Porsche madness after accident at 24h Le Mans: Jota racing car completely rebuilt

The 24 Hours of Le Mans are not exactly known for offering participants enough sleep. In the garage of the Porsche customer team Jota, there were literally sleepless nights for the crew even before the start of the race (Saturday, 4 p.m. live on free TV on Nitro and Eurosport).

The Jota team led by team boss Dieter Gass had to practically build a completely new racing car after Callum Ilott’s accident in night training on Wednesday! The Brit’s accident in the #12 Porsche 963, which had recently won the WEC race in Spa-Francorchamps subject to Ferrari’s appeal, did not seem dramatic at first glance, but it turned out that the monocoque was damaged and had to be replaced.

24h Le Mans 2024: Construction work on the #12 Jota-Porsche in the video (01:27 min.)

“72 Hours of Le Mans” for Jota mechanics

“Unfortunately, I hit the crash barriers instead of the tire wall,” explained Ilott, who publicly apologized to the Jota mechanics for the extra work. Teammate Will Stevens said on Friday during a Porsche press conference: “It’s been a good week so far, but this was a setback. For the guys in the pits, it’s the 72 Hours of Le Mans! Our team is not as big as the factory teams, but we get good support.”

“It is probably even more hours for some team members,” said Porsche’s LMDh factory manager Urs Kuratle to Motorsport-Magazin.com“They’re doing a huge job building the car. It will be ready on time and of course the factory is supporting it as much as it can. It’s a huge job building a car like this.”

#12 JOTA-Porsche with Stevens, Ilott, Nato
This is what the Jota Porsche looks like when assembled, Photo: LAT Images

Jota-Porsche allowed to rollout at Le Mans airfield

The enormous effort to prepare the #12 Jota Porsche for the race was rewarded: on Friday afternoon, the prototype was back on four wheels. The team also received special permission to carry out a functional test of the car on Friday evening for a maximum of 30 minutes – on the runway of the small airport directly behind the race track. A drive on the Circuit de la Sarthe was not possible, not least because the track is open to spectators on Friday.

In the past, it was more common for the prototypes to undergo a small rollout on the airfield. Jota team boss Gass has even been familiar with this procedure since 1994, when he was the team coordinator for Bugatti’s 24-hour race (and almost even drove the race, as he once told us…).

The stewards’ letter also stated that the #12 Porsche “must take part in the warm-up session” on Saturday afternoon. It was not entirely clear at first whether this was a requirement to receive clearance for the race start a few hours later. However, Jota will likely be happy to take any opportunity to check out the newly rebuilt car on the track.

New Porsche monocoque delivered to Le Mans

With the support of the Porsche factory team, a new monocoque was found and delivered to the track. “We have around 24 hours to build the car,” said Gass on Thursday. “Such work normally takes three weeks.”

In the WEC, it is forbidden to bring a so-called ‘spare car’. The monocoque comes from a theoretically roadworthy 963, which Porsche Motorsport Director Thomas Laudenbach described in a small media round as a “parade lap car”: “It’s not a show car, but this car wasn’t actually meant to race. It was dismantled and the necessary parts were removed to build a new car.”

#12 JOTA-Porsche, Stevens with Ilott, Nato
The Jota Porsche crashed on Wednesday during night training, Photo: DPPI/WEC

Porsche Motorsport Director Laudenbach: “Great spirit” despite rivalry

Laudenbach continued on the subject of the ‘parade lap car’ theoretically being able to be used in the event of a crash involving one of the Penske-Porsche factory cars: “That (the accident on Wednesday) happened at a time when people were saying: ‘What happens if there is another accident?’ Then it could have been that a Penske car did not race. But everyone supported that, including Penske. It was a great spirit to say that you don’t want to defeat others by not giving them the opportunity to drive.”

The installation of bodywork parts was probably one of the lesser hurdles for the Jota team. Things get more exciting when it comes to integrating the engine and the hybrid unit, as well as the complex wiring under the hood. It is precisely in these areas that errors can easily arise during repairs. LMDh manager Kuratle: “From the outside, it quickly looks as if it were a finished car. However, the small details behind it make the work more difficult. But the guys are professionals, and this is not the first time they have done this.”

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