The battle for overall victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours remained in the balance at the halfway point between the Toyotas, despite swinging massively towards the #7 due to a slow-zone speeding penalty for its sister car.
The #7 held a 35s lead when the #8 was given a 60s stop/go penalty just before midnight, after Sebastien Buemi was pinged for speeding in a slow zone.
This handed a 2m10s lead to #7 – at the time in the hands of Mike Conway – but this was trimmed to 1m17s at the 12-hour point as Fernando Alonso took over #8 and chased down Jose Maria Lopez as the race hit the halfway point.
After getting out of the lead car, Conway admitted: “We have to be safe, but we have to keep the lead we’ve been given due to the penalty.”
Behind the dominant Toyotas, the #3 Rebellion survived a clutch sensor issue scare, which cost five minutes, to hold third ahead of the sister #1 car.
The major retirement after midnight was the #17 SMP Racing entry, following Matevos Isaakyan's spectacular crash at the Porsche Curves. Isaakyan even removed the engine cover in a valiant attempt to return to the pits, but he was forced to jump from his car when its engine appeared to catch fire.
The #6 Manor-run Ginetta also went out when Olivier Rowland pulled off at Tertre Rouge.
The lead LMP2, the #26 G-Drive entry, is now in fifth overall, ahead of the battling #23 Panis-Barthez and #36 Signatech Alpine cars.
In GTE Pro, the #92 ‘Pink Pig’ Porsche continues to dominate, ahead of the pseudo-Rothmans sister #91 car. The #81 BMW had been giving chase, but a right-front damper failure cost four laps, putting the #68 Ford GT into third.
In the GTE Am, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche leads the #85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari.