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Third-Placed SMP Car Crashes; Safety Car Dictates GTE-Pro

Orudzhev crash elevates Rebellion to third overall; safety car splits GTE-Pro protagonists…

Photo: ACO

The third-placed No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER has crashed out of contention for the 24 Hours of Le Mans overall podium in the eleventh hour.

Egor Orudzhev lost control through the latter part of the Porsche Curves section and hit the tire barriers on the right-hand side of the driving line.

The 23-year-old Russian exited the car on his own, although the car appears to have sustained heavy rear-end damage in the high-speed off.

Orudzhev’s accident promoted the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson to third overall behind the leading Toyota TS050 Hybrids.

Despite a collision with the barriers in the seventh hour, the lead Rebellion car has recovered its lost time and split the two SMP BR1s during a round of pit stops under the third safety car period of the race in Hour 10.

The two Toyotas have continued to dominate the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale, with the Japanese manufacturer’s No. 7 car opening a minute-plus lead during the next safety car intervention when its sister No. 8 machine got stuck in a separate safety car queue.

However, the order switched back when the No. 7 came in for a standard service at the end of its 11-lap stint immediately after the SMP crash, with Sebastien Buemi holding four seconds over Mike Conway.

The tenth-hour safety car period that initially created a gap between the Toyotas also created a huge rift in the GTE-Pro narrative.

The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo emerged as the class protagonists when their main rivals were all caught behind a different safety vehicle.

This meant the third-placed car – the No. 93 Porsche – and the gaggle of cars behind it – were pushed back to three minutes behind the tightly-bunched leading pair.

G-Drive Racing has managed to put a lap on Signatech Alpine and take a firm hold of the LMP2 class battle, while the Keating Motorsports Ford GT held a two-minute lead over the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche in GTE-Am.

Notable casualties in the night hours so far include the two factory Aston Martin Vantage GTEs from GTE-Pro.

Alex Lynn had an off in the same spot at Orudzhev early in the tenth hour, before Marco Sorensen crashed the pole-sitting No. 95 car at the Indianapolis kink 20 minutes later.

This created the safety car that ended up creating the large gap at the head of the GTE-Pro field. 

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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