Shank Ligier leads Petit Le Mans with three hours to go

Olivier Pla leads the 19th Petit Le Mans ahead of two Corvette Daytona Prototypes, while Ferrari and Ford fight for GT Le Mans honors.

Shank Ligier leads Petit Le Mans with three hours to go

Following the hour-long caution period that took the race past half-distance, the Action Express Racing Corvette DPs of Joao Barbosa and Eric Curran restarted at the head of the field ahead of the Wayne Taylor Racing car piloted by Max Angelelli and Ozz Negri in the Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda.

Negri wasted few laps moving through into the lead, while Curran struggled to hold onto his third ahead of Angelelli, the pair even running side-by-side at one point. But Curran got his rhythm back, and eased away before handing the #31 car back to Cameron at the next (green-flag) round of pitstops. Cameron then set about trying to close in on the #5 car, whose pitstop had seen Barbosa hand off to third man, Filipe Albuquerque.

Behind them following the stops was Ricky Taylor, ahead of ESM’s Johannes van Overbeek and Spencer Pigot in the #70 Mazda.

However a yellow for a PC/GTLM clash (see below) bunched the field just after the leading runners had stopped. The restart with 3h45m to go saw Olivier Pla, now back in the seat of the Shank Ligier, ease away from the chasing pack once more, but Cameron was all over the rear-wing of teammate Albuquerque, and grabbed second place. Something was amiss with the #5 AXR car – a left-rear puncture – and after controlling a vicious wiggle, Albuquerque had to limp it to the pits and lost a lap.

That promoted the Taylors into third ahead of van Overbeek and Pigot, but following a round of pitstops, the Taylors got ahead of the #31 AX Racing machine which now had new IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud at the wheel. Within a couple of laps, the Mazda of Pigot had also got around the Frenchman to take third.

In Prototype Challenge, Robert Alon’s PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca led Kyle Marcelli in the Performance Tech Motorsports machine, and Chris Miller driving the JDC-Miller Motorsports entry. But it was another PC car, that of Johnny Mowlem, that caused the next yellow when he tried an ill-advised move down the inside of Nick Tandy’s GTLM Porsche 911, sending them both off the track and hard into the tire barrier at Turn 4.

GT Le Mans was led by Giancarlo Fisichella in Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 488 ahead of Sebastien Bourdais in the #66 Ford GT, Marcel Fassler in the #4 Corvette, Bill Auberlen’s BMW M6, Daniel Serra’s Scuderia Corsa Ferrari. A lap down ran the #3 Corvette in Jan Magnussen’s talented hands and Frederic Makowiecki in the 912 Porsche, following its earlier clash with the Magnus Racing Audi.

Then Fassler ran off the track at Turn 1, dropping to fifth place in class and gathering up a large scoop of grass across the radiator opening.

Initially it was a Ferrari leading GT Daytona too, with Alessandro Balzan at the wheel of the GT3-spec Ferrari 488, chased hard by Andy Lally in the Magnus Audi R8, Ian James in the Alex Job Racing Porsche, the Turner Motorsports BMW M6s of Jens Klingmann and Cameron Lawrence, and the Dodge Viper, now piloted by Jeroen Bleekemolen back in the cockpit.

Just as the race reached the seven-hour mark, Lally swept around the outside of Balzan at Turn 1 to grab the GTD lead, while Bleekemolen had deposed both BMWs to take third.

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Track break-up blights Petit Le Mans at half-distance
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