Le Mans 24: Midnight report

LMP1:

As expected, Toyota hold the lead of the LMP1 field at midnight. Mike Conway kept the #7 TS050 in front at the start, leading from pole position during the first two hours before handing over to Kamui Kobayashi.

The two Toyotas briefly traded places later in the evening as a series of safety car periods brought the cars nose-to-tail. Kazuki Nakajima, taking over the #8 Toyota from Fernando Alonso, passed José María López in the #7 to take the lead. Lopez retook the lead shortly after only to surrender it with a trip through the gravel, but by hour 9 the two cars had swapped once again and the #7—with Conway back the wheel—resumed the lead.

Third place was long held by the #3 Rebellion which, in the hands of Gustavo Menezes, moved up from fourth on the grid and held off advances by Vitaly Petrov in the #11 SMP. However this came to an end later in the evening, when Thomas Laurent put the #3 in the wall and dropped two laps behind the two SMPs, with Egor Orudzhev’s #17 now the Russian team’s lead car.

There was trouble throughout the first ten hours for the remaining privateers. Bruno Senna picked up a puncture for the #1 Rebellion in the first hour and dropped to last in class, while the #4 ByKolles made eight difficult pitstops in the by hour 3. Later in the afternoon the #10 DragonSpeed entered the garage and has remained there since.

Joao Filipe, Adrenal Media / FIA WEC Media

LMP2:

Signatech Alpine took an early lead as Nicholas Lapierre moved the #36 up from third to first off the line. But impressive pace from Jean-Éric Vergne and Dutch rookie Job van Uitert in the #26 G-Drive soon put the #36 under pressure, and Van Uitert took the class lead during his second stint.

The remaining class podium position changed hands several times during the first ten hours of the race. Initially Matthieu Vaxiviere held third in the #28 TDS Racing, but a strong opening stint from Giedo van der Garde took the position for the #29 Racing Team Nederland.

However, at hour 3 Nyck de Vries picked up a puncture during his stint in the #29. Anthony Davidson’s #31 DragonSpeed was briefly promoted to third, but was dropped down to fourth by the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing.

Joao Filipe, Adrenal Media / FIA WEC Media

GTE:

Corvette took first blood in the Pro class with Antonio Garcia moving the #63 up from third to first. But over the course of the afternoon the Porsches hauled in the Corvette and the #92 took the lead with Kevin Estre at the wheel.

In the Am class, Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche converted pole into an early lead. But this was lost when he handed over to Satoshi Hoshino, who spun the #88 on the Mulsanne Straight and handed the lead to Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

Hoshino would be involved in another, much heavier incident later in the evening as he collided with Marcel Fassler’s #64 Corvette, making the first official retirement of the race.

British GT: Kelvin Fletcher -I defended for half an hour!

Kelvin Fletcher feels that the podium he and Martin Plowman earned in the British GT GT4 Pro/Am category was hard-earned on Sunday afternoon.

Speaking before the disqualification of Sennan Fielding and Richard Williams of Steller Motorsport for a technical infringement, Fletcher and Plowman both feel that there is more to come from the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 package, but Fletcher still considers it a big step up from last year’s Nissan 370Z.

“We made some small changes to the set-up this morning and so we had two laps to feel the setup and we went with that. I defended for half an hour, spent the whole race driving with my mirrors,” Fletcher began.

“The Aston Martin is night and day compared to the Nissan. The Nissan was a good car but it was seven or eight years old, these new GT4 cars are all so much more advanced. The AMs say that is an easier drive, the disparity between the Pro and the Am has come down a lot and that shows that how much easier to drive they are.”

Fletcher was pleasantly surprised at the result and says there’s still more to come from the duo and their car.

“It’s been a nice step forward to be in a car that is more balanced, more current and more competitive.”

“Me and Martin are as well, we’re only two weekends into the Championship, still five more to go and hopefully if this is one of our more disappointing weekends then we can build from here.”

Like Plowman, Fletcher felt that the body contact strayed close to the limit and he was mindful to avoid that for the two shorter races this weekend.

“It was a bit too much elbows out this weekend, I started Race One and it was just carnage. We had some unfortunate contact in Race Two at Oulton Park so we were mindful of that damage because it affects your budget for the year, we knew we had two races today so we kept out of trouble and raced clean. It’s easier said than done because when everyone thinks it’s a Touring Car race meeting, it is absolute carnage.”

IMAGE – CRAIG WHEELDON

British GT: Plowman – A fantastic result on a difficult weekend

Martin Plowman was relieved to achieve a strong GT4 Pro/Am result with Kelvin Fletcher on Sunday afternoon after admitting there is more to come from the Beechdean Aston Martin GT4 package.

Speaking before it was announced that the Steller Motorsport Audi Pro/Am entry of Richard Williams and Sennan Fielding was disqualified, Plowman felt that the team had struggled for raw speed and had to rely on brain instead.

“The result was fantastic as we really have struggled this weekend on set-up, trying to get the front end working and we are still down on top speed as a brand, but compared to the other Aston out there we need to find more time. It is fantastic to come away with a podium and some good points, we got everything we could out of the race. In the race it was apparent that once the tyres go off we lose out.

“We were just a sitting duck, I would fight my way to the front, make some moves and after that they were queuing up to pass me on the straight. The Mustangs were passing me on the straight like I was standing still. I defended as best as I could, but you need to give the car to Kelvin in one piece, which I just about did. We expect more from ourselves, but if we can come away with podiums on a bad weekend then we’ll take that. I trust totally that we and the guys at Beechdean will figure this out, but we need to hit the reset button.”

Plowman admitted that he had planned to get most of his activity done early in the face of faster entries in Race Two.

From there on in, it was all hands to the pump before handing over to Fletcher for the second stint, before stating that some of the British Gt series’ young chargers have lessons to learn.

“The start in Race Two was messy, very congested as people just stuck to the inside. I had very little room around the outside and I knew that was my time to make a move because afterwards, I was going backwards. I was in full “send it” mode, finding gaps, braking late. I don’t know how many places I made up but it must have been two or three. After that, I looked in the mirror and they were queuing behind me, all in vain!

“I think this year hasn’t been as good (clean) as last year. There’s a lot of young kids in the series and they’re out to make a point and prove themselves, they’re probably a bit too aggressive and making moves that aren’t there. Hopefully they’ll settle down, but if not we’ll just have to stay out of their way.”

 

IMAGE: CRAIG WHEELDON

British GT: Gamble – I only got the call to drive for Century on Friday

Tom Gamble says that he only knew he was driving for Century Motorsport in the British GT series this weekend on Friday morning, before then sticking the BMW on pole position for Race One tomorrow.

Gamble, who won the 2018 McLAren Autosport BRDC Award for his performances in British F3 last year, was even disappointed not to get more out of the M6 GT3, despite the lack of preparation time for this weekend.

“It was good, as a racing driver you can always get more out of the car on the lap, with the Pirellis it is often one flying lap that you get and then it drops off. I didn’t get as much as I could out as I got caught and held up behind another car but we got the job done, hopefully at the start of Race One we can build a bit of a gap before Jack gets in.

“I got the call Friday morning. I’ve had no time to prepare at all! The car was good, the Audi that I race in Blancpain is a more of an oversteer based car whereas the BMW is more of an understeer-based car so I’ve had to change my driving style a little and adapt to the car.”

And despite his stellar performance on Saturday, the 17-year-old was quick to manage expectations for Sunday.

His arrival for the injured Adrian Wilmott means that his and Jack Mitchell’s pairing is now a Silver pairing, ensuring extra weight and extra time in the pit lane.

“It’s tough for us because of the extra 60 kgs of weight that we have makes it very difficult. The other guys have a much lighter car and a lot more performance but we’ll see. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow. But you never know.

“Gradually we’ve been getting better with the set up too over the weekend and tomorrow should be a fun two races.”

While he wishes Wilmott well in his recovery, Gamble would like further appearances for Century this season if needed

“Adrian has hurt his neck but hopefully it’s as soon as possible. I don’t know whether I’ll be needed for any more rounds yet but I’d love to get back out there and have another outing in the BMW, the more seat time the better for me. Fingers crossed I get a few more runs.”

 

IMAGE: JAKOB EBREY/BRDC BRITISH F3

British GT: GT4 Qualifying – Mustang and Maxwell on pole for Race One, Malvern marvels for Race Two qualifying

Multimatic Motorsport made it pole positions in successive weekends as Scott Maxwell impressed once again at a previously never-before-seen Snetterton circuit.

The Canadian wasn’t quite as dominant as at Oulton Park, where the Mustangs were a second clear of the field, as he gained pole position by just over a tenth from Richard Williams in the new Steller Performance Audi and Josh Price’s TF Sport Aston Martin in third.

Callum Pointon continued HHC’s excellent start with McLaren to take fourth place ahead of Josh Smith’s Tolman McLaren, with Mark Kimber sixth for last season’s GT4 champions Century Motorsport.

Luke Williams will line up seventh in the other HHC McLaren for Race One, with the top seven cars covered by less than half a second.

Lewis Proctor will start eighth on Sunday morning in the second Tolman Motorsport McLaren ahead of local driver Mark Murfitt in the Fox Mercedes, with Aladair MacKinnon rounding off the top ten.

In GT4 Pro qualifying, the margins were just as tight throughout the field as top 12 drivers were separated by merely eight tenths of a second.

Tom Canning in the TF Sport Aston Martin was second, just a tenth away from pole and having looked for most of the session like the man to beat.

Dean Macdonald was third after winning at Oulton Park last time out, with Jordan Collard fourth and Dino Zamparelli debuting the new GT4 Porsche in fifth.

Michael O’Brien lines up in sixth for Tolman Motorsport on Sunday afternoon ahead of Michael Broadhurst in the Fox Mercedes AMG.

Tom JAckson completes row four in the second HHC McLaren, with Matt George and Seb Priaulx completing the top ten for Race Two,

 

IMAGE: Jakob Ebrey via MultiMatic Racing

British GT – GT3 Qualifying: Gamble cashes his chips in for Race One, Thiim takes top honours for Race Two

Tom Gamble took a stunning British GT GT3 Race One pole position despite not having ever sat in the Century Motorsport GT3 BMW until Saturday morning.

Gamble will start from pole after wrestling the fastest lap away from Oulton Park Race Two winner Sam De Haan, who had held the advantage for much of the session.

Graham Davidson and Adam Balon will go from third and fourth as Aston Martin and TF Sport showed signs of improvement from Oulton Park, while Balon has made a solid start to the British GT series in 2019.

Glynn Geddie in the Team Parker Bentley and Ollie Wilkinson in the Optimum Aston Martin make up row three ahead of Shaun Balfe’s McLaren and Dominic Paul in the other Century BMW. Balfe will be relieved to have seemingly resolved the McLaren’s electrical issue which ended their Oulton Park weekend before raceday.

Michael Igoe and Rick Parfitt Junior complete the top ten ahead of Andrew Howard, Mark Farmer and Richard Neary’s Mercedes.

For Race Two, Nicki Thiim certainly lived up to that famous Go Hard or Go Home motto by taking pole position by half a tenth to Phil Keen, with Oulton Park winner Jonny Cocker lining up third for tomorrow afternoon’s Race Two.

Seb Morris will be delighted with fourth in the Bentley he shares with Rick Parfitt, balance of performance regulations hampering the duo this weekend.

Adam Christodoulou and Rob Bell make up row three, Jonny Adam and Marco Sorensen complete an all Aston Martin V8 Vantage row four, while it’s a Noah’s Ark row five as Century Motorsport share ninth and tenth with Ben Green leading Jack Mitchell.

Adam Ellis, Ryan Ratcliffe and Adam Wilcox complete the GT3 grid for Race Two.

IMAGE: Jakob Ebrey via @Century_MSport

British GT – GT4: Priaulx and Maxwell take GT4 spoils

Multimatic Racing’s Seb Priaulx and Scott Maxwell took top honours in GT4 at an eventful Oulton Park.

After suffering in Race One, the Ford Mustang had no such problems in Race Two to lead well throughout the second 60 minutes, with an array of cars vying for second during the early part of the race.

Graham Johnson and Michael O’Brien in the Balfe McLaren were second overall to win a tightly contested GT4 Pro/Am category ahead of Steve McCulley and Matt George in the Invictus Jaguar Racing entry and Scott Malvern and Nick Jones’ Team Parker Racing Mercedes.

Kelvin Fletcher and Martin Plowman in the Beechdean Aston Martin Pro/Am GT4 entry were in contention for a podium until they spun during a frenetic end to the race caused in no small part by a lapped Ben Hurst electing to race the leaders.

Hurst would hold Maxwell, Jones, McCulley, Johnson and Fletcher up for two laps as the former British F3 man who would go on to finish 14th almost had a deciding role in the destiny of the winner’s trophies late on.

Michael Broadhurst and Will Moore would both go on to have shunts at Cascades, both playing a part in bringing about Safety Cars, with TF Sport’s Tom Canning receiving a 30s stop/go penalty for causing Broadhurst’s off and Moore’s off completing a bad afternoon for Matt Nicoll-Jones’ Academy Motorsport team.

British GT: GT3 De Haan’s first victory as Cocker and Barwell Celebrate

Sam De Haan took his first British GT victory in his second season with Barwell Motorsport in a dramatic Race Two at Oulton Park.

De Haan passed Abba Racing’s Richard Neary late on after applying enormous pressure on the Mercedes, who gamely hung on for long periods.

Neary, partnered with Adam Christodoulou held off Andrew Howard and Marco Sorensen’s improving Beechdean Aston Martin for second, with early pacesetters Adam Balon and Phil Keen eventually settling for fourth.

Dominic Paul was a solid fifth alongside Jack Mitchell in the Century run BMW with Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson’s Optimum Aston Martin V8 Vantage sixth.

The quick Iain Loggie and Callum Macleod RAM Racing Mercedes entry was seventh after an eventful race, the former having adventures and running wide at Cascades when running third. Race One winners Seb Morris and Rick Parfitt Junior in the #31 JRM Bentley were tenth in GT3 after late contact dropped the 2017 Champions down the order, while a frustrated Nicki Thiim and Mark Farmer retired to bring about the Safety Car just after GT3 pit stops.

Keen made much of the early running for Barwell Motorsport in a first stint punctuated by an early Safety Car as a result of a GT4 Mercedes beaching itself in the gravel at Cascades.

The Reading-based driver again made hay by pulling out a four-second lead before being held up in the now customary British GT pitlane chaos, with Neary the winner of the pitlane battles.

Thiim had climbed to fifth for Aston Martin before Farmer, who spun in Race One, repeated the trick while battling with Iain Loggie at Island Bend.

De Haan then set about Neary in relentless fashion, hustling and harrying the Mercedes before finally prising the door open at Hislop’s, the bottleneck ensuring that Howard passed Balon for fourth before Loggie’s off.

British GT – GT4: HHC and Dean MacDonald/Callum Pointon take GT4 Opening Race Honours

HHC Motorsport made a dream start to life with McLaren by winning their first race as a partnership courtesy of Dean MacDonald and Callum Pointon.

The duo were a feature at the front for the entire race having managed to split the leading Multimatic Racing Ford Mustangs of Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell, the Mustangs having been dominant on Saturday during qualifying.

Maxwell and teammate Seb Priaulx would go on to have dramas that would drop the fast Ford back through the order during the second stint as Maxwell went through the gravel after contact and Priaulx spun into the wall while on a comeback trail.

Buford and Chad McCumbee also dropped back as Mustang dominance on Saturday gave way to all-conquering McLarens in Race One on Monday morning.

The Tolman McLaren of James Dorlin and Lewis Smith took second place after an eventful run that included contact with the sister car of Jordan Collard. Collard and Lewis Proctor would retire from second on the penultimate lap after catching fire while challenging for the lead.

The second HHC McLaren of Luke Williams and Tom Jackson was third ahead of McCumbee and Butford, while Josh Price and Patrick Kibble of TF Sport were the highest placed Aston Martin in fifth position.

Matt George and Steve McCulley were the Pro/Am category winners in the Invictus Racing Jaguar ahead of Martin Plowman and Kelvin Fletcher, the former passing Plowman’s Beechdean Aston Martin late on to steal victory in class.

British GT – Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Morris Win GT3 Opening Race

Rick Parfitt Junior and Seb Morris took a popular victory in the opening round of the season after an eventful start to the race on JRM’s British GT debut.

Phil Keen and Adam Balon were second as the lead two cars were in a class of their own, before Bradley Ellis and Ollie Wilkinson held off Jonny Cocker and Sam De Haan.

The two Century Motorsport BMWs driven Ben Green/Dominic Paul and Jack Mitchell/Adrian Willmott were next ahead of Jonny Adam/Graham Davidson and Adam Christodoulou/Richard Neary.

Rounding out the GT3 finishers were Marco Sorensen/Andrew Howard and Nicki Thiim/Mark Farmer, the latter spinning early on and unable to make inroads thereafter.

Drama found the British GT series as early as the second lap when Ryan Ratcliffe’s optimistic move on polesitter Iain Loggie had predictable consequences, the Scotsman spun around and both drivers left out of the race after just two minutes.

A lengthy clean up operation saw the Safety Car out for over ten minutes, and Parfitt was able to capitalise on his inherited lead having passed Sam De Haan at the start.

Parfitt was able to pull out a lead of over four seconds over De Haan, who had the attentions of both Century Motorsport BMWs of Paul and Willmott to contend with for much of the opening stint.

While almost all of the GT3 competitors pitted as soon as possible, Parfitt allowed an extra lap to avoid traffic in a tight Oulton Park pit lane. De Haan found out to his cost how tight the pit lane can be, as he lost several positions when handing over to teammate Cocker.

Cocker would pressurise the Aston Martin of Bradley Ellis for the duration of their second stint for third place to little avail at a narrow and twisty Oulton Park, with third place through to ninth covered by five seconds.