24 Hours of Le Mans – Clean sweep for 488 GTE

18 June 2017

24 Hours of Le Mans – Clean sweep for 488 GTE

Le Mans, 18 June 2017 – The 85th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans brought Ferrari a clean sweep of the podium, a fifth place and two disappointments in the two GT classes. Victory for the third consecutive year came in the GTE-Am class where the 488 GTE literally dominated. The car of JMW Motorsport won with a lap advantage over everyone. The British team was making its debut with the new berlinetta, driven by Robert Smith, Dries Vanthoor and Will Stevens. Marco Cioci, Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott came second with the 488 GTE no. 55 of Spirit of Race, while third place went to the 2016 winners, Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, along with Cooper MacNeil in the 488 GTE of Scuderia Corsa. Things went less well in the GTE-Pro class where only the Ferrari no. 71 of AF Corse, driven by Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Miguel Molina, finished in the points. However, James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Michele Rugolo in car no. 51 were entirely out of luck, knocked out due to a misunderstanding with a lapped car that destroyed a radiator. The same held for the 488 no. 82 of Risi Competizione driven by Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer, which was struck and put out of action due to a crazy manoeuvre by Mathieu Vaxiviere in the Oreca of TDS Racing. The class win went to the Aston Martin of Turner-Adam-Serra, while the overall laurels were taken by the Porsche no. 2 of Bernhard-Bamberg-Hartley.
 
GTE-Pro. Alessandro Pier Guidi pulled off a lightning start in the 488 GTE no. 51 of AF Corse to overtake the Aston Martin of Turner-Adam-Serra and lead the group. In contrast, Sam Bird lost a position in no. 71, while Toni Vilander began well in 11th and started to make up ground. However, the Aston Martins, with their much faster speed on the straight, soon took the lead with Thiim-Stanaway-Sorensen in no. 95 pulling away from their teammates. The first major incident struck on the fourth hour when a ridiculous manoeuvre by Mathieu Vaxiviere at the second Hunaudières chicane literally smashed the 488 GTE of Risi Competizione and its current driver Pierre Kaffer, into the barriers. Miguel Molina in 488 no. 71 only escaped the accident by a whisper. However, this car really experienced a very difficult night firstly with a drive-through for exceeding track limits, then with a puncture that lost it valuable seconds and finally two slow zones, which were introduced when the first half of the GT group had already passed, thus only penalising the cars that were already behind. A series of Safety Cars in the night left both Ferraris in the leading group by the morning with no. 51 in the third place and no. 71 further behind. As the seventeenth hour of racing approached a misunderstanding between Calado and Euan Hankey in Aston Martin no. 90, put an end to the race of car no. 51. James came into contact with the lapped car, damaging a radiator that took an hour to replace. Ferrari 488 no. 71 found itself in a fight for fourth with Ford no. 67 and Porsche no. 91. The positions remained unchanged over the final hour and so the no. 71 of Davide Rigon, Miguel Molina and Sam Bird came fifth in the race won by the Aston Martin of Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra.
 
GTE-Am. Ferrari had everything to celebrate in the GTE-Am class, where Maranello enjoyed a clean sweep of the podium with three 488 GTEs from three teams: JMW Motorsport, Spirit of Race and Scuderia Corsa. The Aston Martin of Dalla Lana-Lamy-Lauda dictated the pace from the start, but as darkness fell its front right tyre exploded to put it out of the running. At that point first place went to the 488 of JMW Motorsport that had been the only one to vie with the British car for first place. The youthful Dries Vanthoor, a former Formula One driver like Will Stevens and the experienced Robert Smith drove impeccably to pull off an extraordinary result for the British team that a few weeks ago in Monza had won its last race with the 458 Italia GTE (in the European Le Mans Series). At Le Mans it embarked upon the new 488 GTE era in the best possible way. Second place went to the sister car of Spirit of Race crewed by Marco Cioci, Duncan Cameron and Aaron Scott. A Prancing Horse car also took third. The 488 GTE of Scuderia Corsa driven by the 2016 winners, Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, alongside Cooper MacNeil. Also worth mentioning is the fifth place of the Ferrari of Clearwater Racing driven by Matt Griffin, Keita Sawa and Mok Weng Sung, which notched up some very important points for the GTE-Am title of the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The championship resumes in mid-July at the Nurburgring.