Ed Fahey, Le Mans Correspondent
Le Mans 24 hours GT class Hour 18 report
GTE-Pro – Top 3 at 18 hours, 09.00 local time
1. #51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia – Giancarlo Fisichella
2. #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari F458 Italia – Jaime Melo
3. #97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 – Darren Turner
Leading Ferraris moving up the overall leaderboard
The leading #51 car entered the top 20 just after 3am as the LMP’s continue to falter, in fact the top 2 GTE-Pro cars are now within the overall top 20, the GTE-Pro #51 AF Corse Ferrari 17th overall and the #59 Luxury Racing in 19th, the AF Corse car now with a 1 lap cushion over the Luxury Racing machine.
Aston Martin cheat death
After the retirement of the #77 Porsche, the #97 Aston Martin moved into the top 3 and running second comfortably as the race entered ‘Happy Hour’ between 6-7 am, the rising sun warming up the tarmac and quite often when the fastest laptimes of the race are recorded. Stefan Mucke obliged with a 3.56.2 and was probably trying to improve on this on his next lap when he got it all wrong at Indianapolis going side on into the tyrewall. Miraculously the car suffered no damage, team boss John Gaw admitting the team were ‘very lucky’ and after a pitstop to check for possible damage, the car was sent on its way, currently 3rd in class with Darren Turner onboard.
Corvette descent stops, now into slow recovery
Corvettes woes continued as the #74 car finally left the pits just before 03.30, all issues now hopefully resolved, as #73 hit trouble yet again with suspension/steering issues. After showing great promise before and at the beginning of the race, a finish apiece is now the best the defending GTE-Pro champions can hope for, the #73 car currently 4th and #74 5th; Tommy Milner in #74 surviving a self-inflicted spin into the tyrewall at the Porsche curves and continuing.
Final Pro class Porsche retires
After a consistent Top 3 performance, the #77 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 997 suffered gearbox hydraulic problems at the Michelin chicane, and around 55 minutes later at was officially retired from the event around 05.40. A sad end after their fantastic victory at the WEC race in Spa. This now leaves GTE-Pro as a Corvette, Ferrari and Aston Martin race.
JMW Ferrari retires
Just after 8am the #66 GTE-Pro JMW Ferrari retired, after a mostly anonymous run, only briefly getting into the top 6, but a notable performance at times given that 1 of their drivers, Roger Wills is a gentleman driver.
GTE-Am – Top 3 at 18 hours, 09.00 local time
1. #50 Larbre Competition Corvette C6R ZR1 – Pedro Lamy
2. #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Anthony Pons
3. #57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia – Tracy Krohn
Usually the less predictable of the 2 GT classes, GTE-Am has remained rather static with the top 2 cars on the same lap, with third place 3 laps down. Also the lead Am car is now 5th overall in GTE
Major accident for #75 Prospeed Porsche
Just before 5am the #75 Prospeed Porsche of Al Faisal, Curtis and Edwards, with Al Faisal at the wheel left the track at the Porsche curves, the car going backwards into the wall totally destroying the rear of the car and also damaging the barriers, bringing out the safety car to repair them. Al Faisal thankfully unhurt.
Krohn Racing holding on
In a rather steady GTE-AM race, Krohn Racing currently in 3rd are staying out of trouble, mostly circulating alone and clocking up the laps for a very consistent performance, now with a 9 lap advantage over the 4th placed Corvette
Larbre Corvettes looming
The #50 and #70 Larbre Competition Corvettes are still in the mix in Am. The #50 car trading the lead with the #67 Porsche, both cars on the lead lap in Am, despite #50 getting distracted by an Audi R18 and spinning as a result.
Older Porsche power
Despite the 2 Pro class Porsches falling by the wayside, 3 2011 spec Porsches are holding on in Am. The #67 IMSA Matmut car trading the class lead with the #50 Larbre Corvette, while the #79 Flying Lizards car is still on a comeback in 5th place after its extended pitstop yesterday, while the #55 JWA-Avila car is in 6th, certainly fulfilling the teams aim of being competitive later in the race.
A slow puncture for Brian Vickers n the #71 Ferrari led to a fire on the front left wheel as the tyre was devoured by the bodywork leading to the front left of the car being clearly on fire as he limped into the pits, just as Fisichella in the #51 was pitting, Fisichella was sent out while Vickers car was extinguished and repaired, the #51 car returning after #71 had been repaired, now sporting a front left fender covered in duct tape.