Kamui Kobayashi continues to hold a strong lead in the first of the Toyota TS050s, having taken over from Mike Conway in the #7 car early in the third hour of the race.
While the top class of the field has remained stable, LMP2 saw an intra-team battle for superiority, with Mathias Beche passing the sister Rebellion of Nicolas Prost for the class lead on Lap 45.
The order in both GTE Pro and GTE Am continues to shuffle frequently thanks to the lack of field spread, with Dries Vanthoor moving into the lead of GTE Am, having taken the reins of the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari earlier in the hour.
1st – #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin
1st – #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima
3rd – #1 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Jani/Lotterer/Tandy
All five remaining LMP1 cars stopped to conduct wholesale driver changes early in the hour, with Kobayashi holding station at the head of the pack. Conway ensured the #7’s lead would be well protected, punching in the fastest first and second sectors of the race on his way into the pits.
The order remained steady during the driver swaps, though the Porsche duo of Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber – now at the wheel of the #1 and #2 respectively – have started to close in slightly on the second of the Toyotas, now piloted by Anthony Davidson.
1st – #13 Vaillante Rebellion – Oreca 07-Gibson – Piquet Jr/Heinemeier Hansson/Beche
2nd – #31 Vaillante Rebellion – Oreca 07-Gibson – Prost/Senna/Canal
3nd – #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing – Oreca 07-Gibson – Cheng/Gommendy/Brundle
The second tier is currently being commanded by the Vaillante Rebellion team, whose pair of cars have half a minute in hand over the chasing #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car of Alex Brundle.
There was a change for the lead between the Rebellion pair midway through the hour, with the #13 of Matias Beche slipstreaming his way past the sister #31 car of Nicolas Prost on the way into the Michelin chicane.
There were plenty of minor incidents throughout the LMP2 field. Thomas Laurent overcooked his entry to the left hander at Indianapolis, carrying straight on into the outside tyre barrier. He managed to scrub off most of his speed, reducing it to a low-speed bump which avoided any heavy damage. At the end of the hour, Ben Keating had a wayward moment on the entry to the Dunlop Chicane, getting the #43 Riley-Gibson sideways through the first turn, smashing his way through an advertising hoarding and ending up in the tyres on the outside of the chicane.
1st – #95 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage – Thiim/Sørensen/Stanaway
2nd – #97 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage – Turner/Adam/Serra
3rd – #66 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK – Ford GT – Mücke/Pla/Johnson
There was drama at the top of the hour, with the #69 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook suffering a long stop from the class lead, thanks to faulty rear lights requiring repairs.
The #95 Aston Martin Vantage – affectionately known as the “Dane Train” – has continued to steam ahead in the GTE Pro class, Marco Sørensen leading the sister #97 Aston of Daniel Serra by almost 10 seconds. It has been an almost perfect performance by the British team so far, though Sørensen lost a handful of seconds when the exit from his pitbox was hampered by the high volume of traffic stopping along with him.
The Chip Ganassi Fords continue to be second best in the category#66 Mucke Ford Ganassi stops out of sequence early in the hour. Harry Tincknell holds the last podium position, having initially moved up to fourth by passing Michael Christensen on the run towards Indianapolis.
1st – #84 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 488 GTE – Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor
2nd – #62 Scuderia Corsa – Ferrari 488 GTE – MacNeil/Sweedler/Bell
3rd – #90 TF Sport – Aston Martin Vantage – Yoluc/Hankey/Bell
Dries Vanthoor secured the GTE Am lead shortly after taking over control of the #84 JMW Motorsport, having initially passed the #62 Ferrari of William Sweedler for second, and then inheriting the lead following Paul Dalla Lana‘s pitstop in the #98 Aston Martin Vantage.
Sweedler has been tied up in a battle for position with Salih Yoluc for several laps, the duo currently holding second and third position, but unable to keep up with Vanthoor, the Platinum driver in the class-leading car. Sweedler and Yoluc by comparison are the Bronze Am drivers in their respective entries.