There are just four hours to go in the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours, and Toyota still has a 1-2 lead. The guest entered #63 Corvette Racing currently leads GTE Pro. Several strong contenders across the order suffered setbacks in the morning sunshine.
As we headed into the 17th hour, green flag running was interrupted once again as the #31 Dragonspeed hit the barriers at Tertre Rouge. With Pastor Maldonado behind the wheel, the car looked as though it clipped a kerb, and the driver lost control. The American team already lost their LMP1 entry earlier in the race but had to close the garage door on the LMP2 car too. A shame for Maldonado, Anthony Davidson and Roberto Gonzalez who had been running in the top five consistently.
Gustavo Menezes did his bit to slow the race down with just under seven hours to go. The young driver spun his #3 Rebellion into the gravel where it was well and truly beached. Race Control deemed a slow zone sufficient to retrieve the stricken Rebellion, and soon, Menezes was on his way to the pitlane to have copious amounts of gravel vacuumed from the car. The gravel trip plus an unusual stop/go penalty for tyre regulation infringement, and a subsequent garage visit has really set the #3 back.
Another full course yellow was thrown during hour 20 thanks to the #32 United Autosports Ligier. Will Owen managed to shed the rear bodywork panel, leaving it stranded in the middle of the track. An FCY was necessary to retrieve the debris safely. The car had suffered a rear tyre failure earlier in the race, which may have weakened something in the bodywork causing it to lift off.
As we head into the final four hours, the #7 Toyota still has control of this race with almost two minutes in hand over the sister car. Third in class is the #11 SMP Racing BR1. Stephane Sarrazin, Mikael Aleshin and Vitaly Petrov are running a very clean race, clearly keen not to repeat the trauma of the #17’s retirement. The two Rebellions are running fourth and fifth, with the #1 finally passing the #3 after a series of incidents. Just five of the eight LMP1 cars are still running at this point.
Everyone expected to be saying that the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca was still comfortably leading LMP2. However, disaster struck during the 19th hour as the car refused to start after a pit-stop and then spent almost 20 minutes in the garage. That saw their lap’s worth of lead over the Signatech Alpine obliterated, and the team plummet to seventh in class. Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrao and Pierre Thiriet inherited the class lead in the #36 Signatech ahead of the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing machine. Remarkably the #38 has held onto second place despite a slow puncture losing the team a lot of time. Third in class is now the #28 TDS Racing in the hands of Loic Duval with the #30 Duqueine Engineering in fourth. The #22 United Autosports Ligier rounds out the top five. Nigel Moore had to nurse the #34 Inter Europol Competition round a fair chunk of the circuit having picked up a rear puncture.
In GTE Pro the lone remaining Ferrari is still at the head of the field. With 279 laps under their belts, Alessandro Pier Guidi, Daniel Serra and James Calado have been keeping their 458 GTE out of trouble and have a 50s lead to show for it. Behind them sits the #63 Corvette with Antonio Garcia onboard, with the #91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni running in third. Nick Tandy’s #93 Porsche and Sebastian Bourdais’ #68 Ford GT make up the top five. Behind the #68, the other three Fords line up, in front of the guest entered #89 Risi Competizione Ferrari. Two BMWs and two more Porsches finish of the list of Pro cars still running.
There was yet more drama for TF Sport in GTE Am as they lost a further 20 minutes in the pitlane. They rejoined at the start of the 18th hour and are now running in 13th in class. At the sharp end of the field though, Keating Motorsports still leads by a large margin, despite Ben Keating having a brief gravel moment. Egidio Perfetti is currently onboard the second-placed Team Project 1 Porsche with Wei Lu in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari in third. Fourth in GT Am is the #61 Ferrari of Clearwater Racing, and a recovering #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche is running in fifth.