LMP2 drivers Gabriel Aubry and Mikkel Jensen described the circumstances surrounding their final-lap incident that ultimately decided the direction of the class win at Motul Petit Le Mans in favor of Aubry’s Tower Motorsport crew.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports driver Jensen led the final stages of a close-fought LMP2 contest over ten hours but came under intense pressure from Aubry in the last stint.
Jensen was saving fuel in a bid to avoid a late pit stop that would have certainly dashed his chances of winning alongside Ben Keating and Scott Huffaker, but on the final lap had to contend with a charging Aubry in another Oreca 07 Gibson.
Aubry challenged Jensen into Turn 7 at the far end of the 2.54-mile Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta before getting a good run into Turn 10a, where the pair clashed.
Jensen was deemed at fault for the contact, which went unseen on the TV broadcast at the time, and received a drive-through converted into a 37-second time addition because he reached the checkered flag without entering the pits.
That handed the win to Aubry, John Farano and James French in the Starworks-run No. 8 entry.
“We chased them because they were fuel-saving at the end,” Aubry told Sportscar365. “That’s why the gap got closer and closer until the last lap.
“He tried to make the move, which in my opinion is unsporting by trying to slow down and literally cutting the corner when I was next to him and going for the pass. I just feel we deserved that win.
“The team did an amazing job and I have to thank them for that, because the strategy was spotless and the pit stops were amazing.
“My teammates did an amazing job keeping the car in one piece for the end, so I have to say well done to them.”
Describing the incident between the pair at the sharp Turn 10 left-hander, Aubry said that Jensen’s car had the inside line while he attempted to out-brake on drivers’ right.
“He stayed inside of 10a, slowed down and had me next to him,” said the Frenchman.
“He slowed down so that the difference in speed was very high and very dangerous indeed. When he saw me going wide, he just went for it during the braking.
“When he saw that I could still make the corner, he just went straight. The race direction decided a penalty, but you always want to keep it fair.
“To win it like that, you are missing a little bit of something. But the team is a massive part in that win.”
Giving his point of view from the seat of the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen car, Jensen recalled: “We had to double-stint the tires for the last stint, so that’s why Gabi caught me.
“He got a better run out of Turn 7 and got on my outside. He turned into the corner and hit my front tire. We both went off and they gave us a penalty. I would like to see it again.”
Jensen suggested that he had the less favorable strategy for the closing stages of the race, as he had to manage both the fuel load of his Oreca and a waning set of Michelins.
The 2022 Peugeot LMH driver wanted new tires at his final pit stop, because the time loss of heating up a new set was less than the margin he held over Aubry at the time.
Despite losing out on the class win, Jensen and Keating secured the LMP2 drivers’ championship, while Huffaker joined the pair as a Michelin Endurance Cup title winner.
“I think I was the only guy out there double-stinting tires, so we lacked a lot of pace at the end of the race,” said Jensen.
“But the team knows more than I do, and they thought it was the right decision with the cold temperatures to double-stint the tires so we didn’t lose the eight seconds-ish on the out-laps.
“But in the end, we had to fuel-save as well. We could actually make it on fuel [but] we had to save because the No. 8 car was catching us, and we couldn’t afford to stop again.
“I had a fuel number and I had to keep it every single lap. In the end he just came very close and we made contact.
“The most important thing is that we won the championship and the MEC.
“We accomplished everything we wanted to achieve this season, but it would have been nice to win this one and finish it off. Not super satisfied with the day, but all in all not too bad.”