A crash for Erik Maris in the No. 33 Eurasia Motorsport Ligier JS P217 Gibson has halted the second of three qualifying sessions for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, but not before the overall and LMP2 provisional pole times have improved.
Maris’ crash has required extensive repairs to the ARMCO barrier; it will delay track activity until at least 8:15 p.m. local time at the Circuit de la Sarthe (2:15 p.m. ET). Maris got out of the car under his own power and is going through medical checks.
The session is due to run until 9 p.m. local time although may be extended into the one-hour break between this second session and the third and final qualifying session, which runs from 10 p.m. to midnight. Wednesday’s first qualifying session was delayed 20 minutes at the start and ran for only an hour and 40 minutes.
Before the accident, Mike Conway improved upon teammate Kamui Kobayashi’s best time set Wednesday night in the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid. The Englishman posted a best time of 3:18.651, a tenth and a half up on the 3:18.793 time, which now stands as the provisional pole in the car these two drivers share with Stephane Sarrazin.
While the No. 7 car improved its time, the No. 8 car has had a precautionary engine change.
The LMP2 mark however was lowered significantly. Thomas Laurent took the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson to a blistering lap of 3:26.776 in the car he shares with ex-Audi man and now ‘Bentley Boy’ Oliver Jarvis and Ho-Pin Tung. Wednesday’s provisional pole time was set by fellow Frenchman Mathieu Vaxviere in the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca of 3:29.333.
Neither of the GTE provisional pole times have changed compared to Wednesday; Aston Martin Racing still holds the top spot in GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.
DI GRASSI OUT OF ACTION
There is one key GTE change though and it has nothing to do with the timesheets.
Lucas di Grassi is out of this year’s Le Mans with a broken fibula which requires surgery. It will bring Italian veteran Michele Rugolo into the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE alongside James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi.
Di Grassi, who races full-time in the FIA Formula E Championship with ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport, posted a series of tweets for updates.
I'll sadly miss this year's #LeMans24 with a broken fibula that requires surgery. This was a hard decision but I'm following medical advise.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.