Morning has broken at the Circuit de Le Sarthe for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 but some significant runners are now missing from the order. If you have been to sleep over the night and are a little confused, here is a quick rundown of the significant events during the hours of darkness.
Big news in LMP1-H comes care of the reigning world champions, the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid. The Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley driven machine came to mechanical grief when battery problems sent it to the pit box for two hours overnight. The team got the car back out and it currently runs in 29th position but hopes of a win are well and truly dashed.
In LMP1-L the only retirement came as day broke. The troubled run for the #4 ByKOLLES CLM P1/01 found the big black marker of doom in the 0700 hour after catching fire on the Ligne Droite des Hunaudières. This capped off a difficult race for the car which saw them in and out of the pits throughout the start and the gloaming. Simon Trummer, Oliver Webb and Pierre Kaffer will take no further part in the race.
While the #4 was the only retirement in LMP1-L, it was by no means the only problem child. Both the #12 and #13 Rebellion Racing R-Ones hit problems overnight. Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Nelson Piquet Jr found the gravel in the #12 machine, returning to the garage only to find a clutch problem too. The #13 R-One of Matteo Tuscher, Alexandre Imperatori and Dominik Kraihamer just spluttered to a stop on the Mulsanne. Both cars were repaired and returned to the fray so we still have at least two cars in the privateer class.
In LMP2 we have had an equally problematical night. The KCMG Oreca 05-Nissan retired before darkness fell and was joined in the night by two of its class mates. First to fall was the Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460-Nissan of David Cheng, Ho-Pin Tung and Nelson Panciatici. The Frenchman was at the wheel when the car failed to slow for the Playstation Chicane. Luckily the gravel provided some retardation but the car hit the tyre wall a pace. Nelson was fine but the car was dragged unceremoniously to a place of safety and dumped. It will take no further part of the race.
The other car to hit gravelly trouble in the second prototype class. The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05-Nissan of Matthias Beche, Ryo Hirakawa and team boss Pierre Thiriet exited the race in the thin light of dawn. The car ran straight on at Mulsanne Corner with the owner on board, ripped off the nose and suffered gearbox troubles on the way. Thiriet drove the car back to the pits but the garage door came down again soon after.
LM GTE Pro:
Big news in the Pro GT class is the retirement after an accident for the defending class champions. The Corvette Racing #64 machine was at the hands of Tommy Milner when the back end just snapped away in the Dunlop Curves, spearing the Velocity Yellow ‘Vette into the tyres and out of the race. Oliver Gavin and Jordan Taylor shared that car.
In the Ferrari field there was also a bit of disaster. Thankfully for the Italian brand it was the AF Corse 488 GTEs that suffered the problem, not the American run Risi machine who has been battling for the lead with the new Ford GTs. That was where the good news ends though as both of the AF Corse machines failed to find daylight again.
Wheel failure for the #71 of Davide Rigon, Sam Bird and Andrea Bertolini sent that driver team to the showers early while their team mates in the #51 brought the garage door down after engine problems.
LM GTE Am:
So far the GTE Am class has continued with little problems. Only the accident in the early phases of the race for the Marc Muller and Lehman Keen driven WeatherTech Proton Competition Porsche has claimed a runner so far. That accident was almost a saving grace as Cooper MacNeil had been medically barred from racing, leaving the other two Americans to do the entire race alone.