The 24 Hours of Le Mans demonstrated once more how cruel a race it can be, as André Lotterer in the #1 Porsche 919 retiring from an extremely comfortable lead through an oil pressure problem
The disappearance of the lead Porsche behind the barriers has set-up a three hour sprint race for victory, with 19 year old Thomas Laurent setting a new Le Mans landmark by leading the race with an LMP2 car. There is still an LMP1 car in the hunt for victory, with the #2 Porsche two laps down and homing in on the overall lead.
1st – #2 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Bernhard/Bamber/Hartley
2nd – #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima
It looked like a measured drive to victory was awaiting the #1 Porsche, but with just under four hours to go, Lotterer dramatically slowed moments after crossing the start-finish line. After exiting the Esses, he was already down to crawling speed, and was able to start-stop his way down most of the Mulsanne Straight. Try as he might, the car would go no more, and it was taken behind the barriers to retire.
Porsche’s chances of victory are far from over however, as the sister car of Brendon Hartley continues to pick off LMP2 cars. At the 21 hour mark, he passed the #13 – which was in the pits serving a penalty – to take second overall. He and Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota are the only two LMP1 cars remaining in the race.
1st – #38 CEFC Manor TRS Racing – Oreca 07-Gibson – Tung/Laurent/Jarvis
2nd – #13 Vaillante Rebellion – Oreca 07-Gibson – Piquet Jr/Heinemeier Hansson/Beche
2nd – #35 Signatech Alpine Matmut – Alpine A470-Gibson – Panciatici/Ragues/Negrao
Despite inheriting what is effectively a multiple lap lead in the overall standings, DC Racing’s team principal Sam Hignett doesn’t expect his #38 ORECA 07-Gibson will hang on to first place until the end of the race.
“From what we see, I don’t think we will [win the race overall],” he commented to Radio Le Mans. “The #2 Porsche will get us near the end. Brendon [Hartley] has picked up the pace. We’re focused on winning LMP2 at the moment.”
Despite the negative prognosis for their overall chances, Hignett was still ecstatic about his team’s progress nonetheless.
“We’ve never been so popular!” he exclaimed. “It’s amazing. What can you say? There’s a lot of people getting in the way, so I know what it’s like for the factory teams for once.”
CEFC Manor TRS Racing‘s quest for LMP2 victory was aided by drama for the lead Vaillante Rebellion, as the #13 was handed a stop/go penalty for a pit infringement. A mandatory engine cycle was stipulated in the penalty, further exacerbating starter motor issues their own ORECA 07-Gibson had previously suffered.
1st – #95 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage – Turner/Adam/Serra
2nd – #63 Corvette Racing – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor
3rd – #91 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Lietz/Makowiecki/Pilet
Daniel Serra continues to lead the GTE Pro class for Aston Martin Racing, but the primary GT category continues to be the closest in the race as the end nears.
Serra took the lead with an audacious pass on Jan Magnussen, using the SMP Racing LMP2 car as a way to force the door open as the pair were lapped. Using the gap opened up by Victor Shaytar, he dived down the inside on the way into the Michelin chicane, and has held first since.
Patrick Pilet holds the final podium place in the sole remaining Porsche GT Team entry, 15 seconds behind the leading pair.
1st – #84 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 488 GTE – Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor
2nd – #55 Spirit of Race – Ferrari 488 GTE – Cameron/Scott/Cioci
3rd – #62 Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari 488 GTE – MacNeil/Sweedler/Bell
The JMW Motorsport Ferrari is all set for class victory, as their bronze driver Rob Smith has completed his minimum driving time and Will Stevens now pilots the car. He is expected to hand over the car with just over an hour to go for Dries Vanthoor to bring the car to the finish.