The #7 Toyota in the hands of Jose Maria Lopez, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Conway still leads the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The last few nighttime hours saw a few more official retirements and some cracks appear in teams’ reliability.
The iconic Le Mans always claims a few cars during its 24 hours of running, and a few more garage doors closed as the night hours waned. While the #7 has a comfortable lead over its sister car, it’s not all as rosy for another LMP1 competitor. Before the end of the 13th hour, the #4 ByKolles came to a halt just after Arnage, causing a slow zone as marshals pushed the car behind the barriers. The car had been running with issues at the back of the field and is now an official retirement. Third in LMP1 is still in the hands of the #3 Rebellion. Thomas Laurent, Gustavo Menezes and Nathaniel Berthon have done a great job despite having a coming together with the barriers earlier on. The lighter of the two graffiti painted cars is just four laps behind the leading Toyota. If either the #7 or the #8 have any significant problems, Rebellion is poised to pounce. The sole remaining SMP Racing car sits in fourth ahead of the final LMP1 car left running, the #1 Rebellion.
Very little has changed at the sharp end of LMP2. G-Drive Racing lead, ahead of Signatech Alpine, with the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca in third. The sister Jackie Chan car, which has frequently found itself in the top five is now 19th in class as it’s in the middle of an extended stay in the garage. The #31 Dragonspeed, currently being driven by former F1 driver Pastor Maldonado, is in fourth ahead of the #28 TDS Racing. Drama for United Autosports as the #32 developed alternator problems, just into the 16th hour. To add insult to injury, Brundle later suffered a left rear tyre failure sending the #32 back to its box. The sister car, the #22, is still the highest placed Ligier in sixth. It has also been confirmed that the #49 ARC Bratislava car has officially retired, despite the team’s best efforts to repair their Ligier.
Gaps in GTE Pro have begun to shrink following the last stint’s several safety car sessions. The top four cars are now within 30 seconds of each other. A Porsche is still top of the class, though it’s now the #91 in the hands of Richard Lietz. Behind him is the #63 Corvette and the #93 Porsche of Patrick Pilet. Daniel Serra in the #51 Ferrari has lost his lead during the last few hours and is running fourth. Joey Hand in the #68 Ford rounds out the top five. Having looked incredibly strong thus far, Vanthoor’s #92 Porsche had to have a stint in the garage for exhaust works. By the time the car emerged, it was five laps down and in 12th in class. Near the end of hour 16, the #69 Ford with Richard Westbrook on board was pushed into the garage just before a full course yellow was thrown. The caution was called for the Gulf Racing #86 Porsche and #60 Kessel Racing Ferrari. Both cars had separate incidents in different gravel traps, both, however, were recovered and continued back to the pitlane. The #69, however, seemed to have developed radio gremlins, with Westbrook still complaining about them as hour sixteen ticked past.
More bad luck for Aston Martin, the GTE Am TF Sport entry, which had been running brilliantly, went into the gravel on the Mulsanne near the top of hour 14. The car was recovered and is now running in 7th with Salih Yoluc aboard. Another strong looking contender scuppered was the #77 Dempsey Porsche. That needed a trip into the garage which the championship contender down the order. Julien Andlauer is around half a minute ahead of Yoluc’s #90 Aston Martin. Leading the class still is the #85 customer Ford of Keating Motorsports, now two laps clear of their rivals. The #56 Team Project 1 Porsche sits in second with Patrick Lindsey at the wheel, ahead of the #84 JMW Motorsports Ferrari. Matt Griffin in the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari and Toni Villander’s #62 WeatherTech Racing Ferrari round out the GTE Am top five.