Juan Manuel Correa fights to the finish in 24 Hours of Le Mans debut
Step One ambassador Juan Manuel Correa navigated a challenging weekend of racing to finish 16th at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to complete his debut at the iconic endurance special.
The 2023 edition of the historic race celebrated its 100th anniversary, and Correa joined forces with PREMA Racing, with whom he tasted title success in the 2022 European Le Mans Series.
Correa returned to the #9 Oreca 07-Gibson cockpit for the first time since finishing fifth at the 6 Hours of Portimão and shared driving duties with Bent Viscaal and Filip Ugran.
He jumped into the car right off the back of a Formula 2 race weekend in Spain with his team, Van Amersfoort Racing, putting laps in at Le Mans within just four hours of the Feature Race on June 4th, in accordance with requirements from the World Endurance Championship ahead of Thursday’s qualifying session for the 24-Hour race. This was an extraordinary challenge that Correa did not shy away from, but rather stepped into with full enthusiasm and focus.
The crew qualified seventh in the LMP2 class and rain before the race started brewing the perfect storm as the Circuit de la Sarthe blended wet and dry conditions to present a true test for drivers.
Correa started the race for PREMA and navigated the track’s evolving environment with careful precision, as a handful of teams, including the #311 Action Express Cadillac crew, ran into trouble.
The American-Ecuadorian ran the first three hours before handing the cockpit to Viscaal, who kept PREMA in contention by running as high as sixth.
Rain caused chaos again at the quarter-distance mark, and with a loss in grip, the #9 PREMA experienced a brief off before being struck by Racing Team Turkey.
With left-rear damage, this accident forced the team into a lengthy repair job, but the crew returned to the track with Ugran behind the wheel in P20 and several laps down on its competitors.
However, in the face of an uphill challenge, Correa drove a measured stint in the morning’s twilight hours to begin a fighting recovery drive up until the 12-hour mark.
At mid-race distance, and after the retirement of its sister #63 car, Viscaal fronted PREMA’s efforts, and after another stint for Ugran, Correa took the reins with seven hours remaining and fought to 15th.
A starter motor issue in his next pitstop, which coincided with another driver change, cost the crew precious time and put a pause on their recovery process, yet the team continued to dig deep in an enduring test of emotion and determination that only Le Mans can serve.
Correa returned to the cockpit for the final hour and 15 minutes and continued to battle until the end. He took the checkered flag P16 in the LMP2 class, having shown fierce fight and focus throughout the event.