This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans has primarily been a transitional edition of the French endurance classic. Most of the attention is focused on the next year’s impending influx of manufacturers into prototype racing, as well as the introduction of modified GT3 machinery. Despite the lack of competition for the overall victory this year, there still has been some enjoyable wheel-to-wheel racing and stunning moments.
A moment that grabbed everyone’s attention took place at the first corner of the 24-hour race. The #22 United Autosports Oreca driven by Will Owen was pinched by two other cars in the LMP2 class just after the field crossed the start-finish line to begin the race. René Rast drove his #31 WRT Oreca around Owen’s right-hand side while former F1 driver Robert Kubica took his #9 Prema Orlen Team Oreca around the left-hand side.
Rast made contact with Owen, sending him into the massive gravel trap that lines the outside of the first corner, Dunlop Curve. The United prototype was able to be recovered, repaired and rejoined the race two laps behind. At the time of publication, the #22 United Autosports Oreca is currently 13th in its class, four laps behind the LMP2 class leader.
Rast was given a one-minute stop-and-go penalty as he was deemed at fault for making contact with Owen. Though, I would attribute blame to Kubica for moving onto the curb and initiating the three-wide situation.
Since the start, the lead battles in both prototype classes have been non-existent. Toyota Gazoo Racing has entirely run away with the overall victory. There was an intra-team battle between Toyota’s #7 and #8 hypercars until the #7 had an issue with its hybrid system. In LMP2, the #38 JOTA Oreca has been arguably the best entry in any class. At points, the JOTA had lapped the entire class despite LMP2 consisting of almost only Oreca-built prototypes.