Beating Aston at Le Mans was “unthinkable” for Ferrari
While Aston Martin scored its first class win at La Sarthe since 2017 with its new Vantage GTE , Ferrari was left to finish second with the better of its pair of AF Corse-run 488 GTEs shared by James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra.
The #51 Ferrari and the winning #97 Aston had been locked in battle at the head of the GTE Pro field for much of the race, but the pendulum swung in favour of the latter when Ferrari changed a brake rotor with a little over six hours of the race to go.
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But Miguel Molina, one of the drivers of the #71 Ferrari that was on course to finish fourth until a last-lap transmission failure, felt victory for the Italian marque was never on the cards.
“[Aston] were very, very superior,” Molina told Motorsport.com. “They had more power and it showed, because they ran with much more downforce than us and they compensated for it on the straight with the power and in the fast corners.
“They did 3m50.3s [in the race] and our best was 3m51.0s. It was unthinkable to beat them.”
#71 AF Corse – Ferrari 488 GTE EVO: Davide Rigon, Sam Bird, Miguel Molina
Photo by: Paul Foster
Porsche driver Frederic Makowiecki accused Aston of hiding its true pace during Friday’s Hyperpole session after posting slower laptimes than it had done in practice.
Asked if he also felt Aston had not shown its hand during qualifying, Molina replied: “Yes, it was very clear when we all went out except them. They waited to see what times were done, not to surpass them, and that’s how it was. They stayed two tenths from the top cars.
“We only made an attempt because we saw that and before we looked like fools we decided to do that. It was a bit brazen.”
Calado finished 1m33s behind the winning Aston after being split from the #97 car behind a separate safety car train in the final hour.
He told Motorsport.com: “They had good pace and there was nothing we could really do about that, we just lacked the pace compared to them, or at least just the [#97] Aston.
“We struggled on the straights a little bit. Well, not the straights, but first, second and third gear where they’ve got a bit more torque, and then they use a lot more downforce than us.
“At the end of the straights, even though they were still quicker, we could live with them a little bit, but they had more downforce and more power.
“We couldn’t have done any more really. We did what we could, and we basically just lacked pace, they were quicker than us.”
Last-lap retirement “surreal” for #71 crew
Molina and his teammates in the #71 Ferrari, Davide Rigon and Sam Bird were in contention in the first third of the race, before a puncture and resultant suspension problem cast them adrift of the leading runners in the class.
They were on course to come home fourth until their last-minute failure, after which Molina admitted it was considered by Rigon, who was in the car at the time, to try and get the car across the line in reverse gear.
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“Fourth place was assured until three corners from the end, which was when the car stopped because the gearbox broke,” said Molina. “It was a bit surreal because we were already there, all trying to celebrate something, but we could not even finish.
“The first thing that Davide thought inside the car was to bring home the car in reverse, which was the only gear that worked, but we were told that the rules do not allow it.
“Even Calado saw that the car stopped and said on the radio that he will push it to the finish, but that would have disqualified us both, because you have to finish by yourself.”
Additional reporting by James Newbold