At 16:00 on Saturday 21 August, the start at the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans was given under safety car protocol on a wet track. After an extremely eventful first eight hours of racing, the battle raged in the LMP2 class between Team WRT’s two ORECA 07s, with United Autosports and Panis Racing on the hunt.
A few minutes prior to the start, rain joined the party at the Circuit de la Sarthe and only after three formation laps did the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans officially commence. The wet track expedited first dust-ups, immediately affecting the Hypercar hierarchy. It was an opportunity too good to miss for António Félix da Costa who had a flawless race start, quickly slipping the #38 ORECA 07 in the middle of competitors in the top class.
While the gaps were generally reduced following a detour into a gravel trap for Anthony Davidson’s #38, the race saw several leader changes in the LMP2 class: G-Drive Racing #26, JOTA Sport’s #28, Panis Racing’s #65, and Team WRT’s #31 and #41.
Several other incidents disrupted the fifth hour of the race and caused the safety car to be deployed. They included a collision between the United Autosports team’s two ORECA 07s at the Dunlop chicane: the 23, at the time struggling with the difficult weather conditions, and the #32. Another accident involved the class leader G-Drive Racing’s #26 Aurus 01 and Richard Mille Racing’s #1 ORECA 07.
Going into the sixth hour, spectators witnessed a face-off between Team WRT’s two ORECA 07s. The Belgian outfit is enjoying a very successful showing for its rookie participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Though the #41 initially took the lead, the #31 snatched control during the first eight hours of racing. The #22 ORECA 07 fielded by United Autosports and the #65 entered by Panis Racing took turns in third position. Thanks to a solid performance so far, InterEuropol rounded out the top 5, and RealTeam was at the helm of Pro/Am.
In Hypercar, the Alpine 480 was a front-runner before two spinouts. Fortunately, neither caused any major damage and the #36 set out to return to the top 3 in the class.
In the Innovative Car class, Team Association SRT41 ended the first eight hours of racing in 48th position.
The next update will come at the 16-hour mark of the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.