The sun is beginning to rise now at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with nine hours remaining in the 86th running of the Grand Prix D’Endurance. The result of the change in conditions means fast times are beginning to come through, with a clearer track, improved visibility and a more optimal temperature for the tires to work with.
Up front, the lead battle in LMP1 continues to intrigue as the No. 8 Toyota of Kazuki Nakajima reels in his fellow Japanese colleague Kamui Kobayashi in the sister TS050 HYBRID. The lead gap is now down to eight seconds after being over 30 through the last two hours.
Behind there’s been little to report in the privateer ranks, though the sole surviving CEFC TRSM Ginetta (No.5) continues to steadily rise up the order once again; Charlie Robertson is up from 40th to 34th overall during his stint.
The top five have been static, with the only changes coming through pit cycles. G-Drive Racing No.26 ORECA’s dominant run is now set to continue through the remaining daylight hours ahead of the Panis Barthez Ligier, which is off the lead lap, being chased by the Signatech Alpine, 48 seconds back.
There was one reportable drama during the hour in the class when the No.31 DragonSpeed ORECA again hit trouble. The car slowed out on track, and as a result, headed straight for the garage for a check-up. Since returning to the team’s headquarters, the car is now back outside the top 10 in the class, after hours of trying to climb the order.
The key battle was for fifth place in class, with AF Corse’s No.52 Ferrari continuing a steady race through to daylight. Pipo Derani got past the No.69 Ford of Richard Westbrook to secure a top-five place and begin his pursuit of the fourth-place-sitting No.67 Ford of Andy Priaulx.
The top three in the class continue to be the No.92 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor, with second and third in the order still on the lead lap; the No. 91 sister car of Fred Makowiecki is running 2m22s behind the leaders, but 37 seconds ahead of the No.68 Ford of Sebastien Bourdais.
The battle for the podium positions is a bit closer. The No.77 Dempsey Proton car is just over a minute ahead of the No.54 Spirit of Race Ferrari, which is back up to second, now with Giancarlo Fisichella behind the wheel.
The Keating Motorsports Ferrari completes the top three, with the No.84 JMW Motorsport still clinging to a place on the lead lap thanks to another ironman stint from Jeff Segal.
Just off the lead lap, but back in the top five is the Project 1 Porsche, after its brake change during the middle of the night cost the car valuable time and track positions.