Datum: 29.08.2021 · 24h Le Mans
9.th Le Mans ends in the tyrestacks
Sports car driver Pierre Ehret missed the finish in his ninth 24h of Le Mans appearance, the first with the Rinaldi Racing squad, in the 89th edition of the French sports car classic. After an impact, the German Ferrari squad's debut ended in the tyre stacks of the first chicane on the legendary Mulsanne straight after 21 hours of racing. Until then, the crew had fought their way through the race with the realistic goal of a top-10 finish in the 23 car strong GTE-Am class.
Ehret took full responsibility for the retirement. "I have to take the blame for the crash. At the beginning of my third stint in the race, I approched the first chicane too over-motivated, released the brakes too early, then missed 2 apexes and then the rear of the Ferrari went away. I was able to make my way back to the pits, but after a quick check, Ferrari told us that the damage could not be repaired on location in time. There is nothing seriously wrong with the chassis , but Michele Rinaldi's team will need a long weekend to fix the car. It's the third time in my Le Mans-history that I've had a DNF and the first time that I've been responsible for it."
The team from Mendig, Germany and it´s pilot trio Pierre Ehret, Christian Hook and Jeroen Bleekemolen had until then delivered an entertaining but quite acceptable premiere with the new car. Starting from position 53 or 14th in the class, which veteran and professional Bleekemolen had achieved in the qualifying, they were able to improve successively in the class at the beginning of the race. For one lap, the Ferrari F488 GTE was briefly recorded in the lead of the class after Bleekemolen's convincing 1st stint. However, the two Gentleman drivers Ehret and Hook had to struggle with the difficult conditions especially during the night...
"Unfortunately, I messed up my first stint at the beginning of the night when I spun on a damp track and caught some extensive flat spots on the tyres. We spontaneously decided not to change the tyres, which in retrospect was a mistake, because the vibrations were so strong after a short time that I could no longer read the displays in the cockpit and also had trouble hitting the turn-in points correctly. In the second stint, which also took place in the middle of the night, I had no problems and the lap times were 3-5s better than in the first. I would have done a third stint of about 2 hours and then left the rest of the driving to Jeroen and Christian. But unfortunately it didn't turn out that way."
Of 23 GTE-Am teams that started, only 14 were able to finish the race at the 89th edition of the classic. Rinaldi Racing's #388 was the last retirement recorded in the class. Class victory went to the AF Corse Ferrari trio of Perrodo/Nielsen/Rovera while at the front Toyota took their 4th consecutive overall win with the GR10 Hybrid hypercar of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Convay and José Maria Lopez.
"Considering our position before the retirement, a top-10 result would have been realistic at the end. This was also due to the good performance of the team, which Michele had set up well. But Christian also did fine in his first ever Le Mans appearance. And Jeroen's experience with his now 16 Le Mans starts was definitely a safe bet. So we take this as a positive impression and will now try to somehow compete again at Le Mans in 2022 in our class."