Dramas struck both the LMP2 leader and, more importantly, the overall and LMP1 leader during the 21st hour of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier was the first to hit troubles, Tristan Gommendy limping the LMP2 leading car back to the pits with front-left suspension failure. The car was wheeled back into the garage, handing the class lead back to the OAK Racing team, Mark Shulzhitskiy taking advantage to retake the lead despite his Nissan engined Ligier being reportedly down on power.
The delays for the Thiriet team dropped them to second, towards the waiting Jota Sport team, who installed Harry Tincknell in the Zytek-Nissan as they smelled metaphorical blood from the teams ahead of them in class.
Then came the saga of Tom Kristensen and the #1 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro.
The Dane brought the car to a stop exiting the first of the Mulsanne Straight chicanes. However, shortly after the car was moving again and Kristensen motored past the pits, preserving his overall lead. But, only minutes late Kristensen was in the pits with the team’s mechanics standing by with the dolly wheels seemingly in preparation to push the car into the garage for some attention.
Kristensen, however, was released from the pits (almost directly into the past of the Larbre Competition LMP2 Morgan). It was the Morgan that was the first sign of real trouble as the LMP2 car, then a pair of LMGTE runners were able to pass and pull away from Kristensen through the Forest Esses and Tertre Rouge.
After a slower lap Kristensen was back in the pits. This time the car was pushed back into the garage, the team having to replace the turbocharger, the same repair that had taken the #2 car out of the lead earlier in the race.
Likewise the #1 team lost the lead, Timo Bernhard returning the #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid to the overall lead with the #2 Audi following through into second less than a lap behind the Porsche.
AF Corse’s #51 Ferrari continued to LMGTE Pro, the team spared the constant to and fro with the #97 Aston Martin by their earlier issues which continued as Darren Turner slide into (and out of) the gravel at Mulsanne Corner.
Happily for Aston their #95 LMGTE Am entry continues to lead that class.
2014 24 Hours of Le Mans class standings after 21 hours
1 – #20 Porsche Team – Bernhard/Webber/Hartley
2 – #2 Audi Sport Team Joest – Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer
3 – #1 Audi Sport Team Joest – di Grassi/Gene/Kristensen
1 – #35 Oak Racing – Brundle/Mardenborough/Shulzhitskiy
2 – #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing – Thiriet/Badey/Gommendy
3 -#38 JOTA Sport – Dolan/Tinknell/Turvey
1 –#51 AF Corse – Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella
2 –#92 Porsche Team Manthey – Holzer/Makowiecki/Lietz
3 –##73 Corvette Racing Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor
1 – #95 Aston Martin Racing – Poulsen/Heinemeier Hansson/Thiim
2 – #88 Proton Competition – Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi
3 – #61 AF Corse – Perez Companc/Cioci/Venturi