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2018 24 Hours of Le Mans – Hour 9 update – Isaakyan and SMP’s brave battle ends

3 Mins read
Credit: Craig Robertson

As the clock strikes midnight local time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Mike Conway leads in the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing car by over 30 seconds from the sister #8 entry, currently driven by Sébastien Buemi.

Buemi had started the hour closing in on Kamui Kobayashi before an unfavourable slow zone caused by the stricken #17 SMP Racing of Matevos Isaakyan near the Porsche Curves put a halt to his charge.

Isaakyan’s high-speed crash at the end of the eighth hour was thought to be a result of rear suspension failure. After 30 minutes of inspection by both Isaakyan and the marshals, the 20-year-old managed to restart the car before it caught fire spectacularly just yards later, putting an emphatic end to a race that looked so encouraging for the Russian backed privateers.

The demise of Isaakyan promoted Thomas Laurent and André Lotterer to third and fourth in the #3 and #1 Rebellion Racing cars respectively, three and four laps down in the leading Toyota. Laurent was subject to a lengthy pitstop to fix a clutch sensor problem – similar to the issue that cost the #1 car so dearly in the early stages on the race.

After completing a quintruple stint, Jenson Button has handed the #11 SMP Racing car to Mikhail Aleshin, it now lies 56th overall, 30 laps down on the now retired sister car.

G-Drive barrel on in LMP2

Andrea Pizzitola is back in control of the #26 G-Drive entry, a car that has lead the LMP2 field since the start of the race. André Negrāo remains second in the #36 Signatech Alpine with last year’s GTE Am winner Will Stevens 23 seconds behind Negrāo in third for Panis Barthez Competiion.

Credit: Craig Robertson

BMW creep back into the top three in GTE Pro

Laurens Vanthoor and the vivid #92 Porsche hold a comfortable lead at the head of the GTE field, over two minutes ahead of Frédéric Makowiecki in the #91 car. Makowiecki has made slow impressions on Vanthoor over the past hour and was joined in his hunt by Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche. However, a late problem for Tandy has seen the #93 wheeled into the garage with a suspected brake issue.

His third place has been inherited by Philipp Eng in the #81 BMW Team MTEK car after previously falling out of the podium positions.

Credit: Craig Robertson

Ford and Ferrari are still battling – Pipo Derani in the #52 AF Corse Ferrari and Richard Westbrook in the #69 Ford USA were locked in a scrap for sixth position, Derani able to scamper away after the Brit his traffic at the Dunlop Curve.

The first retirement in class was confirmed. Romain Dumas’ #94 Porsche has not been able to appear after suspension failure nearly two hours ago.

Porsche still best in GTE Am

Little change in GTE Am. Julien Andlauer in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche entry leads by 33 seconds from Cooper MacNeil in the JMW Motorsport entered Ferrari, with the other Dempsey-Proton car of Giorgio Roda rounding out the top three.

Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari made an uncharacteristic mistake at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight, out-braking himself and enjoying an excursion through the gravel, remaining fifth in class.

2018 24 Hours of Le Mans – Standings After 9 Hours


1. #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Mike Conway – Kamui Kobayashi – José María López

2. #8  Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Fernando Alonso – Sébastien Buemi – Kazuki Nakajima

3. #3 Rebellion Racing – Rebellion R13 – Gibson – Mathias Beche – Thomas Laurent – Gustavo Menezes



1. #26 G-Drive Racing – Oreca 07 – Gibson – Roman Rusinov – Andrea Pizzitola – Jean-Éric Vergne

2. #23 Panis Barthez Competition – Ligier JS P217 – Gibson – Thimothé Buret – Julien Canal – Will Stevens

3, #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut – Alpine A470 – Gibson – Nicolas Lapierre – André Negrâo – Pierre Thiriet



1. #92 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Michael Christensen – Kevin Estre – Laurens Vanthoor

2. #91 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Gianmaria Bruni  – Richard Leitz – Frédéric Makowiecki

3. #81 BMW Team MTEK – BMW M8 GTE – Nicky Catsburg – Philipp Eng – Martin Tomczyk



1. #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing – Porsche 911 RSR – Julien Andlauer – Matt Campbell – Christian Ried

2. #84 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 488 GTE – Liam Griffin – Cooper MacNeil – Jeff Segal

3. #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing – Porsche 911 RSR – Khaled Al Qubaisi – Matteo Cairoli – Giorgio Roda

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DTM, Formula 1 writer and deputy editor for The Checkered Flag. Autosport Academy member and freelance voice over artist.
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