Jonny Adam, Darren Turner and Daniel Serra took a dramatic GTE-Pro class victory for Aston Martin Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in a repeat of the classic battles for GT1 honors with Corvette Racing from 10 years ago.
The race came down the penultimate lap as Adam’s No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE passed Jordan Taylor’s No. 63 Corvette C7.R at the Ford Chicane, following a lock-up on the Mulsanne Straight that resulted in a left-front puncture for the Corvette driver.
It was Aston Martin’s first victory in the GTE-Pro division at Le Mans and came a decade after Darren Turner, Rickard Rydell and David Brabham took AMR’s first Le Mans win, also over Corvette, in the GT1 class, in 2007.
It was Turner’s third class victory at Le Mans, and a first for both Adam and Brazilian driver Serra on his first appearance in the race.
Taylor managed to limp his damaged car across the line, but lost second to the No. 67 Ford GT of Harry Tincknell, Andy Priaulx and Pipo Derani, who take the lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship as a result.
Five different manufacturers filled the top-five positions in a race that delivered on its billing and was far more evenly-matched than last year’s two-horse race between Ford and Ferrari.
The dynamic of the race only became clear at the final pitstops with 47 minutes to go, as the multiple strategies played out between the six cars remaining on the lead lap.
Fighting back from an early puncture that forced them to run off strategy, the No. 63 Corvette of Taylor emerged with a slender advantage over Adam, driving the car which had set a new lap record for a GTE car around the current configuration in qualifying.
The pair were never separated by more than a few car-lengths over the final stint, before Adam made his move with three laps to go at Arnage.
However, Taylor saw it coming and completed the over-under on corner exit to regain the lead.
He looked set for victory at this stage, but a lock-up at the second chicane on the Mulsanne Straight allowed Adam to close in again heading into the last lap.
With the Aston Martin filling his mirrors, Taylor ran wide at the Ford Chicane and again in his attempts to recover the position at the Dunlop Chicane, before the tire finally let go entering Tetre Rouge, dashing hopes of securing Corvette’s ninth win in the French endurance classic.
A late splash-and-dash dropped the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet to fourth on the mid-engined car’s first outing at Le Mans, with the No. 71 AF Corse 488 GTE shared by Sam Bird, Davide Rigon and Miguel Molina finishing fifth.
Several expected contenders fell by the wayside in the early morning hours.
Tommy Milner lost control of the No. 64 Corvette at the Porsche Curves and got stuck in the gravel as he tried to get back to the pits on three wheels, shortly before Michael Christensen crashed the No. 92 Porsche at the Ford Chicane.
Nicki Thiim, Marco Sorensen and Richie Stanaway fought back from a left-rear puncture in the early stages to the lead by the early morning, before Stanaway made a mistake and crashed at Mulsanne Corner.
The major beneficiary of this appeared to be the No. 51 Ferrari of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Michele Rugolo, but Calado lost over an hour in the pits with radiator damage following a clash with the TF Sport’s Aston Martin, posing a heavy blow to the team’s WEC championship aspirations.
RESULTS: 24H Le Mans