The ball was placed further in to Porsches court at Le Mans this morning when both misfortune for Marcel Fassler in the #7 Audi and a fourth safety car of the race aided the #19 Porsche 919 Hybrid.
Just before 7am, Fassler’s engine cover became partly dislodged at the Porsche Curves and the Swiss was forced to pit. A lengthy stop to replace the bodywork and also check the engine bay and other assorted mechanicals on the car, which had been exposed for over a lap, meant that Fassler re-joined in fifth place and had seemingly lost any chance of challenging for a sixth consecutive Audi win.
When Roald Goethe crashed his LMGTE Am class Aston Martin heavily at Maison Blanche a little later it initially seemed to have given the Porsche another advantage as it was set to gain effectively a full lap on the now second placed #9 Audi.
However, Porsche elected to pit Nico Hulkenberg to check the car in their garage and to re-install Nick Tandy after Hulkenberg’s early morning double stint.
This ensured that the gap became less than a lap upon Tandy’s re-emergence as the green flags flew.
Just when Audi thought all its bad luck had been unleashed, further bad news came when the #17 Porsche driven by Mark Webber overtook Rene Rast for second place.
Oliver Jarvis, driving the #8 Audi made it a 3-4-5 position for the defending Le Mans champions as 18 hours were completed.
A lap behind Jarvis was Neel Jani in the delayed Porsche 919 Hybrid and then the two Toyotas, which apart from an accident for the #1 early in the race, had run near faultlessly since the start of the race.
The major change in the LMP2 class came just after 7:45am when the JOTA Sport Gibson-Nissan moved ahead of the Murphy Oreca to claim third place.
Up at the front the relentless KCMG Oreca 05-Nissan held a lap advantage over the #26 G-Drive Ligier-Nissan, in which Julien Canal also enjoyed a significant three minute lead over Turvey’s JOTA LMP2. This soon started to disappear as the British racer cranked up the times and by 09:00am
Ferrari and Aston Martin lead LMGTE classes
LMGTE Pro was boiling down to a battle between the AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander and the Chevrolet Corvette of Oliver Gavin.
The Ferrari had enjoyed a comfortable enough gap, but this was eroded by the Safety Car for Goethe’s accident. Vilander was soon though able to pull away, and the Finn had stretched the lead to eight seconds as 9am arrived.
Former LMGTE Pro leader the #99 Aston Martin still ran in sixth place behind the #95 Aston, #71 AF Corse Ferrari and #91 Manthey Porsche.
Paul Dalla Lana was leading the LMGTE Am class and still a lap ahead of the SMP Racing Ferrari 958 Italia, which was in the hands of Viktor Shaytar. Canadian, Dalla Lana, even survived a lurid trip across the Porsche Curves gravel trap just before 9am.
The Dempsey-Proton Porsche 911 RSR was back in third position thanks to triple stints from both Pat Long and Marco Seefried. This hard fought potential podium position was under threat, however, as the American Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia was just 10 seconds behind Patrick Dempsey who was in his second stint at the wheel.
The all-British #55 AF Corse Ferrari of Duncan Cameron, Alex Mortimer and Matt Griffin had been on course for a potential top five finish but the 458 Italia appeared to run out of fuel at Indianapolis just as the clocks ticked to 9am local time.