The 83rd running of the Le Mans 24 Hours turned out to be a bittersweet affair for Gulf and its motorsport partners Aston Martin Racing (AMR).
After an excellent start to the weekend with Gulf celebrating the 40th Anniversary of it winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in a car of its own name, and of driver, Derek Bell’s first victory in the legendary event, as well as pole position in both LM GTE Pro and LM GTE Am for Gulf-lubricated Aston Martins, in the race it was a case of what might have been.
In LM GTE Am, the championship leading #98 car of Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda, started from Pole and led almost all the way through to the final hour when, having built up a comfortable two lap lead, with 45 minutes remaining, and Dalla Lana behind the wheel, the car went straight on at the final chicane and into the barriers. The front quarter damage sustained by the blue and orange car was such that it was forced into the cruellest of retirements.
The sister #96 car of Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall and Francesco Castellacci recovered from an early incident to move into the top ten of GTE Am before a further off-track excursion signalled the end of its race with seven and half hours remaining.
In GTE Pro, the #95 Danish-crewed “Young Driver” car of Christoffer Nygard, Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen came back from five laps down after having an early fluid leak repaired, to finish a mere one and a half minutes shy of a podium place – coming home fourth in the category, two places ahead of the #99 car of Fernando Rees, Alex MacDowell and Richie Stanaway. The #97 car of Darren Turner, Stefan Mücke and Rob Bell stopped out on track seven hours into the race.
“It has been an extremely successful weekend for Gulf, in every respect other than final results,” commented Gulf Vice President International, Frank Rutten. ”The Le Mans 24 Hours holds a very special place in the hearts of motoring enthusiasts and Gulf’s association with it is unique. Everywhere you turn, you see our famous Orange Disc trademark and this weekend, Gulf guests from five continents got the chance to experience the phenomenon that is Le Mans, first hand.
“Sometimes, however, motor racing can be a very cruel sport and my heart goes out to Aston Martin Racing on coming so close to pulling off another famous victory for Gulf at Le Mans, but being denied in the last hour. However, I am confident that the team will regroup and come back fighting harder than ever for the rest of the season.”
The next race in the WEC takes place at the Nurburgring in Germany on August 29th.
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