A broken throttle sensor denied the No. 41 Oreca 07 Gibson crew LMP2 class victory and a 1-2 finish for Team WRT in the 24 Hours of Le Mans following last-lap drama for Yifei Ye.
The Chinese driver was at the wheel of the leading WRT Oreca when it came to a stop just past the Dunlop bridge in dramatic fashion with less than three minutes to go in the twice-around-the-clock endurance classic.
While it handed the class win to the sister No. 41 entry in a near-photo finish, the sudden mechanical failure left the other side of WRT’s garage speechless.
Ye and co-drivers Louis Deletraz and Formula 1 star Robert Kubica — in his Le Mans debut — were on track for a historic win and class sweep for the Belgian squad, which was also making its first start in the event.
“It was an eventful race,” Ye explained. “I was leading the dream until the dream broke apart. It was a long race, with Louis and Robert, we took good care of the car, and made it to the top a couple of hours from the end, when I was at the wheel.
“I was as nice to the car as you can be, avoiding the curbs, just focusing on bringing it home, but sometimes it is not meant to be.
“I don’t know what happened, everything stopped. I feel sorry for everybody in the team, everyone has done a wonderful job. Congratulations to our team mates and now let’s look ahead, we still have an ELMS campaign to focus on.”
Deletraz said he was “devastated” by the outcome but pleased to see the sister car pick up the class win.
“On our side, we did everything right, were able to cut back, we were leading with a big gap and despite what happened at the end, everybody saw that,” he said.
“There are no regrets and we’ll certainly remember this one.”
Team principal Vincent Vosse, who celebrated on the top step of the podium with Audi factory driver Frijns, Ferdinand Habsburg and Charles Milesi, said the throttle sensor failure for the No. 41 car, coming on the final lap, was simply “cruel.”
“Of course, there is joy and sadness, as it was a big disappointment to see car No. 41, which had the victory in its pocket, stop with one lap to go,” said Vosse.
“It is simply cruel, and luckily, our other car was second, but it is difficult to fully enjoy such a success when you have a situation like that.
“Still, it is an amazing day for the team, which has done a tremendous job, since the preparation of this race and the throughout the entire week.
“If I have to judge from the number of messages we are receiving, we have really achieved something.”