A driver has been banned ahead of this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans “for the safety of himself and other competitors,” per race stewards after multiple crashes in the run-up to the event.
Philippe Cimadomo, a 62-year-old bronze-rated driver from France that was set to compete in the Pro-Am LMP2 class on behalf of TDS Racing, crashed heavily in Thursday’s Free Practice 3 session in the Porsche Curves. Cimadomo lost control of his Oreca 07 Gibson and speared off into a tire wall, destroying the front of the car and causing the session to be stopped with a red flag. The driver was unhurt, and no other cars were implicated in the incident. The crash can be seen below:
Before this, Cimadomo was reported for causing an accident in Wednesday practice and almost causing another in the pit lane. While this was to be his first 24 Hours of Le Mans start, Cimadomo reportedly told stewards that he had experience in the European Le Mans Series, and chalked the incidents at the Circuit de la Sarthe up to “momentary lapses.” From Sportscar365:
“The driver explained to the stewards that he has competed in LMP2 cars previously in ELMS without incident, and the incidents during FP1 and FP3 represented momentary lapses.
“Further, he stated that he felt that he had gained experience throughout the practice sessions and felt more confident in his capacity to compete. However, the stewards have concluded that a pattern exists that cannot be ignored at this time.”
That’s probably for the best, as a momentary lapse at one of the fastest circuits in the world is a little more concerning than such a lapse during other facets of life. On Friday morning, TDS Racing confirmed that while Cimadomo is out, it will still compete in the endurance event — only as a fully-pro LMP2 team. That’s because reigning Formula E champion Nyck De Vries will replace the banned bronze driver, per Eurosport. De Vries already happened to be in town because he’s a reserve driver for Toyota’s factory squad, so this has worked out to be a pretty good trade for TDS.
I tried to look into other drivers being banned from planned Le Mans starts in recent years, but came up empty. This event and indeed all of sportscar racing has a rich tradition of amateur participation, but when it allows individuals to enter that really aren’t ready for the responsibility, perhaps more stringent screenings and ratings regulations are in order.