It’s early in the morning at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and in case you didn’t pick it up from the cutaways to sleeping crew members, folks are clearly a bit tired. This morning started off with a few major crashes ‘n’ bashes. One of the unlucky cars that had to retire was one of the brand new BMW M8 GTEs as it was on a mad charge to climb up from ninth place in its class. Ouch!
Alexander Sims was behind the wheel of the No. 82 BMW M8 GTE when it spun out and hit the barrier with around eight and a half hours left in the race. Sims was charging hard to claw up from ninth place in the LMGTE Pro class, but hitting one barrier and then ping-ponging into the opposite side barrier smashed up both ends of the car.
Making matters worse, a tire on the No. 82 exploded in spectacular fashion, as bodywork rubbing against it from the crash caused it to fail as Sims was trying to limp the M8 back into the pits. Rough luck, M8. The car was forced to retire shortly afterwards as it was simply too damaged.
Its sister No. 81 BMW M8 GTE also had to spend some time in the garage, albeit for a less concerning radiator swap. It’s currently fifteenth in class at the time of this writing. This hasn’t been BMW’s morning for their two-car M8 debut at Le Mans.
Sadly for fans following the Americans in the race, experienced Ferrari racer Jeff Segal was the next car to spin and tap the wall in the No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari.
Shortly after those of crashes, this year’s LMGTE Am pole-winning No. 88 Porsche 911 RSR ate the wall. Factory-backed Porsche hotshoe Matteo Cairoli was behind the wheel, but even his talented hands couldn’t save the car when its right rear suspension failed. That failure sent the left side of the 911's nose into the wall by the Ford Chicane. The No. 88 was fifth in its class before the smash, but they have not retired it yet. It may come back out!
The most spectacular crash and recovery came courtesy of the No. 10 DragonSpeed car, which ate the wall at the Porsche Curves with seven hours and 39 minutes left in the race. Driver Ben Hanley was likely going around 150 mph at this point on the track in this privateer, non-hybrid LMP1 car. The rear was barely held together but the car started back up and was able to drive.
Living up to the car’s Evel Knievel-inspired livery, Hanley opted to drive this barely working car back into the pits just three minutes later. You could see the pits from where he crashed, so why not? (Asks a person who got badly hurt by trying to limp a slow busted car slowly back in during a Lemons race when pit entry was just over a crest. I know why not! It’s a trap—sometimes.)
Fortunately, this worked when Hanley did it today, but sadly, the crew wasn’t exactly in a rush to fix the extensive damage to the car. The team’s garage door has since been closed, which is the usual sign that the car is retired.
We’ll probably see more of this kind of oops-action as the day wears on in France and weary drivers and beaten cars continue to circulate around the track. Ten cars have now retired from the race as of this writing.
For those of you following the overall lead, shocker—Fernando Alonso and friends’ No. 8 Toyota TS050 leads its sister No. 7 Toyota TS050. I would adjust my tin foil hat to say that the fix is in, but we’ve got six hours and 48 minutes left to go at the time of this writing.
Both Toyotas got busted for speeding in a slow zone this morning, so both had to serve a one-minute stop and go penalty. Not that it matters much, as both Toyotas are still ten laps ahead of the next-fastest LMP1, the No. 3 Rebellion Racing car.