Three Kiwis in podium contention at Le Mans
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Eric Thompson at Le Mans
For the drivers thundering around the Circuit de la Sarthe in France for 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans, five hours of racing is nothing, having already ticked off 19 of them. For the teams who made it through the night unscathed they’re on the home straight, so to speak.
However, to put it into perspective, they’ve still got a Bathurst 1000 to complete. At the time of this report, three of the four New Zealanders are in podium position in their respective categories. Earl Bamber (with Nico Hulkenberg and Nick Tandy) are leading the race by one lap from Brendon Hartley (with Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard) in the LMP1.The good news continues with Mitch Evans’ Jota Sport LMP2 team in third place and closing rapidly on the two leaders.
Evans (with Oliver Turvey and Simon Dolan) had a rough start to the race yesterday afternoon when they had gearbox issues in the first hour dropping them back to 19th and dead last in class. Impressive drives by all three of the Jota Sport drivers saw the car up to third at dawn French time and they are still closing on the car in second at between 6 and eight seconds a lap.
“We all did quadruple stints during the night,” said Evans’ co-driver Turvey after handing the car over to the Kiwi. “The car just seemed to be getting better and better and we’re quite a bit faster than the leaders and with five hours to go we could be in with a good chance of catching the leader.”
Not so much good news for the Richie Stanaway and the Aston Martin LMGTE Pro he shares with Fernando Rees and Alex MacDowall. They were leading the category when Stanaway handed the car over to Rees, who then proceed to T-bone one of the leading LMP2 cars after a brake rotor and pad change, which took place during the pit stop.
They are now back out on track, albeit down the field in 41st and last in class.