Ed Fahey, Le Mans Correspondent
Halfway distance for the GT classes
GTE-Pro – Top 3 at 12 hours, 03.00 local time
After 12 hours and almost 11 of those at the front, Corvette Racing has hit major trouble. At 1.10 am the leading #74 Corvette stumbled just after a scheduled pitstop - the car lost the left rear wheel at the Dunlop esses. Richard Westbrook had just taken over from Tommy Milner, and had to limp the car for almost 8 miles on 3 wheels. The car pitted for bodywork repairs, along with a full brake disc change. It rejoined in 6th still with Westbrook driving but fell again with a brief off at the Forza chicane.
The Casr is now in the garage undergoing heavy repairs including a differential and halfshaft change. Also the bodywork damage was far more severe than initially thought, the entire left rear quarterpanel missing, the car showing no sign of a return at the half way point and the car is now last in GTE-Pro Car.
The #73’s early issues are now resolved with Jan Magnussen currently driving, the car having recovered to fifth in class after an unscheduled brake disk change and is now the lead Corvette.
This has played into the hands of AF Corse, the remarkable performance of the #51 Ferrari continuing as the car now takes the lead in GTE-Pro, with almost a lap advantage. Only the top 3 in GTE-Pro are now on the same lap, 2nd and 3rd running bumper to bumper until just before 3am.
A strong drive from the #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari sees them up to 2nd in class, gaining the place during pitstops along with some very fast and incident free driving from Dominick Farnbacher and Jaime Melo.
Aston Martin remains consistent and could be the ones to spring a surprise, currently 4th, just behind the #77 Felbermayr Proton in 3rd. The Porsche held 3rd in class for quite some time but was eventually passed during scheduled pitstops, but has just regained its 6th hour position. This is now the only Porsche in Pro as the #80 Flying Lizards car retired after damaging the steering after running offtrack at Indianapolis.
The Aston could be considered the ‘Vulture’ just waiting for any of the top 3 to stumble as they will benefit.
The #71 AF Corse Ferrari of Beretta, Bertolini and Cioci climbs into the Top 6 after early problems held them back, a consistent run
The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 458 of Jonny Cocker, James Walker and Roger Wills climbed into the top 6 having being penalised with several stop and go penalties, but otherwise a consistent trouble free run, they are now 7th.
GTE-Am Top 3 at 12 hours, 03.00 local time
1. #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Raymond Narac
2. #50 Larbre Competition Corvette C6R ZR1 – Pedro Lamy
3. #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia – Michele Rugolo
GTE-Am has stayed a bit more stable, consistency is showing now, stop and go penalties being more of an issue than accidents.
The #67 Imsa Matmut Porsche having stayed consistently in the Top 3 and inherited the lead almost lost it after a 30 sec stop and go for pitlane speeding.
Pedro Lamy the Pro driver in the #50 car keeps it in the top 3.
After an earlier offtrack excursion the #58 Luxury Racing Ferrari with Frank Montecalvo suffered a more severe altercation with the scenery and is retired just after 02.20, with heavy left hand side damage and no rear wing.
The misfire that plagued the #99 Aston Martin V8 Vantage earlier in the race which was resolved and subsequent crash at Porsche curves turned out to have caused more damage that first thought and sadly the only option was to retire the car.
After holding on in the Top 6, Krohn Racing move into the Top 3, again via consistency while Rob Kaufmann damaged the #61 AF Corse-Waltrip Ferrari at Corvette Curves before handing over to Brian Vickers, who brought the car to 4th position, the #88 Felbermayr Porsche climbs to 5th while the #55 JWA Porsche continues its slow climb upwards by taking 6th.