A peaceful Sunday morning drive was broken in the dying minutes of hour 17 when the Audi R8 safety car was called yet again to the Circuit de Le Sarthe. Called to respond to a terrifying high speed accident at the exit of the Porsche Curves for the #96 Aston Martin Racing Vantage at around a quarter to the hour, the caution would see us into hour 18. The accident spelled the end of the race for Roald Goathe‘s team but the Aston Martin regular escaped relatively unharmed.
At the start of the hour the headlines were continuing and successful repairs to the #7 Audi R18, which returned to the track just seven minutes after arriving in the pits for repairs to its missing body work. LMP1 made the story of the early part of the hour, the next event coming thanks to Nissan’s GT-R LM Nismo. The #22 joined it’s two stable mates, the retired #21 and the #23 which was receiving attention in the engine bay, in the garage with smoke coming from the front.
The continuing work on the #12 Rebellion Racing R-One AER of Nicolas Prost just added to the early story.
On track the long range battle for control of the race continued with the #19 Porsche and the #9 Audi putting in almost identical times. Four laps further back the Oliver Jarvis driven #8 car worked to get back towards the lead lap, blasting past the third placed#17 Porsche without trouble and heading off in chase of the leading and battling duo.
In LMP2 the story was of general progress and while the KC Motor Group Oreca 05 continued to lead ahead of the #26 G-Drive Ligier JS P2, third in class changed. Early problems set back the UK fan favorite, Jota Sport. Simon Dolan, Mitch Evans and Oliver Turvey had fought back over hours, finally bringing the Gibson 015S-Nissan back into a podium position.
It was a similar story in LM GTE Pro where Corvette, the sole remaining C7.R after the failure of the #63 to start and the gearbox failure for the #50 GTE Am machine over night, regained the lead when the Ferrari of AF Corse pitted under the safety car. The pit stop cycle will eventually rob the #64 crew of Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Jordan Taylor of the lead but they were scored in control at the top of the hour.
In LM GTE Am Aston Martin continued to lead with the second of two Vantage GTEs. The #98 car of Paul Dalla Lana headed the #72 machine of Andrea Bertolini. The change in the Am class came for third place where the #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal displaced the Dempsey-Proton machine which held top three sway for so long.
Top 3 positions in each class after Hour 17 of the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans
- #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid – Hulkenberg/Bamber/Tandy
- #9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro – Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Rast
- #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid – Bernhard/Webber/Hartley
- #47 KCMG Oreca 05 – Howson/Lapierre/Bradley
- #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 –Bird/Rusinov/Canal
- #38 Jota Sport Gibson 015S – Nissan – Dolan/Evans/Turvey
LM GTE Pro
- #64 Corvette Racing – Milner/Gavin/Taylor
- #51 AF Corse – Vilander/Bruni/Fisichella
- #91 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR – Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister
LM GTE Am
- #98 Aston Martin Racing V8 – Dalla Lana/Lauda/Lamy
- #72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia – Shaytar/Bertolini/Basov
- #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia – Sweedler/Bell/Segal
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