PROST AND SENNA TAKE LMP2
REBELLION DRIVER BRUNO SENNA HAD TO come from behind over the final hour and a half to take the lead of the race – and the championship – from the best of the Jackie Chan DC Racing entries. He had probably thought he was going to be home and dry by the time he retook the controls of his ORECA-GIBSON 07 after Julien Canal and Nicolas Prost had taken their stints, given his superiority at the start of the race.
The lead Rebellion entry was 30s up on the chasing LMP2 pack when Senna climbed out after an hour and a half. But the car hadn’t enjoyed the same consistency across its three drivers as the Chan/dc ORECA piloted by Thomas Laurent, Ho-pin Tung and Oliver Jarvis. So much so that they were in the lead at the end of the penultimate hour in spite of two assaults from other cars that resulted in quick spins while Tung was driving.
The second of these incidents proved pivotal. Tung flat-spotted a set of tyres after Nico Muller in the G-drive ORECA needlessly cut the front of Tung into Turn 1 in the penultimate hour. That left the class leader compromised during an unsuccessful attempt to fend off Senna for the lead. He had to continue to the end on two of those Dunlops after his final stop, because there was nothing better left in the car’s allocation.
The Chan/dc crew reckoned it was on course to extend its P2 class lead with victory last weekend. Rebellion was equally confident, knowing that its rival had to make a late stop for a splash of fuel.
Not only did Chan/dc miss out on the win, but it faded to fourth at the finish and with it lost the championship lead that it has held since the season opener at Silverstone. Tung was unable to make any inroads towards Nicolas Lapierre in the Signatech Alpine ORECA, which had leapfrogged him in the pits, and then the splash brought Nelson Piquet Jr within range in the closing stages; the Brazilian knocked the Chan/dc car out of the podium positions in the final laps.
Jarvis was fuming after the race. Actually he was on the limiter during it – the TV cameras captured his reaction when first Manor driver Ben Hanley made an optimistic attempt to reclaim the place Tung had just taken into Turn 2, and then when Muller was unnecessarily aggressive.
“We had victory within our grasp and we’ve ended up fourth — it’s a disaster,” Jarvis said. “Nico is only here for one race and he was out of sequence, so he wasn’t really fighting us. It was all a bit unnecessary.”
Lapierre and team-mates Andre Negrao and Gustavo Menezes ended up over half a minute behind in second at the finish to keep their narrow championship hopes alive. The Alpine-badged ORECA had qualified only fifth, but a dramatic improvement in set-up brought them into the picture, even if it didn’t allow them to match the pace of the two protagonists for class victory.
Piquet lost time after contact with Muller in the opening laps, but third was probably as good as it was going to get for the Brazilian and team-mates Mathias Beche and David Heinemeier Hansson, given that their strategy dictated they would make one more stop than their team-mates.