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24H Le Mans

GTE-Pro Teams “Frustrated” by Safety Car Impact

Safety car and pit lane red-light that split the GTE-Pro field have been questioned by teams…

Photo: Ford

Corvette, Ferrari and Ford have questioned a safety car period that gave the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning Porsche 911 RSR a three-minute advantage that went uncontested for the remainder of the race.

Several cars, including those that were racing the No. 92 Porsche near the front of the class pack, were hampered by the timing of the intervention in the fourth hour.

While the Porsche completed its service and driver change from Laurens Vanthoor to Kevin Estre in Hour 4, the majority of the field opted to come in one lap later, which relegated those cars to the next safety car pack more than two minutes behind.

The No. 91 Porsche and No. 68 Ford GT were left stranded in the pits when the eventual class-winning No. 92 Porsche of Vanthoor, Estre and Michael Christensen strung out a considerable lead.

The Porsche trio claimed a one-lap victory over the sister Porsche, largely as a result of the early race safety car period.

Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan, who had one of his cars pit on the incorrect side of the safety car, said that the FIA and ACO need to come up with a way to avoid splitting groups of cars involved in positional battles.

“It divided one car from the pack of GT cars, with a two-and-a-half-minute gap that sat there for the entire race,” he told Sportscar365.

“Why did it sit there for the entire race? Because of safety car and Slow Zone areas.

“There’s no way to get it back. If you keep it in your group, you can race internally in your group, and you saw some of that at the back.”

Ferrari was another manufacturer to express disdain towards the way in which the GTE-Pro contest played out.

Davide Rigon, driver of the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE, told Sportscar365 that the over-regulation of the category made for a “frustrating” 24-hour event.

“That was a disaster for us, to be honest,” said the Italian, who finished 10th with co-drivers Sam Bird and Miguel Molina.

“With these new rules we were unable to get back. The speed in the night was there, it was close to the top in terms of pace, but it never tested them.

“In the end the race was less spectacular. You cannot invent anything, you cannot do any strategy. You must do a stop every 14 laps… It was very frustrating.

“On the driver’s side it was very difficult. Even on an engineer’s side, everything was squeezed 100 percent. They’re just making things more and more difficult.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Andy Priaulx also acknowledged the safety car’s impact, after two of the manufacturer’s cars were caught up in the fourth-hour episode.

“We could’ve done it today but we were very unlucky with an early safety car, which put us two minutes behind and it’s so hard to get that time back,” he said.

“We got back up into the top two or three positions then we had more bad luck with a safety car. Despite this we had a great race.”

Fehan: Changes Needed to Safety Car Procedure

Fehan, meanwhile, has called for changes to the safety car procedures, stating that the single incident turned the battle in GTE-Pro into “not a very good race.”

Unlike typical FIA World Endurance Championship races, Le Mans utilizes three separate safety cars due to the length of the 8.5-mile circuit.

“My opinion is that we need to find a way to keep the groups clustered,” Fehan said. “We had [one safety car] in the past, but the circuit’s so long that they worry about how long it takes [to catch up].

“I’m not sure that you can’t use three safety cars and still use individual wave-byes.

“I don’t have a solution. I have just identified it as a challenge. That’s what caused this not to be a very good race.”

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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