Wednesday, July 22, 2015

THE OTHER QUARTER OF BATTLE - 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans recap (part 2)

As the dawn came, one rule to come in mind is that even the worst runner of the race would never give up until the race finished. In this case, the #23 Nissan, as pictured, driven by Oliver Pla, Jann Mardenborough and Max Chilton was this. (Image: Club Nissan Elite)

Previously, the sixteen hours of 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans were filled by GTEs engulfed in flames, LMP2s spinning around, and certain LMP1s having too much problem. But at the same time, the battles within these different classes were all burning hard; you have a three-way bout between works efforts of Corvette, Aston Martin and Ferrari in the GTE-Pro category, then there were GTE-Am cars bopping their buns rear bumpers off for survival, LMP2 cars trying to stop KCMG's dominant run, and, of course, the cat-and-mouse duel between Audi and Porsche for the Le Mans wins this year, which will determine either Audi will continue its dominance or that Porsche broke its streak in its own home, avenging their last year's loss.

It has been one sleep and one breakfast for the past sixteen hours racing, now here goes the recap for the other eight which took place in a time where the moment was right: lunch.


Roald Goethe, the one who was driving the #96 Aston Martin competing in GTE-Am class, crashed to a solid barrier outside the Porsche Curves after being given a surprise dive by the #19 Porsche (Image: ACO / Sportscar365)

Eight hours to the race finish, everyone was bopping their best in order to finish the race. So far, Richard Howson and Pedro Lamy has taken their #QuadrupleStint dose, and now the McDreamy was driving again, now third in GTE-Am as eight minutes went past the seventeenth hour mark. While you were still wondering why it wasn't Meredith Grey's drive there, #7 Audi rejoined the race two laps and two track positions down, #45 Ibañez Oreca followed #7 Audi's suit (this time at Tertre Rouge), and #55 AF Corse had a little bit off as the prototypes overtook the horse from the inside. René Rast meanwhile was turning his jandal up to eleven in his #9 Audi in an attempt to gain pace, and #35 Oak Racing Ligier scored a new achievement among the Ligiers and LMP2s of "double spin" as it spun twice in the race. But then, Roald Goethe's big shunt was devastating enough and damaged the #96 AMR he was driving heavily, which may trigger the repeat of the history two years ago, considering that the barrier the car shunted was SOLID (read: no tires or the like) and that the #19 Porsche dived to the AMR's inside. Thankfully, the driver was conscious and was later taken to the medical center, but it triggered the fourth safety car in the race.

The start of the on-track morning exchange, doubles as a lunch banter here in my place.

But before the shunt happened, I took the time to have a good morning exchange with Strakka Racing and ThePitCrew on Twitter. It was actually started when Strakka posted a photo of their latest delivery which consisted of some edible fuels. The timing was right because it was posted during the lunch period in my place and for some reason I felt hungry. Granted that I had enough dose of Critics' Choice Awards, I thought I had to make a Le Mans version of the award's #TweetADrink: #TweetAFood, and I already nominated The Pit Crew 2000, without any doubt, because they were hungry. Apparently, another hungry call was called, yet I was sure that there were more hungry calls undetected by me.

Back to the race, it was green again as the race had less than seven hours to go at disposal. Unsurprisingly, another Ligier spun again, but the main focus now was back on the LMP1s as Webber slotted the #17 Porsche in second right ahead of #9 Audi but behind his teammate in the #19 Porsche. Yet, the #7 Audi strengthened its pace that he un-lapped himself from the leading Porsche. The #9 Audi later pitted in and later #19 Porsche and #7 took their pits also. The order was left unchanged entering the nineteenth hour: a Porsche 1-2 and a full-house Audi on their tail. Unfortunately, this was when I took an afternoon nap.

With six hours to go, KCMG has made its first get together, running slightly wide somewhere, and later on Krohn yet again spun his own Ligier, scoring another Ligier spin for an amount I cannot even bother to count. Meanwhile more dramas for the GTEs as #55 GTE-Am AF Corse ran out of fuel and stopped at Indianapolis, while the category's leader the #98 Aston Martin had a visit to the gravel of Porsche Curves. Another GTE-Am car had a moment at Ford Chicane which was actually the Viper, and in the GTE-Pro, there was a pit fracas where the #51 AF Corse and the Corvette went two-wide in the pit lane and was under investigation even though the Corvette won the fracas, but then there was no further action taken on the investigation. Speaking of side-by-side, another montage of this was also shown by Porsche and Audi through the slow zone. Yet another set of LMP2 dramas for this hour happened, first with Strakka Dome doing some CTRL+ALT+DELETE as they were stuck in gear and KCMG having an off with the #23 Nissan at the Arnage in which they were running straight to the runoff. Thankfully, KCMG was fine as the race went back to green, only this time their gap to the second-place G-Drive was now down to 90 seconds.

Entering the 20th hour, more problems abound in the LMP2 class, starting with Strakka Racing's retirement. Yes, the same team whose food porn saved the paddock from the hunger (I cannot believe they retired... -_-). The Dome-Nissan car was revealed to have a hydraulic problem in its gear mechanism later on. Murphy Prototypes also had a problem of their own as they had a terminal damage and forced to repair the car in the pits, and #37 SMP BR01 also had one though with a left rear tire puncture, granted that Mikhail Aleshin, the driver, was able to take it back to the pits. It didn't end there for SMP Racing as its GTE-Am brother hit the tire barriers at Indianapolis. As time flew, Krohn Racing was fighting with its traction control issues (which might be the reason why Krohn Racing, if not all Ligiers, spun a lot in the race), ByKolles fighting more engine issues, and #22 Nissan doing more work on the gearbox.

"Wet Track" they said...

Less than four hours left, the track has been declared wet by the Race Control. The #17 Porsche went off through the first corner's gravel when it was trying to avoid the GTE Ferrari it wanted to lap, as #8 Audi and #91 Porsche were doing some bodywork jobs while #27 SMP BR01 was scattering some fairy dust tire carcass in the middle of the road. The Viper team apparently was having gear-related problems as Jeroen Bleekemolen said, and later on its stop-and-go penalty made everything worse for the sole Viper. The Audi squad meanwhile put its #9 to the pit garage for quick repairs yet in its outlap flopped at the second Hunaudiéres chicane, and later also put its #8 Audi for a 2-minute engine cover fix, without further flopping thankfully. As Porsche pitted at the end of Hour 21, the #9 visited the garage once again for another lengthy repair. The final hours of this year's Le Mans had just begun from here on.


First time in 17 years; Porsche has finally broken Audi's dominance in Le Mans this year, with its #19, driven by Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, and Earl Bamber, crossing the line in first place outright. (Image:

At the start of the final three hours, Team Dempsey fought against Scuderia Corsa as Patrick Long and Townsend Bell went head-to-head for the final place in the GTE-Am podium. Ten minutes later the American Prancing Horse spun yet it was nothing for Bell as he was able to keep up with Team Dempsey once again, until the stop-and-go penalty ruined the battle in the end. KCMG had a get together for the second time, yet continued the race shortly with one minute of gap between its chasers, which were actually the Top 3 LMP2s running on the lead lap. GTE-Pro also started spicing up as well as #51 AF Corse and the Corvette were on the lead lap and were pitting in altogether, yet a couple of laps later the #51 slowed down and was pulled to the garage, finally giving up its lead to the sole GTE-Pro Corvette. Almost 90 minutes to go, and #98 Aston Martin led GTE-Am with breeze still.

Rumplestiltskin cursed #22 Nissan's tire (and, apparently, rear suspension too) and later the #23 Nissan with smokes as it pulled off at Porsche Curves, spelling another retirement for the debutante marque courtesy of a gearbox issue. Meanwhile, the fight for P2 was imminent and heating up in the LMP2 category, and fittingly enough, it was an affair of two British drivers Oliver Turvey and Sam Bird in Jota and #26 G-Drive respectively as their gap was getting even closer, less than 3 seconds. Eventually, it was Jota that subdued G-Drive in the position battle. More woes for ByKolles with its left rear suspension issue and more screw-ups for Krohn Ligier, and somehow I can't imagine if Mr. Grey would see Krohn Ligier there.

The defining moment within the final hour of the race began as everyone tried to get their cars to the finish line. However, this wasn't the case for the #98 GTE-Am leading Aston Martin as they crashed heavily at the Ford Chicane, triggering the yellow flag. The Riley Viper also retired beforehand with a gearbox issue, abolishing Viper's appearance in the finish line. Heartbreak for both indeed, and it was SMP Racing's lead from now on and Team Dempsey with Scuderia Corsa were promoted to the podium altogether. Also, in LMP2, the #34 OAK Racing was the last name on the retirement list (and joining the mentioned heartbroken duo also) this year, presumably due to gearbox. Yup, the one with Laurens Vanthoor who we know him as the master of GT racing, which this year is his first outing in Le Mans. In the meantime, the rain has invaded the Mulsanne straight though everyone was focused for a race finish. In the end, Audi boss Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich congratulated the Porsche crew just minutes before Porsche's sure-win in this year's race. Eventually, F1 star Nico Hulkenberg took the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid to the finish covering a distance of 395 laps, 30 pit stops, a 1-2 with the #17 Porsche, an all-new-to-Le Mans line up with Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy, and a chain killer to Audi's dominance as well as Porsche's first victory since 17 years and, fittingly enough, 17th overall Le Mans win. One thing that Porsche didn't take though: the fastest lap. André Lotterer, in his #7 Audi, posted a time of 3:18.476 on lap 337

The other class winners. From left to right, LMP2 KCMG with its Oreca 05R, GTE-Pro Corvette #64 and GTE-Am SMP Racing Ferrari. (Image, left to right: Patrick Martinoli / Autonewsinfo, Oliver Gavin official site, The Checkered

KCMG unsurprisingly won the LMP2 class with Singapore-based Richard Bradley taking the chequered flag with Jota and #26 G-Drive on podium, which marked another podium appearance for Jota. Corvette finally avenged #63's withdrawal with a GTE-Pro win as two AF Corses #71 and #51 took second and third although missing out of the latter's second consecutive win, and last but not least SMP Racing's GTE-Am win, with Team Dempsey and Scuderia Corsa completing the category podium, eventually marking Team Dempsey's eventual podium after two years of failing and, probably, kicked Shonda Rhimes's buns, which I am uncertain whether Shonda Rhimes would propose a livery based on one of her shows on one of the competing teams next year. But you cannot write off NISMO from the happy ending list as their only remaining #22 car finally managed to finish despite its unfortunate debut. All along, the debutant marque didn't have their hybrid system on hence all of its entries never went fast. I seemed to witness Porsche and Audi congratulating the Japanese team but somehow the tweet was deleted or maybe it was just me.

In the end, out of 55 race starters, 40 finished as 15 retired. Of all the 40, 2 was unclassified (#98 AMR and #22 Nissan) and ByKolles was excluded for not having the correct driver weight ballast, leaving with 37 classified finishers.


A "teaser" of what's about to come, posted a long way back.

Just like when the 6 Hours of Silverstone was rolling, I did an experiment again on Turbo Sliders, this time a minor one. As usual, a track out of F1 Speed League pack is chosen yet again, this time it's the Circuit de la Sarthe that is a.k.a SL Le Mans. Unlike the first version (The GT3ES mod if I could recall) which had a two-file starting position, the F1SL 2014 mod has a one-file starting position and are positioned before the Ford Chicane.

Despite being yet another endurance race, this has nothing to do with my The 360 Project because I only used two car categories: LMP and LMGT, which all consist of Whiplash's cars of LMP Generic (unreleased on his site) and GT Cars Pack respectively although I had to reconfigure both of his cars to fit my preference.

MRO has finally give us 2015 LMP1s and LMP2s fresh for the picking (Image: Iago Floriano on Twitter)

But apparently, it's not just Turbo Sliders that celebrates Le Mans at the time of this writing as far as my project and the F1SL Le Mans 2015 are concerned, but MiniRacingOnline as well, shown by one of its latest videos that showcases the Le Mans mod. Not just that, the community effort on the LMPs are pretty amazing and as expected Vivndum is one of the brains in making the 2015 LMP1s and LMP2s. The problem is I cannot wait for the final product, and I hope that Vivndum and others don't forget the GTEs too.

GeneRally's Le Mans embrace shouldn't be off the list too as the new season of International Endurance Series is underway, this time allowing custom designs of cars in the Open Prototype category. Audi, Toyota, Porsche and Nissan are featured in both LMP1 category (as themselves, duh) and OP1 category (as engine suppliers). As far as the "free design with choice engine" concept is concerned, this isn't the first time it happened this year as the 2015 season of GR Formula Cup is this.

More on different ways the Le Mans race is embraced by other games (and, to an extreme, different media) will come in the next post, so watch this space! Other than that, it's a long wait all over again for another French classic...

(Image: Ece AK on Twitter)


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