Le Mans 24h: Porsche in control at halfway, as Toyota curse returns – Motorsport.com, Edition: Global
Porsche is on course for a record-extending 19th Le Mans 24 Hours victory, after Toyota’s challenge destructed before the half-distance mark.
Porsche’s #1 919 Hybrid – crewed by Neel Jani, Andre Lotterer and Nick Tandy – is cruising out front and leads by 9 laps over Rebellion Racing’s brace of LMP2 cars, after all the other factory LMP1s hit mechanical trouble.
The long-time leading Toyota #7 suffered a clutch problem straight after a restart from the race’s first safety car period. Kamui Kobayashi attempted to nurse the car around to the pits, but as the problem struck at the startline, he only made it as far as the Porsche Curves before being forced out.
Toyota’s #9 car then inherited second, but suffered a fuel cut and was hit from behind by Simon Trummer’s Manor Oreca and suffered a left-rear puncture at the Dunlop Curve. Nicolas Lapierre managed to drag his shattered car back to the pitlane exit, even catching fire halfway around the lap, but agonisingly it ran out of power just a few hundred yards short of sanctuary.
In better news for Toyota, the #8 car returned to the race, 28 laps down and well behind the delayed #2 Porsche that also suffered front drivetrain problems, which is 18 laps off the lead.
Two quickfire safety cars
The first safety car of the race was required in Hour 10, after Olivier Pla’s Ford GT spun at Indianapolis and coated the track at Arnage in gravel. Angry race director Eduardo Freitas gave Pla and his team manager a verbal dressing down over the radio.
Then, Trummer suffered a huge crash in the #25 Manor Oreca as a legacy of the clash with the #9 Toyota. It was running fourth in LMP2 at the time.
LMP2: Rebellion dominant
The LMP2 lead see-sawed between the Rebellion cars. Nelson Piquet Jr had an extended pitstop to replace faulty rear lights on car #13, handing the lead back to sister car #31 in Hour 10, but they swapped the lead – and second overall – between them on multiple occasions.
At half distance, the #31 car of Julien Canal, Nico Prost and Bruno Senna led, ahead of the #13.
The #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca is third, with the #40 Graff and #35 Signatech Orecas also in the mix.
GTE: Aston still out front
The #97 Aston Martin Vantage retained its lead in GTE-Pro, although this battle is finely poised.
Richie Stanaway had led the class, in the #95 that has made a superb comeback from an earlier puncture, but got jumped at the end of a slow zone by Johnny Adam in #97.
In GTE-Am, the #84 Ferrari of Robert Smith, Will Stevens and Dries Vanthoor continues to lead.