Welcome to the fifth part of the review brought to you by GP24.ro live from Le Mans.
As we are leaving the feared Le Mans night behind us it once again becomes clear how much more reliable endurance racing cars have become over the years. With the night over we still have 52 cars running. The record of cars finishing was last set in 2017 when 48 cars made it to the finish line. So to beat the record we should not lose more than 3 cars in the next 9 hours… not impossible but still a long way to go.
Halfway through the 16th hour there is a driver change for the #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid where Nakajima takes over from Alonso. No driver change for the #7 Toyota where Jose Maria Lopez remains on active duty.
The race seems to have calmed down, full daylight has been restored while the #86 Gulf Porsche is being pushed into the garage for some major work which can not be performed in the pitlane. And only 10 minutes after writing this we have a Full Course Yellow as the #86 Gulf Porsche that was undergoing repairs and the #60 Kessel Ferrari go of the track fully independent of each other.
At the closure of the 16th hour the situation on track was as follows:
In LMP-1, it is still the #7 car that has a lead of over the sister #8 Toyota.
In LMP-2 the #26 G-Drive is still leading over the #36 Signatech Alpine, however 2nd place will be enough for the team to claim the victory in the WEC Super Season.
In GTE-Pro, the #51 AF-Corse Ferrari is leading.
In GTE-Am the #85 Ford GT is still going strong and is leading in class by a significant advantage.
At the start of hour 17 it is former Formula 1 driver Pastor Maldonado who once again will start a series of memes on social media as he crashes in the #31 Dragonspeed Oreca which causes a see new Safety Car phase that will surely stir things up again in some of the classes. The biggest effect as expected in GTE-Pro as this class sees the pack at the front closest together. The #91 Porsche was at the boxes and turns out to be collecting the biggest loss as we see the #63 Corvette pull in the lead with the #93 Porsche and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari in third place behind the Safety Car.
The track is being cleared for racing at 07:38 and as winners of the Safety Car Phase we see the leaders in LMP-1 and LMP-2 emerge. Before the safety Car the #7 Toyota had an advantage of 1:15 minutes over the #8 car which has grown to 1:25 minutes. In LMP-2 Class the #26 G-0Drive Racing car extended its lead to 2:25 minutes while in GTE-Pro the #63 Corvette and the #93 Porsche decided to stop in the pits giving the lead back to the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. No Changes in GTE-Am where the #85 Keating Motorsport Ford GT is clearly in front.
At the end of the 17th hour some turning of events could be set in motion as the #85 Keating Motorsport Ford GT spins with Ben Keating behind the wheel. Their advantage is big enough to keep the lead in GTE-Am Class however valuable time is lost. We also saw the #3 Rebellion R-13 getting a 3 minute Stop&Go penalty for a breach of the rules about tires which brings the #11 SMP BR1 Dallara of Petrov, Aljoschin and Vandoorne back in contention for 3rd place. With this in mind they decided to perform a driver change in which Vitaly Petrov hands over the wheel to Stoffel Vandoorne who now has the instruction to hunt the #3 Rebellion currently driven by Gustavo Menezes. As Menezes absolves his Stop&Go penalty he returns to the track shortly behind Stoffel Vandoorne. It seems we could have a battle on our hands for P3 in the LMP-1 Class. The 2nd Rebellion is 3 laps back in 5th place.
It seems luck is not on the side of the #86 Gulf Porsche as they get a 30 second Stop&Go penalty for breaking the Full Course Yellow procedure. They are in P10 in GTE-Am Class at this moment.
In LMP-1 class we see the next driver change for Toyota where Jose Maria Lopez can finally get some well-deserved rest after handing the #7 Toyota over to Mike Conway. Also in LMP-1 we see Rebellion is in the corner where the punches are being taken as Gustavo Menezes in the #3 Rebellion was hunting to catch Stoffel Vandoorne in the #11 SMP BR1 Dallara but ended up in the gravel trap which means losing a lot of time if you can not get out on your own. So for the moment the P3 dream goes up in flames for Rebellion as they lose about 2 laps against the SMP car. Of course this is good news for the SMP team, Stoffel Vandoorne and the #1 Rebellion driven by Bruno Senna at the moment who is now only 1 lap behind.
Problems also for the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car driven by Ho Pin Tung who is driving around very slowly and looks to be at risk of being caught by the #28 TDS Racing driven by Francois Perrodo. For now, he is capable of hanging on but his lead has shrunk to just 17 seconds. It seems the #38 car was low on fuel forcing it to return to the pit more slowly. Also we saw the #63 Corvette coming for a regular pitstop bringing the #51 Ferrari back to the front in GTE-Pro as expected.
At the closure of the 18th hour, after nearly 2 thirds of the race Toyota seems to be on their way to a record-breaking Le Mans, after having set a new record for the fastest race lap they now also hold the record for the fastest pitstop ever having performed a pitstop under 3 seconds. Exactly how serious Toyota is about Le Mans can be seen in the video found at THIS LINK where the Toyota PitCrew is seen doing exercises which seem to mean that a car will be coming to visit them soon.
The first women’s only team ever at Le Mans defends their honour. Kessel Racing’s #83 is currently 11th in GTE-Am Class. A good result in the midfield would be a great success for this exceptional team. In another six hours, we’ll know more about which teams could prevail and look forward to a win at this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
So the situation at the end of the 18th hour and 75% of the race run:
In LMP-1, the #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid now has a lead of 1:40 minutes over the sister #8 Toyota. Several Safety Car Phases throughout the night have shaken up the field as we now have the #11 SMP BR1 in 3rd who took that place over from the #3 Rebellion.
In LMP-2 the #26 G-Drive is still leading the #36 Signatech Alpine.
In GTE-Pro, the #63 Corvette is leading ahead of the #51 AF-Corse Ferrari.
In GTE-Am the #85 Ford GT managed to stay in the lead after a brief spin on track.
- Source: Frank van Nunen @GP24.ro
- Photocredit: ACO / Le Mans
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