Le Mans 24 Hours - Twenty Hour Report
Action heating up in GTE Pro as the track goes fully green at last, and Toyota are still in a league of their own.
The main story of the last four hours is the escape of a heavy metal drain cover at Tertre Rouge which brought out the safety car, followed by local slow zones as track staff had to weld and concrete the thing back into place.
It had been relatively quiet overnight, but it's all kicking off again this morning. Just before 7.30 local time, Ben Hanley lost control of the #10 Dragonspeed heading into the Porsche Curves and although he managed to hobble back to the pit garage, the team eventually made the decision to retire the car - not what any of us were hoping for after the disaster at the Six Hours of Spa. The Toyota's retained their lead, with the #8 ahead of the #7 though both received identical stop-and-go penalties for speeding in a slow zone - the second of those penalties for the #8.
The LMP2 action really started to heat up, the sheer length of this race looks to be getting to some cars and drivers. Matthieu Vaxiviere beached his TDS Racing Oreca, bringing out a slow zone for his rescue, and soon after Tracy Krohn in the Eurasia Motorsport very nearly collected the leading Pink Pig as he spun his Ligier. It's been a rough couple of hours for Ligiers in fact, the Larbre Competition had an incident with the barriers at the Porsche Curves, but nothing compared to Paul di Resta's shunt at the same corner complex which brought the safety cars back out. The #22 was badly damaged and retired on the spot. The star of the Ligiers wasn't spared drama either, the #23 Panis Barthez Competition entry which had been running in second and third in class for a long time had to go back in the garage and lost a lot of time before rejoining.
We started this stint with the #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche into the tyres just outside of the Porsche Experience Centre, not ideal for the team or the Porsche fans watching on. Troubles for another GTE Am Porsche as the #86 Gulf Racing entry was spotted travelling very slowly through Tertre Rouge, for reasons as yet unknown. Not much has changed at the front of GTE Am, it's still the #77 Dempsey-Proton car leading the two Ferraris of Keating Motorsports and Spirit of Race.
Somebody obviously lit a fire under some of the GTE Pro drivers as we suddenly got treated to some absolutely fantastic track action following the safety car periods. With all the gaps closed up, (apart from the Pink Pig up in the lead) the #91 'Rothmans' Porsche really had to work hard to keep some charging Fords behind it. With Andy Priaulx behind the wheel of the #67, some serious side by side action kicked off between the Guernseyman and Fred Makowiecki in the #91. Ultimately it was the lighter #67 that took second, but it wasn't to last long as Priaulx dived into the pits for his scheduled stop. No let up for Makowiecki though as Sebastien Bourdais in the #68 Ford began attacking and the two continued their duel well into the 21st hour.
We did have to say goodbye to the #64 C7.R as Corvette Racing confirmed they were retiring the car. The #97 Aston Martin Vantage had to make an extended trip to the garage following an oil pressure issue, but managed to rejoin 45 minutes later.
This article was originally published on Overtake Motorsport.
Shared with permission from the author.
Cover Image: FIA WEC/JEP