Certainly one of the most famous race of all time, the 85th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was as epic as its reputation. One article will never be enough to make you feel the atmosphere of this incredible race. In this article we will present you the highlights which impressed us the most and we will try to make you live this unique experience. Photos : Thomas Z. ©
The free try and qualifications
The first thing you will notice when entering the racetrack is the noise. The exhaust of the LMP2 and GTE category is extremely loud. You can barely listen to them without earplugs. The LMP1, with their different regulation and hybrid system seems to be a bit more quiet. The main highlight of this qualification was the lap time set by the Toyota #7 driven by Kamui Kobayashi. With an average speed 251.882 km/h, Kobayashi has set the best time ever made on the Circuit de la Sarthe: 3 minutes 14.791 seconds. This lap time is even faster than the ones set on the ‘older’ track with fewer corners and shorter total distance!
Thus Toyota has to demonstrate that they had the fastest car, but will they have the most reliable car, to avoid the terrible ending of 2016?
Setting the best lap time of all time and with the more powerful car, it is no surprise that the two first cars on the starting line were the Toyota TS050 Hybrid #7 and #8. Followed by the two Porsche 919 #1 and #2. In the LMP2 category, the first place was occupied by the Russian team G-Drive with the car #26 followed by the Manor #25 and the Jackie Chan DC Racing #38. First place in the GTE-PRO was led by the Aston Martin Racing #97 followed by the Ferrari 488 GTE #51 and another Aston Martin with the number 95. Finally, in the last category, the Corvette C7-Z06 #50 from Larbre Competition was first followed by the #98 from Aston Martin Racing and Ferrari 488 GTE #62 from Scuderia Corsa.
The late afternoon
Certainly the biggest crash of the 85th edition, at 8:00 pm the Ferrari #82 driven by the German driver Pierre Kaffer was pushed against the safety barrier by the Oreca #28. Hopefully the driver is safe.
We could have named the night of the 17th of June 2017: ‘The nightmare of Toyota’. It is almost 1 am, after 10 hours and 6 minutes of race the Toyota #7, leader of the race, break down due to a clutch problem. Similarly to 2016, this problem appeared just after the pit lane entrance ! Porsche, with the number 1, is in the first place. The Toyota #9 is in the second place and the #8 is still in the pit due to break problem. In full pursuit of the Porsche, the Toyota #9 is hit by the Dallara P217 Gibson #47 at the exit of the pit lane. At the first sight this hit was no big deal, but later, the rear left tyre of Toyota explode! Meters after the explosion of the tyre, the engine starts bursting into flames. Nicolas Lapierre, driving the Toyota #9, stops the engine to avoid the flames from spreading. He then tries to make the car start again, manage to make 20 meters and then break down again. The Toyota #9 is out of the race. In only 20 minutes Toyota has lost its two leading cars, Porsche is now leading the race far ahead from the Toyota #8. The curse from 2016 seems not to have left Toyota.
11:40 am, it is more than 10 hours that the Porsche #1 is leading the race. The Porsche #2 is catching its missing laps one by one, and the Toyota #8 is still far away. 11:41 am, the Porsche #1 have an engine oil pressure problem. André Lotterer, after many effort to get back to the pit, was too far from them and the cars broke down before Mulsanne. The Porsche #1 is out of the race and leave its first place to the #38 LMP2 from Jacky Chan DC Racing! Unbelievable! A LMP2 is the first position of the 24 hours of le Mans, 3 hours before the end of the race! The Porsche #2 is driving as fast as it can, reducing the gap with the #38 a bit each laps, and finally overtook it at 13:53 pm just before the Arnage Curves. One hour later Porsche won its 19th victory at Le Mans and Jackie Chan DC racing is at the second place on the podium. Its the first time in the history that a LMP2 is on the podium ! As always, an amazing race with an unpredictable ending. See you next year !
Winner of the category Lmp1: #2 Porsche LMP Team BERNHARD / BAMBER / HARTLEY (First in the overall ranking)
Winner of the category Lmp2: #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing TUNG / LAURENT / JARVIS (Second in the overall ranking)
Winner of the category GTE-PRO: #97 Aston Martin Racing TURNER / ADAM / SERRA Aston Martin Vantage (17th in the overall ranking)
Winner of the category GTE-AM: #84 JMW Motorsport SMITH / STEVENS / VANTHOOR Ferrari 488 GTE (26th in the overall ranking)