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.
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.
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