24H Le Mans, 8 Hours: Floersch crashed out, Iron Dames battle for top-10
After a remarkable recovery through the opening 5 hours, Richard Mille Racing had to retire the #1 when Sophia Floersch was accidentally involved in a crash. Rahel Frey took over the #85 Ferrari and brought it into the top 10 in GTE-AM before a puncture.
Tatiana Calderon had taken the start in the Richard Mille Racing #1 LMP2 Oreca and recovered to P14 from 23rd on the grid when the Colombian - who did an outstanding job in the tricky first rain-affected laps - handed over to Beitske Visser. Visser had a great double stint and was battling for eleventh place at the restart from the first Safety Car, deployed when the Aston Martin of Marcos Gomes went hard into the tyre barriers at the entry of Indianapolis corner. The Brazilian was unhurt. The all-female squad, coming off a ninth place at their maiden Le Mans participation in 2020, continued the solid race and pitted from P13 after four hours of racing, as the sun went down on the horizon and dusk signalled the arrival of the longest and most challenging part of the legendary race: the night. 20-year old German racing star Sophia Floersch got behind the wheel of the #1 prototype and, similarly, Rahel Frey climbed into the #85 Iron Dames Ferrari from P11 in GTE-AM. The second women-only team saw Michelle Gatting completing the first triple stint, also making up several positions from the 19th starting slot. Gatting avoided the initial carnage and kept moving up the order before handing over to Sarah Bovy - who made her Le Mans debut with an equally impressive 2 hour stint. Into the fifth hour of racing, it all went wrong for Richard Mille Racing: yet another rain shower resulted in many cars suddenly going off track: the Team Nederland LMP2 of Frits van Eerd went in the gravel at the Porsche curves, Sam Bird was spun around from second place in GTE-Pro by another GTE-Am Ferrari, the IDEC Oreca was again in trouble and the two United Autosport Orecas crashed heavily at the Dunlop chicane when the #32 cutted across the gravel and took off the sister car. A few seconds later, class leader Franco Colapinto lost control of the #26 G-Drive Aurus and crashed into the #1 Richard Mille Racing car driven by Sophia Floersch, who went into the barriers at Porsche curves and crossed the track once having impacted with the armco. When stationary, Sophia tried to restart the car and the slow zone was promptly deployed. The #74 Racing Team India Eurasia Ligier of Tom Cloet then T-boned Floersch's Oreca - triggering the medical light on the #50, which meant that Floersch had to leave the car. It was a heartbreaking end to the race of Floersch, Calderon and Visser, who had to abandon their second Le Mans 24 hour race with potential to finish again in the top-10 or even top-8.
The Safety Car was deployed to allow the recovery of Floersch's prototype and the young German was checked and released from the medical centre. The #26 G-Drive that ignited the incident was handed a 10 second penalty.
Meanwhile, Rahel Frey had brought the Iron Dames Ferrari for the first time in this race in the top-10 and when the green flag was waved again, the Swiss ace was running in ninth place. Short rain showers continued to spread chaos from time to time and the #44 ARC Bratislava Oreca was often spotted facing the wrong way and rejoined. Another Safety Car freezed the action when the #56 Project 1 Porsche of Egidio Perfetti crashed hard into the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight, followed in the tyre barrier by the 33 TF Sport Aston Martin - that had led the GTE-AM class since the second hour of racing. At the restart, there was more drama when Rahel Frey picked up a puncture and had to limp back to the pits in the #85 Ferrari. Rahel had moved up until sixth place and was protagonist of a stunning stint; luckily, the Iron Lynx crew managed to fix the problem and sent Michelle Gatting out again, now having dropped to 12th in class. The GTE-AM class saw more position changes when Roberto Lacorte was pushed off at Tetre Rouge and had to park the Cetilar Racing Ferrari with significant damage. The team was running third in class and is the WEC championship leader. With eight hours in the books, the race continues to be led by the #7 Toyota - now driven by Jose Maria Lopez - who climbed in the GR010 hypercar after Conway and Kobayashi. The sister #8 car of Nakajima follows, 1 minute and 20 seconds behind after a remarkable recovery during the opening hours. Sebastien Buemi had in fact been spun around by the #708 Glickenhaus right at the race start. Third overall is the #708 Glickenhaus of Pipo Derani, who just made it ahead of the WRT LMP2 entries. #31 Team WRT LMP2 car of Ferdinand Habsburg had in fact moved into third overall after the Alpine hypercar of Mathieau Vaxiviere had beached his car in the gravel at the first chicane and dropped to 8th overall
Amidst a chaotic race for the LMP2 class, the WRT Orecas - at their debut in the 24H of Le Mans - sit fourth and sixth overall and comfortably lead in class. In the final minutes of the eighth hour, a big crash by the #25 G-Drive of Rui Andrade triggered another Safety Car: the driver was forced to abandon the car. In GTE-Pro, the AF Corse Ferrari have dominated the race so far - and Calado has made it back ahead of the #63 Corvette of Nick Catsburg after the latter had temporarily passed the British racer for the lead before his latest stop. Antonio Garcia has since then taken over in the now second-placed Corvette. GTE-AM is currently led by Alessio Rovera in the #83 AF Corse Ferrari, ahead of the the #33 TF Sport Aston Martin that still holds second place despite the incident that dropped them during the sixth hour. The #80 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Callum Ilott is third.
Michelle Gatting is lapping competitively and has recovered to P11 in class. The Iron Dames' target remains to top their personal best result of ninth in 2019 and 2020.