Story Credits: Matthew Overton
Photo Credits: Daniel Kirby, George Whitehouse
While MNRL was on a gap, both the NARS and VWSC enjoyed one of their marquee events for their multiclass Hypercar/GT series with the longest events of their respective calendars. Le Mans holds a special place in the hearts of endurance drivers whether RL or virtual, with the two CMS events seeing strong fields to contest their races.
On a relatively cool and dry track, it was PRO Hypercar driver Daniel Kirby that set the fastest overall lap at 3:25.961 in his Mercedes AMG 1 with Hypercar AM driver Jerry Chen coming in at P7 after putting up a 3:30.097 in his Porsche 908-04. On the GT side, PRO Eduardo Beninca set the standard for that field at 3:53.82 in a Lexus RCF with the fastest GT AM qualifier, Stuart Barge putting his Honda NSX around the circuit in 3:58.349.
But as always the case in endurance racing, one fast lap does not always translate into a race winning pace and with this in mind, the field launched into the 90 minutes of racing that went from late afternoon into the middle of the night. The first dozen laps saw intense racing across the field of 27 drivers as they jockeyed for position and true race pace came into play.
Hypercar PROs JT Tami and Daniel Kirby alternated in leading overall through the second half of the race with Kirby retaking the lead with only 4 laps to go, building a 8s gap by the checkered flag. Hypercar AM driver Jerry Chen had much of the class lead to himself as he contested overall placement with the PROs, however an error in entering the pit gave him penalties and he had to content himself with second behind the patient Ross Smith in his Bugatti Bolide who had been keeping pace but with several PRO cars in-between the racers.
The GT field was given little to see of PRO Beninca as he proved his one lap pace was not accidental, finishing a lap ahead of his closest rival. The GT AM field was a closer race, with Barge in a race long duel, continually just out of reach of Erik Jacobs who finished 23s behind the class leader.
The outright race of the night went to GT driver Chris Brew who gained 12 positions as he cut through the GT field only to retire on his final racing lap and record a ‘no result’.
At approximately the half season point, the Hypercar race continues to be dominated by Daniel Kirby, unsurprising since he has notched 5 wins in 6 races! JT Tami hold second place, 30 points back with Jon Uyan and Brian Hall tied a further 30 back again. On the AM side of the Hypercar, Troy Uyan continues to hold the lead over Ross Smith and Jerry Chen, both of whom gained considerable ground in the absence of the class leader for the Le Mans race. In GT, Eduardo Beninca continues to lengthen his lead over George Angelidis while GT AM leader saw his leading gap eaten into by both Stuart Barge and Erik Jacobs. In the team competitions, Champion Pro continues to hold the Hypercar lead despite missing Le Mans while in GT, JB Motorsports continues to slowly extend it’s lead.
The stage was then set for the rematch during the VWSC 4.8 race on the Saturday, only with track and air temperatures well above those seen in the previous race. With 29 teams and 45 drivers overall, the pre-race chatter translated into a v busy track with lots of great racing action.
It was Daniel Kirby again seizing the pole position with both hands, only this time in a Bugatti Bolide and having shaved time off his Thursday night lap to register a scintillating 3:25.674. Bart Slobodzian, in an Aston Martin Valkyrie was only slightly behind with a 3:26.641 to register the top Hypercar AM qualifying lap. Elisio Netto recorded the top GT time at 3:53.909 in his Ford Mustang, while the GT AM field was led by Tom Lane in another Mustang with a 3:56.394.
Series Admin George Angelidis summed up the race nicely with the following comments: “Le Mans picks its winners. Got to feel for the Jason Whited /Ben Boorman crew that were pushing their car to the utmost limit to suffer 2 brake failures and at the end a spectacular (for the fans) engine blow up. George Whitehouse would detonate his engine earlier in the night when he accidentally bumped his h-shifter that put the car in 1st gear from 4th ending an amazing fight he had with Maciej Kasprzyk . But it also showed us great battles: the Tom Lane /Matt Buice fight proved those two are tied with a rubber band unable to break free from each other. The strategy fight at the end between Wouter de Bruijn and Ross Smith was a nice final touch to to an exciting event from Q through to the checkered flag, with lots of racing action and the many many many heartbreaks”.
After 4.8 hours of racing around a full 24 hour cycle, congratulations were in order for the CMS Pro crew of Daniel Kirby and Jon Uyan taking their Bugatti Bolide to the overall race and Hypercar win, the Storm Rider n00n crew of Ross Smith and Bart Slobodzian powering their Aston Martin Valkyrie to the win in Hypercar AM, and then the win for the solo drivers Maciej Kasprzyk (Independent, Audi R8) and Matt Buice (Trash Panda Racing, Lamborghini Huracan) for the GT and GT AM wins respectively.
In the championship tables:
Hypercar: Jon Uyan continues to lead Daniel Kirby with the result that CMS Pro continues to build it’s lead over the other teams.
Hypercar AM: Eric Moinet has seen his lead over Ross Smith and Jerry Chen shrink to a handful of points, with Flying Kiwi Racing watching it’s lead over Storm Rider n00n dwindle as well.
GT: Brandon Gant takes over the lead from George Angelidis while HPD continues to top the teams with SRA working hard to close the gap
GT AM: Matt Buice moves just ahead of Tom Lane with Trash Panda Racing putting more distance between themselves and closest rival, Manta Squid GT
This coming week, the MNRL remains on break while both NARS and the VWSC take the Hypercars and GTs to Watkins Glen.
Don’t forget to catch all the action on the race streams on the CMS Youtube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7Kdp07PvIeW47f0_sM0emw!