Rain Creates Early Chaos at Le Mans

le mans rain spins glickenhaus cadillac 2023
Rain Creates Early Chaos at Le MansFIA World Endurance Championship / Twitter

The Circuit de la Sarthe is not just 8.5 miles long, it is an unusual D-shaped track that stretches for the length of the Mulsanne straight in one direction. That means rain hits the 24 Hours of Le Mans in an uneven way, and that drivers who encounter rain have to drive a long way in it distance before their first chances to switch onto wet tires. When light rain suddenly hits, it is a notable quirk of the track. When that rain gets heavy, it becomes a major problem.

Action Express Racing driver Jack Aitken learned the risks of light rain the hard way on the opening lap of the race, losing control while trying to put the power down on dry tires in a damp Mulsanne chicane. Aitken's car would hit the wall hard, bringing out the day's first safety car and forcing the team to repair the car for nearly an hour. That car, the winner of this year's 12 Hours of Sebring, is now running 15 laps behind the leaders. It was just a preview of further issues to come.

Three hours later, light rain began in the Porsche curves. With the rest of the track dry, drivers stayed out on slicks for a handful of laps without incident. When rain picked up, that became a catastrophe for every car that came to the corner.

The next five cars to enter the corners all slid off track. First, an LMP2 car went straight into the outside wall. Then a Glickenhaus Hypercar stopped a spin, just in time to avoid a GTE-Am Ferrar Ferrari spinning out of control into the same runoff area. The No. 3 Cadillac, a car that had already been tagged from behind by GT drivers in between slow zones, spun first into the inside barrier and then swung around to spin backwards across the track. Then, finally, the GTE-Am-leading No. 86 Porsche spun into the same wall the Ferrari had hit earlier. That brought out an extended safety car for barrier repairs, clean-up, and, generally, a chance to avoid any other cars entering the corner at racing speeds on dry tires.

20 hours remain in the centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans. Peugeot No. 94 currently leads the race overall under this safety car, but that car has struggled to keep up with the other major contenders under green flag running. Road & Track's real-time analysis of the race continues on our live blog.

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