Le Mans 2023 - What an event and a podium to boot!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2023


If ever there was a motor race to represent a significant anniversary event within its own history books, then last weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans would take that honour.

Steeped again in passion, ambition and excitement that only the Circuit de La Sarthe and this event could muster with its capacity crowd so soon after the issues of COVID, this year’s race had enough drama, excitement and intrigue to last more than just one event and ended with the expected tears of happiness for a few but was of course tinged with the tears of disappointment and what might have been along the way for the many.

This year’s event was also the swansong 24-hour event for the venerable GTE class at the circuit, having seen the end of the top tier Pro class last year, this year’s event would witness the final running of the GTE Am class before the class eventually winds itself up by the end of the year’s World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series.

In doing that, a remarkable five Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE powered teams were invited to this year’s event – three full season WEC entries of course, joined by two more from the ELMS series within a total class size of twenty-one cars within a combined grid of sixty-two cars.

Eager to succeed both in terms of Championship points but also for the sheer kudos of winning such an event, the tension and anticipation was at an all-time high as the capacity grid got waved off on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately for the guesting GMB Motorsport AMR of Gustav Birch, Jens Moller and Marco Sorenson, their participation within the event lasted little more than two hours before a simple error (one that many other would also make along the way too) saw their #55 make contact with the rear of a Hypercar going into a slow zone at the Dunlop Bridge only for their car to be struck heavily from the rear by another GTE driver making the very same mistake.

Although the damage didn’t appear to be that great, that secondary contact apparently prevented Birch from selecting drive and eventually forced them into retirement much to the devastation of the young Danish driver who had to be later consoled by those more experienced at these highs and lows than he.

Similar emotions would also soon be felt within the TF Sport garage as the ‘locally’ supported Project 24 #72 Aston Martin of bothers Max and Arnold Robin alongside Valentin Hasse-clot saw their car appear to glance along the safety barrier through the Porsche Curves as the leading Ferrari Hypercar made its way through an unadulterated pace.

Despite the resulting spin and rearward nudge into the tyre wall that appeared to just dislodge the rear spoiler, Arnold Robin was unable to restart the car and he too was later forced to walk away consigning a further Aston to the ‘marker of doom’ but at least their ambition to compete was met for those few precious hours of running.

Going into the night, the next to feel the emotion of strife within the remaining Aston Martin powered camp would be the #777 D’Station Racing AMR of Satoshi Hoshino, Tomonobu Fujii and Casper Stevenson after Fujii brought the car back in with front end damage. With the TF Sport team again showing what they can do under pressure having already rebuilt the #777 from scratch after its Test Day smash, the car would later re-join the race only to fail hours later at dawn due to an electrical issue. Another sad end to their own LM24 dream but another young man got to sample what that was all about.

So, by daybreak on Sunday, that left just the #25 ORT with TF Sport AMR of Ahmad Al Harthy, Michael Dinan and Charlie Eastwood along with the event debuting #98 Northwest AMR (Heart of Racing) car of Ian James, Alex Riberas and Daniel Mancinelli.

Each had already skirted the borders of their own adversity as the #98 had lost its bonnet fixings along the Mulsanne Straight, lifting it to within an inch of being ripped away whilst he #25 car had also spun and made contact with the tyre wall at one of the two chicanes along that straight amongst other things. Whilst the #98 car lost time to their repairs, the #25 was able to keep going and soon recovered to run competitively within a class podium position as the race entered its final hours.

However, the #33 Corvette had recovered somewhat better from earlier technical issues of their own to move up from last in class in the opening hour to lead the class for much of the morning and into the final hours.

Despite everything that the #25 crew could throw at the situation, the gap to the #33 car could not be reduced and it would be the #33 car who would take the win with the #25 ORT with TF Sport coming home in second (to continue the podium winning streak for the Tom Ferrier led team) and with the #98 Northwest entry finishing in sixth.

Of course, this simplistic review only captures the barest outline of events in comparison to the blood, sweat and tears that went into each entry and our utter respect and applause extends to each one of these.

These results see the #25 ORT with TF Sport crew move up to second within the GTE Am Drivers Championship table but still a whopping 74 points behind the leading #33 Corvette crew (including Ben Keating) after their third success podium finish (and his second official success win) at Le Mans.

With the centenary event now at an end, team focus revert back to both the ELMS and WEC as both will back racing next month – at Le Castellet (Paul Ricard) for the ELMS runners in four weeks’ time and at the Temple of Speed at Monza in Italy in just over three weeks’ time.

Photo credits – A Lofthouse / D Gibson / K Pope


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