FIA WEC - 24 HOURS of LE MANS - Both LEXUS take the flag!


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The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the highlight of a dense season on the most beautiful tracks in the world, but also an unforgiving and very demanding event. This 92nd edition of the legendary race took place once more before a sold out crowd (329’000 spectators), a success in the grandstands and on the track, with 62 cars and 186 drivers entered. For Akkodis ASP Team, this “first” with the Lexus has not been a smooth ride, but allowed for a demonstration of the reliability of the crews and the cars. After 279 intense laps, shaped by the weather and safety car periods, Kelvin Van der Linde, Timur Boguslavskiy and Arnold Robin crossed the finish line in seventh place in the LMGT3 category in the #78. In the #87, Jack Hawksworth (who was invited to join the team 48 hours before the Test day), Esteban Masson and Takeshi Kimura finished in the Top 10, having fallen 5 places in the before-last hour of the race. This result has allowed the team to continue collecting points for the championship. The next round (the fifth) at São Paulo, in Brazil, on the 13th and 14th of July, will offer new challenges in the southern hemisphere, with high temperatures and high humidity.

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Having taken part 13 times as a racing driver, Jérôme Policand returned this year for the second time to Le Mans in the role of Team manager, ten years after entering with Fabien Barthez, Anthony Pons and Soheil Ayari (LMGTE). A notable difference this time, with two cars entered as part of the FIA World Endurance Championship.  

The crew of the #78 Lexus had no changes, with Kelvin Van der Linde, Timur Boguslavskiy and Arnold Robin, but the #87 saw its crew changed shortly before the event got underway. Mike Conway, a driver for Toyota Gazoo Racing in the #7 GR010 HYBRID, had a bike accident three days before the 9th of June test day, and was replaced by his old teammate, José María López (double World Endurance Champion and winner of Le Mans in 2021), who had been entered initially in the Akkodis ASP Team #87 Lexus RC-F GT3.

This meant that Jack Hawksworth was named as the “super-sub” for José María, alongside Takeshi Kimura and Esteban Masson in the #87. Reigning IMSA Weathertech Sportscar GTD PRO champion (2 victories and 9 podiums) in a Lexus, Jack was very familiar with the car and knew the team as well, having taken part in a test session last October in Portimão.

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Before starting the racing week, the Test Day is a must, preceded as usual by the scrutineering in the centre of Le Mans, the first opportunity for the competitors to gauge the fervour of the spectators and their attachment to this race. The Test Day, organised over two three-hour sessions, allowed the teams to find or rediscover their bearings, and to familiarise themselves with the peculiarities of the layout and adapt the best setups. After the morning session, the #78 Lexus RC-F LMGT3 was the quickest on the 13.6km track, while the #87 finished P2. After the two sessions, the #78 was P4 in the category, and the #87 P16.  

In the first free practice session, the #87 set the tone with Esteban Masson’s lap of 3m57.808s, while the sister car, testing other options, finished P18.

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The one-hour qualifying session got off to a good start, with the #87 (Esteban Masson) getting in the Top 5, but finishing P10. Kelvin Van der Linde in the #78 was P21. But only the eight fastest cars of each category qualify for the Hyperpole. These positions would be their grid positions.  

The following three free practice sessions were night sessions, allowing the teams to get into the spirit of the event. In FP3, the Lexus were P8 (#87) and P9 (#78), while the final night session saw the #87 set the best time once more (3:58.355), with the #78 in P12 (4:01.775).

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Traditionally, there is no running on Friday, but there is the Drivers’ Parade in town, another chance for the fans to get up close.  

On Saturday morning, the warmup allowed the teams to prepare for the race. Unfortunately for Kelvin Van der Linde, the session ended badly, as he got hit in the back by the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 Hybrid, a few minutes before the end of the session. Considered to be responsible for the incident, the driver of the #78 would have to start from the pits for the start of the race, and would also get a 2-minute penalty during their first pitstop.

As usual, the start ceremony was a lavish affair, with Zinedine Zidane as the starter. The weather was good, but it was not going to last. The #87 (with Jack Hawksworth) took its start from the 25th row on the grid, and the #78 would start from the pits. The clouds quickly appeared above the circuit, and at 17h30, the first significant rain showers arrived. A first hierarchy appeared. The #87 took the lead, while the #78 started a solid climb. After 40 laps, the #87 was still leading and the #78 was P17. (Under the chequered flag, both Lexus of the French team have led no less than a total of 25 laps during the race.)

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The clouds quickly appeared above the circuit, and at 17h30, the first significant rain showers arrived. A first hierarchy appeared. The #87 took the lead, while the #78 started a solid climb. After 40 laps, the #87 was still leading and the #78 was P17. (Under the chequered flag, both Lexus of the French team have led no less than a total of 25 laps during the race.)  

As the refuelling and driver changes went by, the #87 kept in the Top 6, and the #78 was navigating between P15 and P19. Rainy spells and brief dry periods followed one another, considerably altering the grip and making the track challenging. Jack Hawksworth, Esteban Masson and Takeshi Kimura completed single and double stints in the #87, as do Kelvin Van der Linde, Arnold Robin and Timur Boguslavskiy in the #78.

The night was marked by two periods under safety-car. The first was about 1h30, but the second one, that started around 4am, lasted almost 4h30.

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These different phases in the race were also opportunities to get penalties for various reasons. For the #78 (a drive through, and 2x 10s while at a pitstop) namely for overtaking under safety car but also the #87, who went too fast in the pit lane and infractions in the “slow zone”.   

By 8h30, Timur Boguslavskiy was P5 (#78) and Jack Hawksworth (#87) P9, just right after his ABS failed. The rain calmed down, but off the line, the track was wet, bringing the safety car out once more after an accident.

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With three hours to go, Esteban Masson (#87) was P4, and Kelvin Van der Linde (#78) P7. An hour later, in the middle of a fight with the #85 while aiming for a spot on the podium, the bonnet of Jack Hawksworth’s car (#87) suddenly flipped onto the windscreen, almost completely covering the driver’s field of vision. Having managed to get back to the pits very carefully, the #87 got back on track in P10.

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The last two hours were marked by several rainy periods, making the end of the 24 hours of racing even more delicate. Finally, the two Lexus RC-F LMGT3 crossed the finish line, P7 for the #78 and P10 for the #87, a result allowing them to score some new points for the championship.

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For Jérôme Policand, finishing this race has been another milestone: “The first satisfaction is to have both of our cars at the finish line. In terms of performance, we were on target, the drivers as well as the team. We are continuing our progression by getting the most out of the car’s potential. Each round is a unique moment for us to learn and perform even better.”    

The next round will take place in Brazil, on the 13th and 14th of July, at the São Paulo circuit.

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