One of the stars of the race Nick Tandy continued to announce himself as one of the brightest talents to emerge in LMP1 racing for many years at Le Mans this morning.
Tandy, who could become the first Englishman since Guy Smith in 2003 to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, pulled further away from his stablemate Timo Bernhard in the #17 Porsche 919 Hybrid.
Porsche sat in a solid 1-2 with three hours of the 24 to go. Earl Bamber took over the leading 919 Hybrid from Tandy at 11:10am and continued to conduct the pace to the #17 car. But with spots of raining falling on the track the race was far from over despite the healthy position that Porsche had forged.
A Slow Zone period to retrieve the stranded and retired Strakka Racing Dome took place at 09:20am and this episode was to have consequences later on, as the #7 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Marcel Fassler was deemed to have not respected the Slow Zone enough, and was duly granted a drive-through penalty.
Andre Lotterer had been eating in to the third placed #9 Audi of Marco Bonanomi who was suffering with an occasional loss of hybrid power due to intermittent cut-outs. Such was Lotterer pace (he set a sensational 3m17:476s fastest lap!), that even the inconvenience of a drive through did little to dent his progress and the German had Bonanomi within his sights as mid-day approached.
The job was made even easier for him when Bonanomi pitted at 11:30am and was wheeled back in to the pit box. Repairs were carried out on the car and the Italian re-joined but fell back behind not only Lotterer, but also Oliver Jarvis in the #8 Audi, and circulated in fifth place.
Jarvis though was forced to pit at 11:45am, also for precautionary checks, but was then able to re-join, with Di Grassi now in the cockpit, back in fifth place.
There were no changes from sixth to 10th place in LMP1, with the #18 Porsche and two Toyota TS 040s ahead of the pair of Rebellion Racing R-One-AERs, which were on schedule for ninth and 10th overall in their first competitive showing.
Nissan encountered more technical problems as the race headed toward the final stages. The #23 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO was 11th in class but some 57 laps adrift of the 10th placed #12 Rebellion.
The #22 car was slightly further back and was suffering a myriad of problems which were a knock-on effect of Harry Tincknell hitting what was believed to be some form of animal in the middle of the night.
KCMG survive scare at Arnage
The KCMG ORECA-Nissan which has led the class for the second hour and had no serious problems survived a scare at 09:35am when Richard Bradley ended up in the escape road at Arnage Corner. After struggling to either spin turn the car or select reverse Bradley eventually made it back on track but saw the once handsome lead significantly shrunk.
The #26 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan was eyeing a chance to pounce for the lead but a strong recovery from Bradley and then a stellar series of stints from Nicolas Lapierre ensured that the gap was still healthy as the 21st hour was ticked off.
JOTA Sport filled out the top three in LMP2 after some superb driving from Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey and Mitch Evans. The Gibson 015S, in the hands of Evans, was hunting down the G-Drive Ligier of Sam Bird and eyeing an unlikely yet richly deserved second place after a substantial first hour delay to rectify a problematic gearbox sensor.
LMGTE PRO still up for grabs
First Toni Vilander and then Gimmi Bruni fended off the advances of Tommy Milner and then Jordan Taylor as lunchtime approached. The gap was just 20 seconds but with the Ferrari having made an extra fuel stop over the ‘Vette.
Aston Martin looked set for Pro Am success as the Lamy/Dalla Lana and Lauda Vantage V8 held a two lap lead over the SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia of Bertolini/Shaytar and Basov.
The Pro Am class featured an entertaining battle for the final rung of the podium in an all-American fight. Patrick Long’s Dempsey Proton Porsche scrapped gamely with Townsend Bells’ Ferrari 458 Italia with the two trading blows throughout the 21st hour. Long was just holding off his rival as mid-day arrived.