Petit Le Mans Midway: GTLM Porsche of Pilet Leads


It wasn’t a Prototype leading 2015 Petit Le Mans at the midpoint – it was in fact the GT Le Mans Porsche of Patrick Pilet, as wet conditions put the two Pro categories on similar pace.

Richard Westbrook led from pole position for the first portion of the race, extending his and VisitFlorida.com Racing‘s lead to 11 seconds before a full course caution just shy of the one hour mark. However, this was not the first yellow in the race; a crash by Chris Cumming in the #11 RSR Racing Prototype Challenge car, and a subsequent spin by #33 Riley MotorsportsBen Keating warranted a caution period only three minutes after the race start.

Following this, it was all about Westbrook and Nick Tandy, who were dominating in Prototype and GT Le Mans respectively. Only when Earl Bamber picked up a puncture and wheel rim damage was a charging Westbrook tamed.

At the restart, Dane Cameron took the lead in his #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP for around 20 minutes before losing it to Westbrook. His #90 car remained out front for a while until a spin by co-driver Michael Valiante. Further through the race, it was a case of déjà vu as Mike Rockenfeller spun the same car at the same point on the track. He narrowly avoided traffic whilst controversially reversing onto the circuit, but ultimately he ended up spinning over and over again in the soggy grass. Since then, the championship leaders have been in their pit garage.

Westbrook and Valiante's championship hopes are in jeopardy following a crash by Mike Rockenfeller (Credit: Richard Dole/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)
Westbrook and Valiante’s championship hopes are in jeopardy following a crash by Mike Rockenfeller (Credit: Richard Dole/LAT Photo USA/IMSA)

Meanwhile, the GTLM cars were catching up with the Prototypes, and soon enough, they were challenging them for the overall lead. Both Corvettes, the #24 BMW and the #911 Porsche were placed ahead of the Prototype class leaders at around four hours in, owing to pit strategies. However, it was the #911 under the control of Patrick Pilet that would become the first GTLM car to be ahead of the Prototypes due to pace rather than pitstops.

As a result of various pit difficulties, Sebastian Bourdais and the #5 Action Express Racing crew inherited the Prototype lead during the fifth hour, and he began to chase down overall leader Pilet, cutting the gap down by about four seconds a lap as the rain began to ease. His efforts were damaged, though, when another caution was called with around 5h30 remaining. Joel Miller spun but recovered the #07 SpeedSource Mazda at turn one, but in trying to avoid him, Memo Rojas went off track and hit the advertising boards, picking up serious damage to his DeltaWing.

Just as was the case during qualifying, the Prototype Challenge battle up to the midway point was mainly between PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and BAR1 Motorsports. Tom Kimber-Smith led the class from pole position, and team-mate Andrew Palmer was out front when the caution was called. CORE Autosport clinched the title just by having Jon Bennett fulfil his minimum drive time requirements, and so they have been taking it easy, further down the pack. Also of note is the #88 Starworks Motorsport entry which retired with damage including a bent front left wheel, following John Falb‘s crash.

In GT Daytona, Cameron Lawrence put the #93 Riley Motorsports Dodge out front whilst his team’s sister car had a difficult start. Only in the second hour would he lose the lead, to Spencer Pumpelly and Park Place Motorsports. Marc Goossens would soon replace his #93 car into the lead. Championship leader Christina Nielsen has a difficult challenge ahead of her and the TRG-AMR team, further down the pack for the entire race thus far.

Make sure you follow The Checkered Flag‘s live blog for instant text updates over the remaining five hours.