Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan is one of numerous people involved in the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race who is less-than-thrilled with how safety cars impacted competition in the production-based GTE-Pro class. This year’s class winner – the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR – enjoyed a comfortable lead for most of the race that went essentially unchallenged, largely due to how unfortunate safety car timing separated the car from the other GTE-Pro frontrunners.
At about Hour 4 of the 24-hour Le Mans race, a safety car “divided one car from the pack of GT cars, with a two-and-a-half-minute gap that sat there for the entire race,” Fehan told Sportscar365. “Why did it sit there for the entire race? Because of safety car and Slow Zone areas. There’s no way to get it back. If you keep it in your group, you can race internally in your group, and you saw some of that at the back.”
Because the Circuit de la Sarthe is so long, organizers now use three safety cars instead of just one, but that’s demonstrated a tendency to cause certain cars to be clustered together based on happenstance. The No. 92 Porsche pitted quickly after the start of the first safety car period, while a majority of the GTE-Pro field pitted a lap later, and were then stuck in the pits until the next safety car pack crossed.
Doug Fehan suggested that race organizers should find a way to keep groups of cars battling with each other for position “clustered” despite Le Mans’ trio of safety cars. “We had [one safety car] in the past, but the circuit’s so long that they worry about how long it takes [to catch up]. I’m not sure that you can’t use three safety cars and still use individual wave-byes.
“I don’t have a solution,” he said. “I have just identified it as a challenge. That’s what caused this not to be a very good race.”