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Lilou Wadoux fights for top-3 before early retirement at maiden Daytona 24H

Lilou Wadoux's first Daytona 24 Hours ended prematurely after an engine failure three hours into the race, but the French racer and her Richard Mille AF Corse teammates had shown pace to contest for a top-three in the highly competitive LMP2 class and, from 10th on the grid had ran as high as third.


Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse LMP2, 24 Hours of Daytona 2024, IMSA
Photo by: Jake Galstad / IMSA

After competing in some of the most iconic and prestigious races in the world in 2023 - including the 24 Hours of Spa, 24 Hours of Le Mans, 6 Hours of the Glen and 8 Hours of Indianapolis - Lilou Wadoux's progression at the highest levels of endurance racing continued with another crown jewel of the sport: the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.


Wadoux, who took a historic first win in FIA WEC at Spa last year, thus returned to the IMSA SportsCar Championship following her debut at Watkins Glen, where she had returned to LMP2 machinery after contesting her full campaign in GTE/GT3. Teaming up with Nilkas Nielsen, Matthieu Vaxivière and Luis Perez Companc in a stellar line up for Richard Mille AF Corse, Lilou would tackle the famous race again at the wheel of the LMP2 Oreca.


Already from the early sessions of the ROAR Before the 24 last week, the team proved to be capable of fighting for the top three in class and showed great speed throughout the build up to the big race: the four drivers were a constant presence among the class top three in testing and led one session before last Sunday's qualifying, where bronze-rated Perez Companc - also part of Lilou's race winning team in WEC - was in charge of qualifying the car.


The Argentinian qualified the #88 Richard Mille AF Corse Oreca-07 in tenth - this was despite a small incident midway through the session.

After qualifying, the team focused on building race pace in the following practice sessions, and in practice 4, they were again in the top two - which suggested that with a clean race the quartet had high chances of a podium.


Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse LMP2, 24 Hours of Daytona 2024, IMSA
Photo by: Jake Galstad / IMSA

From tenth on the grid, Perez Companc was the selected driver to start the race; he gained a position on Eric Lux at the start and closed in on the High Class Racing Oreca after a very strong getaway and first few laps among some other bronze drivers.


The first Full Course Yellow of the race was deployed on lap 14 and when the pit lane opened for prototypes, most of the LMP2 field used this opportunity to pit; Perez Companc was among them and the Richard Mille AF Corse machine moved up to P7.

At the restart, though, a double accident saw the three LMP2 Orecas of Thomas, Hyett and Merriman hitting the barrier at the chicane, while a spin for the #20 High Class Racing LMP2 of Andersen caused mayhem at turn 1. The safety car was quickly out again, as the race entered its first hour.


With smart driving, Perez Companc perfectly navigated the chaos and moved up to fourth in class, behind the #04 Crowdstrike APR, the #2 United Autosport and the #52 InterEuropol.

At the 90 minute mark, the second stop for prototypes saw Perez Companc pitting from third; Lilou Wadoux got behind the wheel for her first ever stint at the Rolex 24 Hour of Daytona.


A big hit at the exit of the Le Mans chicane for TDS Racing's Steven Thomas brought out the third safety car of the day. Wadoux pitted and cycled back up to third, having settled among the class front runners in a highly encouraging first part of the race.


The battle in LMP2 continued to be extremely close and Lilou Wadoux had another good stint within the top five. She pitted at the three hour mark and continued, having set the car's best lap in 1:41.600 - which was also her best lap of the weekend.

 

In a race where consistency is key and it's crucial to stay on the lead lap, logging laps and managing traffic, Wadoux was delivering another very solid performance as it's become her trademark. However, another full course yellow for a LMP2 spin shuffled strategies; Luis Perez Companc was back onboard of the #88 Oreca.


Lilou Wadoux, Richard Mille AF Corse LMP2, 24 Hours of Daytona 2024, IMSA
Photo by: Jake Galstad / IMSA

On lap 107, three hours into the race, Perez Companc unfortunately had to bring the #88 Oreca back to the pits with an engine failure. Sadly, the issue was terminal and the car never reappeared from behind the wall, bringing an early end to Wadoux's first 24 Hours of Daytona.


"Sad for the crew who did a super hard and fantastic work all week", Wadoux commented. "Thanks a lot to them and my teammates."


While Lilou's chances to make headlines at Daytona went unrewarded, she battled for the top three in her stint and proved that the Richard Mille AF Corse line up clearly has the potential to pursue a big result in the coming round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.

Lilou - who will tackle a new challenge in Japan's premier sportscar series SuperGT as her main GT3 program this year - is in fact scheduled to return to IMSA for the non-clashing rounds of the Endurance races, starting from the 12 Hours of Sebring on 16th March.

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