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Le Mans Post-Race Notebook

Sportscar365’s post-race notebook after the 88th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans…

Photo: Toyota

***Toyota Gazoo Racing clinched the LMP1 Teams’ World Championship with its victory in the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Japanese manufacturer holds an insurmountable 57-point lead over Rebellion Racing heading into the 2019-20 season-ending 8 Hours of Bahrain in November.

***It marks the third FIA World Endurance Championship title for Toyota, after claiming the manufacturers’ world championship in 2014 and the teams’ title in the 2018-19 season.

***Race winners Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley have moved into the lead of the drivers’ championship, seven points ahead of the No. 7 trio, creating a likely winner-take-all scenario for Bahrain.

***Rebellion Racing has yet to decide whether it will enter Bahrain, according to company CEO Calim Bouhadra. When asked by Sportscar365 what the team’s intentions are for the season finale after its second-place Le Mans result, Bouhadra said: “It’s too early for me to give anything. First we enjoy this race and enjoy today.”

***Bouhadra added that having both Rebellions on the podium “would have been a dream” as a send-off for the Swiss outfit in its final Le Mans. Rebellion now has 13 participants under its belt going back to its early days as the Sebah/Speedy Racing collaboration.

***With its third consecutive win, the famed Le Mans trophy will go permanently to Toyota.  “I’m sure it will travel a lot and hopefully it will come back to TGR in Cologne,” said Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon.

***This weekend marked a double victory for Toyota Gazoo Racing as its World Rally Championship team also won Rally Turkey with driver Elfyn Evans.

***Vasselon said Toyota’s race pace was “surprisingly slow” compared to last year, having attributed a nearly two-second deficit to overnight rain on Friday that likely brought “quite a bit of pollution” to the surface, including oils, sand and dust.

“It was very surprising,” he said. “We haven’t yet done all of the statistics but for sure the best lap time was two seconds slower than last year and I’m sure the best team and race average are clearly slower than last year.”

***United Autosports became the first British team to win the WEC LMP2 championship and also locked up the teams’ title ahead of the season finale.

***Paul Di Resta will not share the drivers’ championship with Phil Hanson and Filipe Albuquerque because he missed the second round of the season in Fuji due to his DTM commitments. 

***Vasselon said he felt the compressed week-long schedule, which saw more than 10 hours of track time on Thursday and qualifying on Friday “extremely tough” and “close to not workable”. 

***This year’s Le Mans saw a total of 11 retirements, out of 59 starters, and four safety car periods.

***One of the retirements was the ByKolles Racing ENSO CLM P1/01 Gibson which was the only LMP1 car not to finish. Its rear wing detached when Bruno Spengler was negotiating the Esses, leading to a crash. ByKolles is set to retire the ENSO after this year.

***The No. 1 Rebellion R13 Gibson of Gustavo Menezes surpassed the previous tire distance record established by Benoit Treluyer in 2011. The American driver completed five stints – a total of 55 laps – on the same set of Michelin tires, equaling 750 km (466 miles). While matching the Audi R18 e-tron quattro’s stint length, Menezes’ had a quicker average lap time of 3:25.180 or 240 km/h (149 mph)

***Michelin claimed its 23rd consecutive overall Le Mans win, meanwhile.

***Hartley said he didn’t feel the same “emotion” this year with the race running behind closed doors: “[The win] was not quite the same as what I experienced before with the fans. I’d be lying to say that we missed the fans and they’re a big part of this race as well.”

***Jackie Chan DC Racing became the first team in recent history to be disqualified from the race due to its car receiving outside assistance. The No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson of Gabriel Aubry stopped on track while the Frenchman was given a battery component to get the car back to the pit lane, which was a breach of the regulations.

***The GTE-Pro class-winning No. 97 Aston Martin was found to have used two tires in the race that were not on the “list of tires to be introduced on the first use of a specification.” Stewards deemed this to be an “assembly mistake” of the tire supplier and not the team, therefore no penalty was issued.

***Alex Lynn and Maxime Martin have provisionally jumped from fourth to second in the GTE drivers’ world championship following their victory. They now have 10 points to make up to their Aston Martin teammates Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen.

***Thiim, Sorensen and Richard Westbrook’s car didn’t have any issues during the race, but their Vantage lost laps due to a mix getting caught behind the wrong safety car train in the first half and not having the race-long speed of its teammate vehicle.

***Salih Yoluc became the first Turkish driver to win a class at Le Mans, in GTE-Am with TF Sport. It also marked Aston’s first Am triumph in six years, as well as the fourth time in nine years of the GTE-Pro/Am era that a manufacturer has swept both classes.

***The highest speed clocked during the event, on the Mulsanne Straight public roads section, was 349 km/h (216.8 mph) set by Louis Deletraz in the No. 3 Rebellion during hyperpole.

***Out of the six drivers that were due to take part in the race with Porsche’s CORE Autosport-run operation, which withdrew earlier this year due to COVID-19, only Mathieu Jaminet and Earl Bamber ended up sitting on the sidelines.

***Matt Campbell remained with his WEC season-long Dempsey Proton Racing team, which finished second in GTE-Am, while Nick Tandy and Julien Andlauer received late call-ups to drive for G-Drive Racing by Algarve and Dempsey Proton, respectively. 

***Neither, however, were as late as Patrick Pilet, who was brought into IDEC Sport to replace Dwight Merriman on Friday morning. Pilet, on his prototype debut, finished 11th in LMP2 alongside Kyle Tilley and Jonathan Kennard.

***Pilet was already on-site at Le Mans serving as a race steward for the Porsche Carrera Cup support race.

***Head of Porsche Motorsport Fritz Enzinger handed over the 2016 Le Mans-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid to ACO President Pierre Fillon during pre-race ceremonies, with the car set to become a permanent exhibit in the Le Mans museum.

***Porsche has moved a step closer to confirming an LMDh program, with its head of factory motorsport Pascal Zurlinden telling Sportscar365 that they are now in the final phase of its concept study. “Everything is going in the right direction,” he said. “We’ll have to use the next weeks to look at all of the details.”

***FIA President Jean Todt, who was at Le Mans, said “there is no assurance” that next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans will clash with a round of Formula 1. “It’s good will,” he said. “Clearly we will do as much as we can to avoid a clash between WEC and Formula 1.”

***The Goodyear Blimp made its return to European motorsport, offering guest flights and capturing aerial footage during the race. Guests included Todt, Fillon, IMSA president John Doonan, United Autosports co-owner Zak Brown, Jota Sport partners David Clark and Sam Hignett, Jota drivers Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez, five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro and FIA Endurance Commission president Richard Mille.

***The 2021 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is set to take place on June 12-13.

John Dagys contributed to this report

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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