Photo : FRANCOIS NAVARRO - ACO/NIKON
During free practice yesterday the No 51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia suffered an accident while in the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella, this car being one of the favourites in the LMGTE Pro class. He hit the wall hard in the Porsche Curves and the car sustained major damage to the rear left corner. It was sufficiently serious to mean that the car wasn't able to run in the first qualifying session.
This presented the team with some serious problems since it transpired the car needed a new chassis. This is normally outside the regulations. However, since the accident took place during free practice, the ACO and FIA stewards took the unusual step of recognising Force Majeure and allowing AF Corse to change the chassis.
So the race began to get the car rebuilt. A new chassis was put on a truck at the AF Corse factory and two drivers set off to drive the 700 miles from Piacenza to Le Mans. The team had already stripped down the original car and were ready to get started when the truck arrived at the circuit at 09:45hrs today (Thursday). At least nine mechanics will now set about rebuilding the car from the ground up. We understand the team is working towards getting the car out for the last hour of the second session this evening but, if it is not finished in time for qualifying, it will be allowed to start the race from the back of the grid or from the pit lane.
All three drivers, Fisichella, Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander, have raced at Le Mans before and completed the required number of night laps in AF Corse's No.71 car. But the important thing, for the team, Ferrari and all its many fans, is that they will be competing in the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Photo: CIRCUIT DES 24 HEURES (LE MANS, SARTHE), FREE PRACTICE SESSION, 13TH JUNE 2012. The No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia will be racing in the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans, despite a practice accident.