Jota Sport has captured the LMP2 class victory in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in a roller-coaster and eventful day for the second-tier prototype category.
The No. 38 Zytek Z11SN Nissan, driven by race debutante Harry Tincknell and team veterans Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey, held on to for the win in the venerable, veteran chassis over the impressive and debuting Ligier JS P2 Nissan in the hands of the Thiriet by TDS Racing team.
Jota’s No. 38 needed a late splash of fuel in the last 15 minutes, which reduced the gap to the Ligier, but still hung on.
The win is the first at Le Mans for each of the three. Turvey was a last-minute fill-in when Audi reserve Marc Gene was called up there to replace the injured Loic Duval aboard the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro.
Thiriet’s trio of Pierre Thiriet, Ludovic Badey and class pole-sitter Tristan Gommendy ended a hard-luck second in the No. 46 after a race that included two brief moments that nearly took them out of contention.
A left-front wishbone failure with four hours to go cost the team five minutes to repair the suspension, and a second unscheduled stop with just over three hours remaining added more unplanned time to their race.
Owing both to consistency an outright pace, the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan took the final class podium position with the trio of Nelson Panciatici, Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb. Chatin, in particular, impressed during his stints when most of the Silver-rated drivers were aboard the LMP2 machinery.
The Thiriet Ligier and the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan, however, were the star cars of the race in LMP2.
OAK’s No. 35 entry, driven by Alex Brundle and Nissan GT Academy graduates Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy, led a majority of the race but fell victim to several mechanical gremlins in the final few hours.
Engine-related issues struck with five hours to go, and Mardenborough had to go to the garage from the lead. It took nine minutes for the stop to diagnose the problem and replace the rear brakes.
Although Brundle took over the car and regained the lead once the Thiriet car had issues, poor luck struck again with an hour and 45 minutes to go with a misfire in the engine. Down on power from an apparent spark plug issue, the No. 35 car had to limp back to the pits.
OAK’s No. 35 car ended fourth, just off the podium, with the No. 24 Sebastien Loeb Racing Oreca 03 Nissan completing the top five (Rene Rast, Jan Charouz, Vincent Capillaire).
RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans