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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Vanthoor claims Kubica pushed him off on purpose in race-ending Le Mans clash

Dries Vanthoor believes Robert Kubica deliberately forced him off during the Le Mans 24 Hours, ending the BMW driver’s race

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor

BMW driver Dries Vanthoor believes AF Corse Ferrari rival Robert Kubica deliberately pushed him off the track while trying to lap him during the night at last weekend's Le Mans 24 Hours.

Vanthoor has expressed his disappointment at what he believes was a lack of respect from the one-time Formula 1 race winner after he was sent to the medical centre for check-ups due to the sizeable impact from their collision.

Speaking on the 'Over the limit' podcast he jointly hosts with brother and Porsche factory driver Laurens, Vanthoor said: "I personally think yes, that he did it on purpose because the way he tried to defend himself was wrong.

"The way he did not care about me after the crash, or did not show any respect or just human being to me, also showed to me that it was on purpose. Just not caring, just not coming to see how I was doing.

"I had a small concussion, I have a little thing on my left foot. Not doing any effort to even send a text and know how I am doing [was disappointing].

 

"If I had a crash with someone and I would know he is hurt or he has to go the medical centre, you would just be respectful. I know we are racing and we want to race hard. This was just very unrespectful [sic] and for me not done and something you don't do in racing. It's completely wrong.

"You should show respect. We all want to be safe, it's the number one priority of every organiser, FIA, ACO, SRO. It's the number one priority in racing.

"Even if he was pissed off, even if it was my own mistake of the crash, which let's be completely straight, it wasn't at all, I would have still said something.

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzman, Yifei Ye

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica, Robert Shwartzman, Yifei Ye

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

"I would have said, 'sorry mate, I turned into you'. But he just turned to the right like nobody was there and I was driving there, driving completely straight."

Vanthoor was trying to stay on the lead lap in his WRT-run #15 BMW M Hybrid V8 in the ninth hour, having just switched from wet tyres to slicks, when he encountered the race-leading #83 satellite Ferrari 499P of Kubica on the Mulsanne straight.

The Belgian driver missed the second chicane on cold tyres and had to take to the escape road before rejoining the track, putting him in the thick of the fight with Kubica - who previously raced for WRT in LMP2 - and the #92 Porsche GT3 car.

But as the ex-F1 driver tried to jump both approaching the braking zone for the right-hand Mulsanne Corner, he jinked to the right and clipped Vanthoor's BMW, pitching him head-on into the barriers on the left-hand side of the road.

Such was the intensity of the impact that the car bounced back and skated to the inside side of the track, before coming to a rest with heavy damage to the front-end.

The collision between Vanthoor and Kubica marked a premature end to BMW's race, with the sister #20 car having already been sent back to the garage following a separate accident when Robin Frijns crashed at the Ford Chicane.

The stewards deemed Kubica guilty of causing the crash and handed him a 30-second stop/go penalty, a sanction that was described as too lenient by WRT boss Vincent Vosse.

Explaining the moments in the lead-up to the crash, Vanthoor said: "Going into the second chicane, there was a Ford just in front of us.

"So I was like, f**k I need to get by this Ford. So we braked for the corner, just behind the Ford. I braked at the same point as him.

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor, Raffaele Marciello, Marco Wittmann

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor, Raffaele Marciello, Marco Wittmann

Photo by: BMW AG

"But I was like 'I need to get this Ford between us [so] I don't have the blue flag' because he needs to pass the Ford first. But I was on the inside on cold tyres on the wet part of the track and I didn't make the corner.

"I went on power again [after the chicane] and he had a run on me again.

"I tried to use the Porsche to slow him down, but it didn't work because he had such a run, so I was fair in that way to make the space and let go the Porsche by to not make it dangerous.

"And unfortunately, he decided to make it more dangerous and pushed me off the road. That was it actually."

Vanthoor revealed that he received a lot of hate messages in the aftermath of the accident on social media, with many accusing him of not respecting blue flags when a faster Ferrari was on his tail.

While he did admit that he had been instructed to do everything it took to stay on the lead lap to remain in the hunt for a top result, the 2017 GTE Am class winner at Le Mans claimed he had enough time under the regulations before letting Kubica through.

"They [BMW] told me it's going to be crucial to keep the car behind to stay on the lead lap, because when you are not on the lead lap, unless there is a safety car then it's very difficult to get your lap back," he added.

"When you are lap down, it's very very tough to impossible to do something.

"For all the haters who said 'why you exceeded blue flags', I saw the replays and I saw there was a blue flag. But when you are in a battle or in the moment I honestly did not see [it].

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor

#15 BMW M Team WRT BMW M Hybrid V8: Dries Vanthoor

Photo by: BMW AG

"And even if I had seen it, I wouldn't have done anything because the rule is in WEC you have one sector or two time to let somebody go for blue flags.

"Maybe I fully did not respect the rule, but the rule said I had two sectors to let somebody by. I didn't try to let him by, but people can stop saying this because it's bullshit."

On his part, Kubica denied that he caused the incident on purpose, stating that any attempt at touching another car at high speed would have jeopardised his own chances for victory.

"Firstly, I'm not the sort of person who would swerve into another car at 300kph, leading in a race and with 18 hours to go," he said in an interview with Mikolaj Sokol for Motowizja.

"By swerving into him I would be the one risking ending up in the barriers on the right. That's the first argument.

"The second argument is that if it had been me [causing the collision], my car should have moved much earlier, not just after contact. And that was not the case."

Kubica also hit back at Vanthoor for not respecting blue flags or letting him by easily when he was about to drop a lap down, saying: "I come from a championship where you have respect for other drivers, especially the leaders, especially when you are being lapped.

"On the other hand, there are also championships, and apparently that's what Dries races in, where the blue flags and the rules and regulations don't give a damn [about them]. I'm fortunate enough to have grown up in those first championships.

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica

#83 AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Robert Kubica

Photo by: Marc Fleury

"However, there are drivers in slower cars who want to prove themselves at all costs. I don't know why.

"I know Dries has been instructed to stay on the lead lap at all costs. Well if someone tells me to jump from the eighth floor, for example, an engineer, I won't do it. But apparently there are drivers who would do it."

The #83 499P Kubica shared with Ferrari factory drivers Robert Shwartzman and Yifei Ye retired with just over three hours to run due to hybrid issues.

You can listen in full to the Vanthoor brothers' podcast here.

Additional reporting by Tomasz Kalinski

Watch: 2024 Le Mans 24hrs Analysis - Ferrari Rain Supreme

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