The Ferrari 488 GTE no. 51 was second over the line in the LMGTE Pro class, while no. 83 came third in the LMGTE Am at the end of the eightyeighth edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The world’s most famous endurance marathon was held behind closed doors for the first time, with sixteen Ferraris lining up at the start.
LMGTE Pro. The Ferrari 488 GTE no. 51, last year’s winner with Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra, fought an exciting duel with the Aston Martin no. 97 of Martin-Lynn-Tincknell, decided only in the last half hour in favour of the British car. The race saw the AF Corse crew hold the lead for a long time, only relinquishing it whenever they stopped to refuel. The three Prancing Horse standard-bearers used strategy and talent in an attempt to compensate for the seconds lost during the various Slow-Zones and the higher base speed of their rivals. They nearly pulled it off, only frustrated by the last Safety Car, which came on about thirty minutes before the end. Fourth place went to Risi Competizione no. 82 with Olivier Pla, Sébastien Bourdais and Jules Gounon, who recorded some excellent times during the night, mainly thanks to the four-time Champ Car champion Bourdais, a native of Le Mans. A gearbox failure on the last lap stopped AF Corse no. 71 from crossing the line in fourth. The crew of Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Sam Bird were always among the leaders until a puncture during the night knocked them out of the fight for victory. After a contact with an LMP2 class prototype, WeatherTech Racing’s Ferrari, driven by Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeffrey Segal, retired.
LMGTE Am. The third position gained with a final push by AF Corse 488 GTE no. 83 with François Perrodo, Emmanuel Collard and Nicklas Nielsen, is a great result sealed by the Danish driver’s decisive overtaking of the Porsche of Project 1 less than ten minutes from the chequered flag. This excellent performance was rounded off by three other Prancing Horse cars, with JMW Motorsport no. 66 in sixth with Heistand-RootMagnussen, Luzich Racing no. 61 in seventh with Piovanetti-Negri JR-Ledogar, quickest in Saturday’s Hyperpole session, and Iron Lynx no. 85 with the all-woman crew of Gostner-Frey-Gatting ninth at the finish line. Iron Lynx no. 60 crossed under the flag in eleventh, AF Corse no. 54 in thirteenth, and Red River Sport no. 62 in fifteenth.
Next appointment The FIA WEC calendar includes one more leg, the 8 Hours of Bahrain from 12 to 14 November.
Alessandro Pier Guidi, AF Corse #51: “It’s a real shame; we all really believed in this victory. We finished second, but at least we have no regrets as we gave our all and couldn’t have done any better. The car and AF Corse were perfect. The strategy was also very good and the drivers performed well, staying out of trouble. I want June of next year to come around so that I can try again.”
James Calado, AF Corse #51: “We have to see the positive side of this, that is, to have finished second at Le Mans. It’s my third podium and we have to be happy even though I honestly don’t feel the same emotions as last year. Expectations were high to repeat the win but we didn’t succeed because the Aston Martins were faster. We got the maximum that was within our reach and the team did an excellent job and, even if second place is not what we had hoped for, it allows us to pick up some important points.”
Daniel Serra, AF Corse #51: “Finishing second is a positive result, but it’s not what we wanted. We fought all the way through for the victory. I think our race was good, perhaps better than last year’s. Today it was difficult to beat Aston Martin, both the team and the drivers did a great job.”
Nicklas Nielsen, AF Corse #83: “This has been my first participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and I am delighted with the result. The third place today feels like a victory to me. It was really tough but it was important to make it to the finish line. I want to thank Ferrari, the team, the engineers and all the mechanics. It is an important result for the championship, even if it will continue to be hard.”
François Perrodo, AF Corse #83: “I am extremely happy with this splendid result. The race was very tough, perhaps the most difficult edition in which I have participated. The level in the LMGTE Am class is as high as ever, as we have already seen in the FIA WEC. We have a great team who have done an excellent job. Emmanuel has the experience and Nicklas is talented. The start was not easy with the puncture but we gradually made up ground from thirteenth to third place.”
Emmanuel Collard, AF Corse #83: “We are happy with this third place as far as the championship goes. We tried to get as many points as possible as we were fourth with half an hour still to go. Nicklas in the last part of the race got involved in a great battle which he came out of on top to clinch the third position.”