Le Mans: Rolling blog for the 2016 24 Hours

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My MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith and I will be providing updates here on NBCSports.com from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 84th edition of the French endurance classic.

The most recent updates will follow at the top of the post:


The final hour is underway. All four class leaders are the same, and this is the last scheduled update before the checkered flag.

Of note, the Pegasus Morgan Nissan has stopped with a fire on course, driver Ines Taittinger having got out OK. It puts that car from the likable perennial underdogs out of its misery after numerous spins.

Ben Keating has also had a spin in the Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03R Nissan, that car still running as we reach the final hour.


The beauty or curse of this weekend where both F1 and Le Mans goes on is that Luke goes onto F1 from here, and thus I’m back at the wheel here – after a quick nap but before a morning coffee – to the finish for Le Mans. After yesterday, limiting my coffee intake might not be the worst decision.

With just under two hours remaining, the final round of driver changes are setting up for most of the class leaders. Anthony Davidson has handed off the leading Toyota to Kaz Nakajima, Joey Hand the leading Ford to Dirk Mueller and Townsend Bell the leading GTE-Am Ferrari to Jeff Segal. Figure Signatech Alpine will likely see Nicolas Lapierre taking over from Stephane Richelmi soon enough.

Nakajima, at the moment, leads Neel Jani’s Porsche by just 28 seconds and change. Elsewhere Roman Rusinov passed Richelmi to get back on the lead lap. Giancarlo Fisichella in the Risi Ferrari trails Mueller by 38 seconds. And the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari has moved ahead of the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Porsche for second in GTE-Am.

The No. 6 Toyota, meanwhile, lost a few laps when it went behind the wall for repairs. Kamui Kobayashi had spun off at one point and he, Mike Conway and Stephane Sarrazin have third at best.

The pace of the Fords remains unquestioned; Billy Johnson has set a new outright GTE-Pro fastest race lap, below.

Aston Martin Racing’s No. 98 Vantage has been retired from GTE-Am with gearbox woes.


Anthony Davidson continues to lead for Toyota with three hours remaining in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The last hour has seen Toyota turn the screw on Porsche, who tried to respond to its rival’s pace by quadruple-stinting its tires with Marc Lieb. Just before the top of the hour, Porsche pitted the German for a full service, swapping in Neel Jani.

Toyota brought Davidson in one lap later but only refuelled his car, meaning his lead over Jani now stands at around a minute.

The No. 6 Toyota dropped back from the battle for P2 after Kamui Kobayashi spun, relieving some of the pressure on Porsche.

In LMP2, Manor’s spirited first race at Le Mans took a late blow when Matthew Rao shunted at the Porsche Curves. After sliding off at Indianapolis, part of the front bodywork on Rao’s car broke off and lodged itself under his car, leaving him unable to steer. The car got pushed back to the pits, but it will take an almighty effort from Manor to get the car back out again.

The battle in GTE Pro continued to swing in favor of Ford after a spin for the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE in the hands of Toni Vilander in second place. Ferrari does look poised for some success today though, as Scuderia Corsa continues to lead in GTE Am.


5 a.m. ET: The 20th hour of racing at the Circuit de la Sarthe saw Porsche finally regain the overall lead with Marc Lieb behind the wheel of the No. 2 919 Hybrid. Porsche once again opted to only refuel his car while Toyota completed a full service and changed driver on both of its cars, giving up the lead.

Anthony Davidson sat just a couple of seconds behind Lieb after pitting, and managed to close before sliding past at Mulsanne with an excellent overtake just before the top of the hour to regain the lead. Lieb pitted just before the four-hour mark, only refuelling to quadruple stint the tires.

Audi’s miserable race continued with the No. 8 car being forced to return to the garage for repairs after slowing on track. It remains fourth overall, five laps down on the leaders.

LMP2 continues to edge into the favor of Signatech Alpine, which continues to keep G-Drive Racing at an arm’s length.

Much as the LMP1 battle was close, GTE Pro was following suit. Embracing the spirit of ’66, Ford and Ferrari locked horns as the No. 68 Ford GT made up for its earlier penalty and regained the lead, Joey Hand passing Matteo Malucelli. The gap stands at just a couple of seconds at the time of writing.

Scuderia Corsa still leads the way in GTE Am, with NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell currently behind the wheel of the Ferrari 458 Italia.


4 a.m. ET: Porsche continues to toil away behind the two Toyota cars with five hours remaining, but has brought itself back into contention by only taking fuel at its most recent pit stop.

A solid stint from Marc Lieb has drawn him close to Mike Conway in the No. 6 Toyota currently occupying P2, with the leading No. 5 Toyota less than half a minute up the road now.

LMP2 is boiling down to a straight fight between the No. 36 Signatech Alpine and the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca, the latter lapping two seconds per lap faster at the moment.

Ford has reeled the leading Ferrari in GTE Pro back in, now sitting just five seconds behind, while Scuderia Corsa continues to head up GTE Am.


3 a.m ET: Just six hours remain at Le Mans – or one regular WEC race distance – and Toyota has extended its advantage over Porsche in the battle for overall honors.

After teammate Anthony Davidson brought the No. 5 Toyota back into contention for victory overnight, Sebastien Buemi has now forged a healthy lead over the chasing pack. The No. 6 Toyota sits 30 seconds further back, while Porsche’s No. 2 car is now almost a minute down the road.

Throughout the early-morning stint, Porsche has struggled to match Toyota for pace. Marc Lieb is now behind the wheel of the No. 2 919 Hybrid after Neel Jani completed a short stint.

In LMP2, the Thiriet No. 46 entry has retired following its crash after previously battling for the class lead, leaving the No. 36 Signatech Alpine almost a lap clear of its nearest challenger, the No. 26 G-Drive Oreca.

The last hour has seen the battle for victory in GTE Pro take a twist after the No. 68 Ford GT was handed a drive-through penalty for having the engine switched on while refuelling. As a result, the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE sits half a minute clear at the front of the class.

Scuderia Corsa continues to lead GTE Am with its No. 62 Ferrari 458 Italia,  sitting almost a lap clear of the Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR in second place.


2 a.m. ET: With seven hours remaining, Toyota remains in the lead of the race after completing a double pit-stop under the safety car, bringing in both the No. 5 and No. 6 cars for a full service. Sebastien Buemi and Mike Conway are now driving the respective cars, racing line astern on track.

Porsche opted not to pit the no. 2 car under the safety car, instead bringing Jani in under green just before the top of the hour. The team topped the car up with fuel before sending Jani on his way, emerging from the pits narrowly behind the Toyotas.

17 hours of racing down, and just two seconds separate the top three.

1:35 a.m. ET: As night turns to day at Le Mans – and Tony grabs a quick nap; Luke now here – the effects of a 24-hour race are beginning to set in as a number of teams and drivers hit trouble, resulting in a safety car period being called halfway through the 17th hour.

ByKolles’ plucky weekend came to a smoky end when Simon Trummer was forced to stop at the Porsche Curves after a fire on his car, forcing the no. 4 CLM out of the race.

The battle for victory in LMP2 took a twist when the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca Nissan punted into the wall and lost its nose at Mulsanne.

The shunt appeared to relieve some of the pressure on the No. 36 Signatech Alpine in the lead of the class, only for it to be brought into the garage under the safety car, the engine cover being taken off Stephane Richelmi’s car.

ESM’s difficult race took another dip when the No. 30 car slid into the barrier at Tete Rouge, capping off a crazy 15-minute period in LMP2. Ed Brown did manage to get the car going again under the safety car.

The slow zones and safety car period gave race leader Stephane Sarrazin a break in the No. 6 Toyota as he found himself in a separate queue to the lead Porsche in P3, now driven by Neel Jani.

Jani had hoped to cut into the advantage of the Toyotas using fresh tires after Romain Dumas completed the last stint on a used set, only for the safety car and slow zone periods to stunt his charge. As the Toyotas continue to go longer on fuel and tires, if Porsche wants to win this race, it will need to get a move on.

Audi took advantage of the safety car to complete a full check on the No. 7 car while fitting new tires and refuelling in the garage. With the car 12 laps down on the leaders and out of contention for the win, it will make little difference.

HOUR 15 / HOUR 16

1 a.m. ET:  This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans is now two-thirds complete, having clicked off the 16-hour mark.

Some slow zones are on track following Tommy Milner’s accident just before the end of the 16th hour, which took out the defending GTE-Pro winner at Le Mans. Barriers are being repaired.

Just after the 16-hour mark, Nelson Panciatici has crashed on the Mulsanne straight, just at the first chicane, in the No. 35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460 Nissan. He was running fourth in LMP2 co-driving with Ho-Pin Tung and David Cheng.

Class leaders at the 16-hour mark are:

  • Stephane Sarrazin (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Stephane Richelmi (No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Toni Vilander (No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GTE-Pro)
  • Jeff Segal (No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia, GTE-Am)

Here are some other notes from the last couple hours:

Problems have struck the “Mighty 38” No. 38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S Nissan, the car that two years ago won the LMP2 class as what was then known as the Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan. Jota still runs the G-Drive effort.

Simon Dolan went off course in the 15th hour at the Ford Chicane, which damaged the left front and the suspension. He shares the car with ex-Caterham F1 driver Giedo van der Garde and Jake Dennis.

A broken suspension has hampered the progress of the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 Nissan (Bruno Senna, Filipe Albuquerque, Ricardo Gonzalez); the Silverstone winners having a tough day.

One of the star cars in GTE-Am to this point has also lost its pace, with the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR not able to match its earlier times per one of its drivers, David Heinemeier Hansson. He shares the car with Patrick Long and Khaled Al Qubaisi. The No. 88 has trailed the leading Scuderia Corsa car of late.

HOUR 13 /HOUR 14

11 p.m. ET: The latest story is Anthony Davidson closing on his teammate Kamui Kobayashi for the overall lead. Game on between the two Toyota TS050 Hybrids…

Elsewhere Gustavo Menezes put in a good stint in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan to extend that car’s lead in LMP2. Risi Competizione and Scuderia Corsa still lead GTE-Pro and GTE-Am respectively, with the new Ferrari 488 GTE and older Ferrari F458 Italia, respectively.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a bit too much coffee, as evidenced by this tweet of trying to spell out “LM24” – Le Mans 24 – in code.

My MST colleague Luke Smith should be on in the next hour or two.

HOUR 11 / HOUR 12

9:20 p.m. ET: The half distance report is in the books and is linked separately, here.

Big implications in the GTE-Pro class with two more retirements.

The No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE (Sam Bird, Davide Rigon, Andrea Bertolini) is a retirement with a rim exploding. That car won the opening two races of the year in the FIA World Endurance Championship season with Bird and Rigon.

Meanwhile Porsche’s day has gone from bad to worse, its second factory-entered 911 RSR now retired along with the No. 91 car (engine issues). This leaves all six of its drivers – Fred Makowiecki, Earl Bamber, Joerg Bergmeister, Kevin Estre, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet – done for the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans. There will be no repeat winners of the three overall winners last year with both Bamber and Tandy done.


7:00 p.m. ET: Double digit hours are complete at Hour 10, under another Safety Car period – the third of the race – owing to oil at the Porsche Curves. The cause? A Porsche, the troubled No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR, with engine gremlins and a small fire. Kevin Estre was out of the car he shared with Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet.

It’s also been a rough period for the No. 1 Porsche, which has been in and out of the garage.

At the 10-hour mark, Mike Conway leads overall and the best battle has been in GTE-Am – genuine ams David Heinemeier Hansson (Silver-rated) and Bill Sweedler (Bronze) have had a proper battle for the class lead in the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR and the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia.

Class leaders at the 10-hour mark are:

  • Mike Conway (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Nicolas Lapierre (No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Dirk Mueller (No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, GTE-Pro)
  • David Heinemeier Hansson (No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)


5:30 p.m. ET: Trouble for two of the LMP1 cars… the No. 1 Porsche in for extensive repairs and what Radio Le Mans believed to be a battery issue, and for the No. 7 Audi which hit the gravel. Porsche has now indicated a high water temperature:

Two of the leading GTE-Am class contenders also in trouble; Paul Dalla Lana has had a spin in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 and the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia has also had an off.

The No. 47 KCMG car was due to be an official retirement, the second of the race… but no, with the garage door not shut fully and the car returning to the track:

And the GTE-Am car issues have necessitated the second Safety Car period of the race.

Stephane Sarrazin leads overall and had a 90-second lead prior to this period.


5:00 p.m. ET: We are through the first one third of the race, eight hours complete and 16 to go.

Notes from the last two hours:

  • The No. 57 Team AAI Corvette C7.R of Mark Patterson went off course at the Porsche Curves.
  • Manor’s No. 44 of Matt Rao spun at Dunlop Chicane from the LMP2 lead and the car later went behind the wall with Rao reporting the oil temperatures had gone through the roof. He shares that car with Tor Graves and Roberto Merhi.
  • Marino Franchitti went off at Mulsanne Corner in the No. 67 Ford, which continued that car’s troubled race.
  • IndyCar stars Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon went 1-2 in the Nos. 68 and 69 Fords in GTE-Pro, ahead of Matteo Malucelli in the Risi Ferrari.
  • The No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, the car which won last year, stopped driver’s right exiting Mulsanne Corner on the run to Indianapolis with Tsugio Matsuda driving (co-drivers Matthew Howson and Richard Bradley).
  • Pedro Lamy in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 passed Patrick Long in the No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche, although both fell behind on pit stops.
  • It’s now fully dark.

Class leaders at the eight-hour mark were:

  • Stephane Sarrazin (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Pierre Thiriet (No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Dirk Mueller (No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT, GTE-Pro)
  • Jeff Segal (No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia, GTE-Am)


3:00 p.m. ET: Six hours are in the books. Updates on the No. 91 Porsche and No. 31 ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan are below:

Cumming slowed to avoid a couple GTE cars into a Slow Zone at the Porsche Curves and ensuing suspension damage a lap later forced him into the pits. It scuppers the hopes of Pipo Derani being able to win all of Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans in the same year.

The No. 89 Porsche is the first official retirement of the race.

Hour 6 leaders are:

  • Kamui Kobayashi (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Ryo Hirakawa (No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Matteo Malucelli (No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GTE-Pro)
  • Khaled Al Qubaisi (No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)


1:00 p.m. ET: We have the first car to hit potentially terminal trouble just at the end of the fourth hour, in the form of the luckless No. 89 WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR.

Marc Miller crashed just before the Dunlop bridge at the Dunlop Chicane; Miller and Leh Keen were due to share the No. 89 car solo and the car was then taken off by a crane. He apparently slipped on oil on corner entry. Miller’s crash necessitated Slow Zones – the first of the weekend – at Zones 2 and 3.

Meanwhile Niki Leutwiler also stopped on course at the Mulsanne Corner in the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03R Judd, but resumed.

The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, which Tandy was doing well to keep in the same zip code as the Fords and Ferraris in front, needed to box to change its radiator out.  Tandy had been running fourth behind the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE and the Nos. 68 and 69 Fords.

Another car struggling is the No. 43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Filipe Albuquerque, Bruno Senna and Ricardo Gonzalez, with an apparent misfire forcing them behind the wall for a bit of time.

Hand has uncorked the fastest race lap in GTE-Pro thus far of 3:52.582. Neither Sebastien Bourdais nor Scott Dixon has been in yet; meanwhile Mikhail Aleshin and Townsend Bell have been in for their opening stints.

Class leaders at the four-hour mark are:

  • Mark Webber (No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Matthew Howson (No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Joey Hand (No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team US Ford GT, GTE-Pro)
  • Joel Camathias (No. 78 KCMG Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)


12:15 p.m. ET: The race is starting to settle into a bit of a rhythm as the race is past the three-hour mark. It’s going to be dusk before too long, at 6:15 p.m. local time in France and it’ll get darker in the next couple hours.

Class leaders at the three-hour mark are:

  • Brendon Hartley (No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Roberto Merhi (No. 44 Manor Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Dirk Mueller (No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team US Ford GT, GTE-Pro)
  • Patrick Long (No. 88 Abu Dhabi Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)

Two emotional runs of note occurring with the race debuts of quad amputee Frederic Sausset in the SRT41 by OAK Racing Morgan Nissan, the Garage 56 entry, and British cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy in the No. 25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan.


11:05 a.m. ET: Pit stops are underway, with most of the field now having stopped at least twice or just about to stop.

Leaders at the two-hour mark (11 a.m. ET):

  • Mike Conway (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Roberto Merhi (No. 44 Manor Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Fred Makowiecki (No. 92 Porsche Motorsport Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Pro)
  • Wolf Henzler (No. 78 KCMG Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)

Conway was forced off line to avoid hitting the No. 25 Algarve Pro Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan (Andrea Pizzitola driving) just before the end of the two-hour mark.

A puncture has slowed the No. 60 Formula Racing Ferrari F458 Italia, a car which includes Le Mans debutante Christina Nielsen.

The No. 7 Audi is back out, six laps off the lead, following its turbocharger change. Treluyer is now in the car.


10:30 a.m. ET: First hour and first round of pit stops in the books. Class leaders at the one-hour mark?

  • Mike Conway (No. 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, LMP1 and overall),
  • Rene Rast (No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05 Nissan, LMP2),
  • Dirk Mueller (No. 68 Ford Chip Ganassi Team US Ford GT, GTE-Pro)
  • Wolf Henzler (No. 78 KCMG Porsche 911 RSR, GTE-Am)

After the rain stopped to begin with, it is now due again just after 4:30 p.m. local time.

Drama for the No. 7 Audi R18, which has been boxed for a turbocharger change. This is the car that fields the trio of three-time Le Mans winners, Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer.


9:52 a.m. ET: IT’S GREEN! After more than 50 minutes behind the Safety Car owing to the rain, which then stopped and let up, this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans is now officially underway.

Here’s some interesting tweets first off:

Although as you’ll see here, FIA WEC Race Director Eduardo Freitas was in a bit of a quandary:

Meanwhile, here’s the reaction from Baku as the F1 conflict of qualifying for the European Grand Prix was going on at the same time as Le Mans started:

Finally, rare you get this much cinematic star power in one place – let alone at a race track:

8:45 a.m. ET: With the No. 4 ByKolles car also in the garage, there’s now drama for one of the Fords before the race has even begun.

The No. 67 Ford (Andy Priaulx, Marino Franchitti, Harry Tincknell) out of the Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK camp, was just being wheeled back to its garage on a dolly.

8:30 a.m. ET: First off, it’s raining. So it will make for a wet start to the race, and will be behind the Safety Car.

LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 18: Actor Brad Pitt (R) talks with ACO President Pierre Fillon (L) before the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 18, 2016 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
LE MANS, FRANCE – JUNE 18: Actor Brad Pitt (R) talks with ACO President Pierre Fillon (L) before the Le Mans 24 Hour race at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 18, 2016 in Le Mans, France. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)

Brad Pitt has made it to Le Mans and is on the grid, as are Jackie Chan (has an LMP2 car entered in the field) – Patrick Dempsey (has GTE-Pro car entered), Jason Statham and Keanu Reeves are also among the celebrities in attendance.

Two accidents in the morning warmup have jeopardized the race for two LMP2 cars – the No. 23 Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier JS P2 Nissan (Fabien Barthez, Paul Loup Chatin, Timothe Buret) and the No. 35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460 Nissan (David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung, Nelson Panciatici) – who were performing repairs to get those cars out and running.

Meanwhile, there’s been drama further down the grid at Proton Competition for the No. 89 WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR.

Cooper MacNeil has ruled himself out of the race after developing an illness overnight. Gunnar Jeannette, a Le Mans veteran and the team’s reserve driver who tested on the Le Mans Test Day, was due to be called up to replace his fellow Silver-rated driver alongside Leh Keen and Marc Miller.

“The WeatherTech Racing team had me come to the test so I would be eligible to drive in the race as a reserve driver,” Jeannette said. “No one likes the circumstances, I hate it for Cooper, Le Mans is the highlight of every driver’s year. I have been with the team all week and I am ready step in and drive.”

Photo: WeatherTech Racing
Photo: WeatherTech Racing

A slight alteration has occurred though. Despite Jeannette’s experience, he hasn’t completed any laps during this race week, and thus won’t be allowed to race. It will mean Keen and Miller will “Iron man it” themselves, ironically, same as what MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen did in a backup Porsche 911 GT3 RSR two years ago when they moved up from GTE-Am to GTE-Pro.

“I am trying to comprehend what it is going to be like doing Le Mans with two drivers,” Keen said.  “Cooper and Jeroen (Bleekemolen) did it two years ago. It can be done. We are still running in the AM category so we still have a chance to do well. It will just be tough to get quality rest time out of the car. The rest periods will be shorter and of course drive time in the car will be longer. I am preparing as best that I can right now. We hope Cooper gets better and we are going to try and get a good result for everyone. It is Le Mans, as big as it gets, we are going for it!”

“It is tough not going to have Cooper with us in the car,” Miller said. “It is not as much the drive time you have to manage, but the rest time you can get. I will have another one or two more stints and all of the stints will be longer in the car. We are still looking for a result. We have a good shot at doing well this weekend and Leh and I are motivated to produce a result for Cooper, WeatherTech and Proton.”

Here is the final starting grid.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.