As Stéphane took over the race-leading #7 during the safety car period, switching to wet tyres in the process, he suffered unfortunate timing. The race poised to restart so the car was held at the end of the pit lane, enduring a frustrating wait as the #20 Porsche eventually passed before Stéphane was allowed to rejoin. He immediately set a quick pace and closed on the leader, a pattern which continued when he returned to slick tyres. The two leaders were on different strategies but the picture became clearer at Stéphane’s second pit stop; he rejoined the track without giving up the lead and began to pull away. When he handed over to Kazuki, after around a quarter of the race, the #7 held a healthy advantage over the #2 Audi.
Stéphane Sarrazin: “It was a tough start for me. I did four stints and my first in the wet was really on the edge. When I came out of the pits after the safety car I was behind 20 or so cars and I couldn’t see the track; there was so much water on the straight. I had to take a lot of time to overtake all those cars and avoid any problems. After that the track dried up and it was very good. The car has a good balance so I kept pushing to increase the gap between me and the rest of the field.”
TS040 HYBRID #8 (Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre, Sébastien Buemi)
Sébastien had taken the #8 back on track on wet tyres, but outside the top 30 and with a tough task to claim a strong result. He was soon setting competitive lap times, which validated the repair work carried out so quickly by the team. As the track dried, he took on slick tyres and started recovering positions, with the #8 drivers having a 16-point lead in the FIA World Endurance Championship to protect. Sébastien gave the car to Anthony having moved inside the top 20.
Sébastien Buemi: “What can I say? It was very disappointing to have the problem so early. There is only one thing to do now which is keep our heads up and push hard until the end. The guys did a great job to repair the car so thanks a lot for their efforts. Because of the damage, it wasn’t possible to get the car back in a perfect condition so we don’t have the ideal set-up but I pushed as hard as I could and we made up a lot of places.”