Monday, July 22, 2024

Toyota takes control of Porsche after Kubica penalty

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After nine hours of frenetic activity, Toyota driver Ryo Hirakawa was at the front in his No. 8 car after previous leader, Robert Kubica, was handed a 30-second stop-and-go penalty for causing a spectacular crash on the Mulsanne Straight.

What happened to Kubica:

The seventh hour began with a short but powerful rain at dusk, with Kubica’s No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari leading the No. 5 Porsche by more than 45 seconds. Kubica entered the pits on wet tyres, while the official Ferraris remained on slicks, and the conditions were so extreme that the Pole overtook the No. 51 Ferrari as it struggled, waiting for the track to dry. The yellow flag quickly became necessary when Claudio Schiavone’s #60 Iron Lynx Lamborghini GT3 swerved and hit the barrier in the second Mulsanne Chicane.

Kubica reported a gearbox temperature caution, but was told to go ahead on his wet tyres, and is now well ahead of Hirakawa, in the No. 8 Toyota. Seven laps later, the former Formula 1 driver switched from wet to soft dry tyres, but maintained on the lead when the No. 8 car did the same, putting the No. 50 Ferrari back into second place. Kubica’s lead was then reduced by Nicklas Nielsen, who built a lead by continuing to play dry drives.

The first safety car of the race was required when Kubica collided at high speed with the No. 15 BMW of Dries Vanthoor, sending it into the barriers hard at the end of the Mulsanne straight. The Belgian complained of pain in his foot while limping. Vanthoor, who had a bad week at La Sarthe, was trying to stay on the lead lap, both riding the No. 92 Manthey PureXRacing Porsche 911 GT3 at the time. “He was racing me and pushing me in the wet conditions,” Kubica complained.

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After a long period with the safety car that lasted more than an hour and a half to repair barriers, during which a dog came out onto the track, the rain returned as the race resumed at the end of the eighth hour. The race was green flagged and most of the cars were slick. The No. 5 Porsche of Fred Makovitzki and the No. 311 Cadillac of Pipo Derani remained in the lead, while the rest entered the pits to change to rain tires.

Kubica, with a full wet, quickly got rid of Derani and chased Makovici, passing him just before the end of the next lap. But the 39-year-old received a 30-second penalty for a collision with Vanthor. His advantage increased to 6 seconds over Hirakawa, who inherited the lead when he served a suspension.

Laurens Vanthoor finished second in the No. 6 Porsche, 15 seconds behind Hirakawa and 10 seconds behind the No. 7 Toyota of Nick de Vries. Kubica returned to sixth behind Alex Lynn’s No. 2 Cadillac. Makovici dropped to eleventh place on dry tires after his stubborn attempt failed. Lynn overtook the No. 50 Ferrari of Antonio Fuoco to take fifth, pushing the three Ferraris from fifth to seventh.

In LMP2, the No. 10 Vector Sport Oreca of Stephane Richelmy lost its class lead during SC, promoting the No. 37 Cool Racing car to pole position, although Lorenzo Fluxa spun before entering the pits during the rain. The No. 22 from United Autosports and the No. 24 from Nielsen Racing also benefited.

Further confusion arose when the Duqueine team’s No. 30 Mulsanne caught fire directly in Jakub Smiechowski’s hands. Malthe Jakobsen was out front in the #37 after 9 hours, ahead of Fabio Scherer in the #24 and Ben Barnicoat in the #183 of AF Corse.

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In the new LMGT3 class, the drama began at the start of the seventh hour, when Maxime Martin, in the No. 46 BMW in which he had just replaced Valentino Rossi, collided with Ben Hanley’s No. 23 United Autosports LMP2 car, which he spun. Martin evaded a penalty and drove the No. 92 Manthey PureRxing Porsche.

The #70 McLaren pole car entered the garage in a cloud of steam after Brendon Iribe hit something hard.

On the restart, after a long safety car, Klaus Bachler spun the No. 92 Porsche as it entered the pits and fell wide onto the table. This gave the advantage to the No. 91 Porsche of Richard Lietz, which was left slick, but Bachler made up for it by returning to the top of the class, ahead of Dennis Olsen’s Proton Ford Mustang. Jordan Taylor was also in the fray in a Spirit of Race Ferrari 296.

Shortly before the end of the ninth hour, Ahmed Al Harthy in the No. 46 BMW took off towards Essis, completely eliminating him from the competition for the highest titles.

What happened to Valentino Rossi’s No. 46 BMW:

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