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24H Le Mans

AF Corse Wins Non-Stop GTE-Pro Contest

Pier Guidi, Calado, Serra win six-manufacturer GTE-Pro tilt; Porsche crew wins world title…

Photo: Ferrari

Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra have given AF Corse its third GTE-Pro class victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Porsche’s Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen, meanwhile, were declared FIA GT World Champions despite finishing 10th in class.

Pier Guidi brought the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo home 49 seconds clear of Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR that Richard Lietz and Frederic Makowiecki also drove.

The winning Ferrari led most of the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale, and was thrust into a promising position during a safety car period around midnight that split the field.

Both the No. 51 machine and the No. 92 Porsche were picked up by a separate safety car to the rest of the class, establishing a two-minute gap between the leaders and the peloton.

This abruptly ended a superb opening half of the race that saw constant positional changes throughout the pack.

However, Porsche’s main car dropped out of contention when an exhaust issue forced a costly 20-minute stop in the early hours of Sunday morning.

This gave the Ferrari a comfortable advantage as daylight emerged, although its lead was gradually eroded by the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller over the next few stints.

With six hours remaining, the Ferrari and the Corvette were engaged in a series of lead swaps owing to their contrasting pit strategies and even pace.

But the AF Corse team was again presented with a leg-up when Magnussen spun at the Porsche Curves in Hour 21 which forced the Corvette to spend six minutes in the pits for repairs and checks.

This dropped the American manufacturer’s lead car off the lead lap, and while Garcia made up seventh position with a pass on Olivier Pla’s Ford GT late on, a late suspension issue put paid to the No. 63 car’s race.

Bruni came through to finish second after a long battle between the N0. 91 and No. 93 Porsches on Sunday.

After trading positions multiple times, the Manthey-run No. 91 car pulled ahead in the last few stints to finish 17 seconds ahead of the CORE-operated machine of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s quartet of Ford GTs occupied the next four positions, with the team’s No. 68 IMSA car finishing a minute in hand to the No. 67 WEC entry.

Eleven of the 17 cars entered in GTE-Pro finished in the main overall batch ahead of the GTE-Am field, while others were affected by incidents and other issues.

Corvette’s No. 64 machine was forced to retire in the sixth hour of the race when Marcel Fassler crashed out at the Porsche Curves following contact with a GTE-Am Porsche.

Ferrari’s two other cars had troublesome races, with the No. 71 AF Corse car dropping out early on with an engine failure, and the Risi Competizione customer entry finishing 14 laps adrift.

Aston Martin had a torrid race, with both of the British manufacturer’s cars crashing in quick succession during the night.

Alex Lynn went off at the Porsche Curves in the No. 97 Vantage GTE, which trudged on to finish in 13th place and 18 laps down, while the pole-sitting No. 95 car retired when Marco Sorensen crashed at the Indianapolis kink.

BMW Team MTEK also struggled on its final WEC outing, with the German team’s best-placed No. 82 car finishing seven laps down in 12th.

Both BMW M8 GTEs encountered suspension issues in the night.

WEC Drivers’ Championship Decided

Estre and Christensen hopes of class victory was eliminated with an exhaust issue in the early morning.

The No. 92 Porsche pair, who shared the drive with Laurens Vanthoor, ended the season 11 points ahead of their No. 91 teammates after arriving with a 36-point cushion.

Meanwhile, victory for Pier Guidi and Calado, who have shared the No. 51 Ferrari throughout the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’, elevated them ahead of Bruni and Lietz.

The final standings leave Estre and Christensen on 142 points, Pier Guidi and Calado on 136.5 points, and Bruni and Lietz on 131 points.

RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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