Samples 2016 Le Mans Special Edition - Page 168

REAL PANACHE U npredictable since the start of the practice sessions, the weather made life difficult again for the drivers and teams at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. On Saturday afternoon, a heavy shower half an hour before the start forced the teams to switch to wet-weather tyres for the opening laps. Having started behind the safety car – the first time this has happened in 84 years – the race only really got underway after about fifty minutes. Very quickly, the two Alpine A460s grabbed the top two positions in the LMP2 class. After an hour, the Signatech-Alpine #36 held the lead, just ahead of the Baxi DC Racing #35. With the track drying out quickly and more showers forecast, the team had several strategic options available to them as regards tyre choice. Unfortunately, the one chosen proved ill-advised and the Alpine A460s had to come into the pits again. The two cars were therefore down in 12th and 15th places respectively after two hours of racing. At that point, the weather forecast indicated that there would be no further showers. Behind the wheel since the start, Nicolas Lapierre and Nelson Panciatici wasted no time in making up ground. They handed over to Gustavo Menezes and Ho-Pin Tung respectively, and then to Stéphane Richelmi and David Cheng, who all made valuable contributions. At 9pm, with a quarter of the race gone, Gustavo Menezes held second position in the #36, whilst HoPin Tung had fought back into the top 10 in the #35. The team really laid the foundations for the win overnight, not hesitating to alter its race strategy in response to on-track incidents. For example, when the safety car was introduced, Philippe Sinault’s team took advantage of the lull to bring the #36 into the pits for a full check-up, knowing little time would be lost.