Bas Leinders was left ruing a decision not to change tyres prior to a failure that pitched him off the road – and Marc VDS Racing's GT1 class Ford GT out of the running – in the 78th edition of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours round-the-clock classic this weekend.
The car Leinders was sharing with fellow Le Mans rookies Eric De Doncker and Markus Palttala was running well and duelling with the AMR Young Driver Aston Martin DB9 for GT1 honours when an under-inflated rear tyre – the legacy of having run on the same set of rubber since the start – sent the Belgian off-piste at the Esses on only his 27th lap, thankfully without any physical injury given the hefty impact that was made with the barriers. Sadly, after efforts were made to repair the heavily-damaged #70 machine, defeat was finally conceded.
“The race had been going quite well,” the 34-year-old ex single-seater ace and former F1 tester told Crash.net
. “When I pitted under the safety car I had just passed Peter Kox for the [GT1] lead, but then going out again the guy at the end of the pit-lane forgot to give me the green light after the safety car had gone past, so I had to wait for the next one.
“That cost me a third of a lap, but we carried on setting very good and consistent lap times with no major issues. I wasn't pushing or over-driving; I could feel the car was actually starting to slide a bit so I had slowed it down a little – and then this happened.
“We'd had the same tyres on from the start, so they had probably been used too much, and there wasn't enough air in the left-rear. It was a bit warmer and a bit of a higher rhythm than it had been during practice, so maybe tyre wear was higher too and it was just at the end of its life.
“If it had happened on the straight it wouldn't have been a problem, but it was in a right-hand corner when I was going at almost 200km/h with a lot of pressure on the left-rear. Then it just went and I could see the barrier coming – there wasn't much I could do. It's just a shame to have this happen. Maybe we should have changed the tyres, but the information we had was that we could do two stints on them, maybe even three later in the race.”