Six hours, 56 minutes and 22 seconds. This is how long this edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans lasted for Cetilar Racing team, on their fifth participation in the La Sarthe race, the first running the #47 Ferrari 488 GTE and unfortunately, also the first one the team “all made in Italy” could not conclude.
An incident occurred during the 90th lap – caused by a Porsche of higher category in a risky attempt of overtaking – pushed the driver Roberto Lacorte against the barrier with no escape. Given the extent of damage, it was impossible to take off again to everyone’s great disappointment. Disappointed was the Tuscan driver, who was completing a stint made very hard by the wet track, especially in some spots of the track. Disappointed was his teammate Antonio Fuoco, at his first experience in the French race, third in the LMGTE Am qualification, who take a great fourth place in the Hyperpole and showed a perfect performance in the first two hours and a half of the race when he managed to take the lead of his category. Disappointed was Giorgio Sernagiotto too, in his fifth participation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Lacorte, after an admirable second driving shift.
Disappointed was the whole team, under AF Corse technical management, who gave themselves body and soul to this new adventure. This “zero” is not certainly good for the standings either, since before this fourth round out of six of FIA World Endurance Championship Lacorte, Sernagiotto and Fuoco had the class leadership after winning the 8 Hours of Portimão and hitting third place in the opening race of Spa.
This 89th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans started with rain, two extra formation laps and a little big thrill even before the proper start of the race, when the other Ferrari of the Inception Racing driven by the Briton Ben Barnicoat rear-ended Fuoco, blameless, during the first warm-up lap. A light damage for Cetilar Racing, as the accident concerned one of the exhausts, which did not prevent the driver from Cosenza, who had obviously started with the wet tires, from keeping the fourth position at the start and then climbing up to the second one, taking the lead at the end of the half hour.
Fuoco stayed ahead until ten minutes to the end of the first hour, when he returned to the pits to get the slicks as the tarmac started to improve gradually. Once back on track, he always remained in the leading pack and passed on the torch to Sernagiotto around 6.30 pm, almost simultaneously with another brief rain. The driver from Veneto was once again among the leading pack, taking the second place before Marcos Gomes’ Aston Martin went off track and the safety car came in. At the restart Sernagiotto went up first, battling with the other 488 GTE car of Scott Andrews and resisting the attacks of the Australian driver. He then made a short fuel stop and re-entered as third.
After five hours of racing, Lacorte got into the car at 9 pm. Fifteen minutes later another safety car came in for an incident occurred between two LMP2 cars at the Dunlop curve, the “number 47” almost getting involved in it. At the restart (after a 20-minute neutralization period) the Tuscan driver slipped to fifth position, also because of the track made slippery by the rain and the approaching night which caused the temperature to lower. At the end of the sixth hour, there was a brief Full Course Yellow.
At 10.25 pm, another safety car came in as Egidio Perfetti’s Porsche went off the track. In that very same moment, the Cetilar Racing Ferrari climbed to seventh position after a previous detour. At last, the incident in Tertre Rouge during a complicated phase strongly influenced by the wet track: the attempt of a Porsche LMGTE Pro to squeeze in a delicate place and the contact that brought Lacorte’s car on the tarmacked albeit slippery escape route, then the stop against the guardrail.
“I think that what happened here is quite clear to everyone”, Roberto Lacorte said. “I was coming from a difficult stint, with intermittent rain and a mixture of wet and dry parts on the circuit. Actually, there were many twists and turns during that hour. I had the tires up to temperature though, and I finally managed to get into the right pace. Unfortunately, a Porsche with three laps of delay ran into me in a silly way, without mincing words. It was silly also because in the following section of the track there would have been the Hunaudières straight and since it was a Pro car, it could have easily outrun me. Right in that section the dry path followed a very precise pattern, otherwise I would have probably been able to regain control of the car and limit the damage despite the contact. It’s a pity, since there’s no doubt we could do well, and this result will affect our standings in the championship. At least I can most certainly say that since the free practice sessions we showed that we have one of the three fastest cars. Everyone in the team is highly motivated by a strong passion; it was touching to see their disappointment, as it’s touching to exult all together like it has already happened during this year. Now I can’t wait to go to Bahrain.”
“I made a good qualifying on Thursday. Also, the start and the first phase of the race looked really promising”, Antonio Fuoco added.”Unfortunately, we have been unlucky twice. First of all, because the Porsche pushed Roberto against the barriers, and secondly because restarting was not an option. We lost many points for the championship for sure, but at the same time we must stay focused. As far as the standings are concerned, we are not out of the game yet, and we will try and do our best until the very end.”
“The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the toughest race in the world, so things like this can happen”,Giorgio Sernagiotto said. “But we were always very fast, constantly in the top three. We put ourselves out there until the end and proved to have a line-up of drivers who absolutely measure up, and great technicians, mechanics, and engineers. I can’t be anything but positive for the next two races. This one did not go as expected, but this can happen… Le Mans can be a great lover, but also a cruel partner.”
Now there will be an over two-month break, then the double trip to Bahrain with the 6 Hours scheduled on October 30th and the 8 Hours only a week later.
Source. Cetilar Racing/Photo. Fabio Taccola