1. Could we see more manufacturers enter into the ‘lower’ class? I definitely hope so!