While nobody has burst into flames or popped a tire in the middle of a stint (yet) this year, Le Mans has taken enough automotive sacrifices to please the racing gods for the rest of the summer at least.
If you’re not able to watch or just want to relive the excitement, then we’ve got you covered. Here’s a rundown of the best crashes at the Circuit de la Sarthe during the first third of the biggest race in the world. We’ve already got you covered on the first lap drama and Jeroen Bleekemolen’s magical gravel trap save; now let us do the rest.
An early downer struck Gulf Racing UK’s chances at a class victory in GTE-Am. Driver Michael Wainwright wiped out just before the second hour of this 24 hour race—that is, he definitely crashed from the lead. That’s a downer.
He managed to get the car going again and take it back to the pits, but the damage to the barrier at Indianapolis resulted in a long slow-zone. That meant Dempsey-Proton Racing took the lead of the class, a whole thirty seconds ahead of the competition. That’s gotta sting for Wainwright and crew.
Bad news for the ByKolles team that spun even before the race started. Driver Dominik Kraihamer made contact with a GTE-Am car that absolutely shattered his own machine. It was bad enough to run into lapped traffic, but then Kraihamer proceeded to crash into the barrier just before the Porsche Curves.
It looked like a bad shunt, but thankfully Kraihamer was able to exit the car unaided and unhurt. The crash also brought out a yellow flag while the mess of debris was collected from the Mulsanne Straight.
The subsequent safety car was well-timed for some on-track shenanigans. Driver Laurens Vanthoor of the GTE Pro class passed the No. 91 of Fred Makowiecki and made a successful driver change just before the safety car came out. Which meant that the cars that were slower to pit, the No. 91 Porsche and the No. 38 Ford, got held at pit exit.
So, the No. 69 Ford driven by Scott Dixon and the No. 81 BMW M8 driven by Nick Catsburg moved up to second and third. And then Catsburg passed Dixon to steal second.
Unfortunately, the ByKolles crash also meant that some great battles were nipped in the bud thanks to the pit stops—but let’s stay positive.
I’m sure Montoya finds it less funny that he just kinda… didn’t turn and subsequently just drove his United Autosports Ligier straight into the barrier at Indianapolis. Bringing out the double yellow flags is probably not the fond memory you want to have of your Le Mans debut and your attempt at the Triple Crown.
The damage wasn’t formidable enough to end his attempt, but Montoya did have to wait for a crew to extract him from the gravel, which means he lost a whole lot of time to his rivals. In his own words:
“Just got on the brakes and locked them up and ran out of talent.”
Only Juan Pablo Montoya can make ‘running out of talent’ look so nonchalant.
Bad news for Paul Dalla Lana behind the wheel of the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing entry. The driver went straight ahead in the Porsche Curves and smooched the barrier just before he was due to swap cars with his teammate.
The Canadian driver didn’t look like he was able to stop the car, and it unfortunately put an end to what was shaping up to be a second-place run for the GTE-Am car.
The No. 17 SMP car piloted by Matevos Isaakyan skated over the gravel at the Porsche Curves and ended up binning it flat-out. It’s a heartbreaking end of a third-place run for the car. It almost looked like he would be able to drive back to the pits for some maintenance, but marshals weren’t having any of it.
The dejected driver attempted to tear off some of the damaged bodywork that was holding him back, but once he was out of the car, it was all over. Isaakyan was loath the leave the car and tried to call the team for guidance, but the marshals were persistent.
It’s bad news for a team whose No. 35 car had just suffered a puncture moments before the crash.