***Friday’s Free Practice 1 came to an early end following an accident between the No. 31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson of Julien Canal and Marvin Dienst’s No. 77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, which saw the cars make side-to-side contact. The Rebellion entry did not take part in FP2 as a result, with left-side sidepod and suspension damage, but is expected to be repaired in time for tomorrow’s action.
***FP2 also saw a red flag, but for a German photographer who was standing in the run-off area in Turn 5. The photographer was escorted out of the facility and has been permanently banned from the WEC, ELMS and 24 Hours of Le Mans, according to FIA media delegate Jeff Carter.
***While the rain-impacted FP2 saw a larger gap, only three-tenths separated the four LMP1 hybrids in the opening 90-minute session. “What we saw today in FP1 was really remarkable,” Porsche’s Timo Bernhard said. “It shows how close the class it. This is high-class racing with just three-tenths between the four cars.”
***On Thursday, Bernhard met ESA Astronaut Dr. Matthias Maurer (pictured above), who is set to become one of the next Germans to go into space. Maurer, who is from the same Saarland region as Bernhard, got to experience closed confines of the Porsche 919 Hybrid, which he said was a reminder of the Soyuz capsule. “Just from procedure-wise, we spoke about how this race team is set up and he said it’s not too dissimilar to the space station and how he communicates,” Bernhard said.
***David Cheng said his team’s achievement of winning Le Mans, and placing both LMP2 cars on the overall podium, was not fully realized until his trip to the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibsons went up the hill. “As every single legendary car and drivers roll up behind you… Stewart, Pirro, Kristensen, McNish… All these guys come up and congratulate you on the job we did at Le Mans. It starts sinking in,” Cheng told Sportscar365.
***Just a day after the race, Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Alex Brundle flew to Shanghai to surprise Jackie Chan during his film festival awards night, where they presented him with the winning trophies. As the trophies were too big to fit into luggage, the drivers had to carry them around on their numerous stops throughout China in a week-long media tour, which gathered further attention.
“Even when we took the train to Wuhan, we saw a lot of people posting pictures on Weibo (Chinese social media) of us with the big trophies hanging off our shoulders,” Cheng said. “Overnight it opened up Le Mans racing to a big, new prospective market.”
***While having initially had some doubts at the start of the season due to increased business commitments in team ownership, Cheng said he now plans to complete the season in the No. 37 car alongside Brundle and Tristan Gommendy.
***It’s understood the BMW M8 GTE ran for the first time in the last week at a track near its base in Munich. BMW Team M-TEK will run a pair of factory entries in the GTE-Pro class next year, alongside a parallel effort in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship by a U.S.-based team.
***The Ginetta LMP1 car has continued wind tunnel testing this week, with an on-track rollout currently scheduled for November. It’s understood the British constructor has yet to secure a firm order for a car, although is in dialogue with multiple teams.
***The Le Mans class-winning No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage GTE of Darren Turner, Jonny Adam and Daniel Serra is the only three-driver lineup in GTE-Pro and is expected to be so for the balance of the season.
***Ford WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell told Sportscar365 they have no plans to utilize a third driver for other races this season, despite extreme heat expected for the upcoming rounds at Mexico City and Circuit of The Americas, which has returned to becoming a day race. There was a three-driver lineup in the No. 67 Ford GT through COTA last year.
***Toyota Gazoo Racing has scored more than 1,000 manufacturer points since joining the WEC in 2012, a feat achieved with its results at Le Mans last month.
***Ricardo Gonzalez will not contest the Six Hours of Mexico due to business commitments. The former LMP2 World Champion, who serves as the promoter of the Mexico City event, is the owner of the new Arkansas State University Campus Querétaro, which opens on the Monday following the Sept. 1-3 event.
***Tockwith Motorsports, which is again present in the WEC paddock this weekend, takes its name from the small village of Tockwith in which it is based, near the city of York in northern England. The team has reverted to a two-driver lineup with Nigel Moore and Phil Hanson, after Karun Chandhok joined them for Spa and Le Mans.
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report