Into the third hour of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and it’s still a Toyota 1-2 up front overall, the leading No. 8 TS050 of Mike Conway holding almost a three-minute lead (extended by a slow zone) over the third place No. 17 SMP Racing BR1, which along with the fourth place No. 3 Rebellion R-13 has had a clean run thus far.
The only notable occurrence for the Japanese team involved the No. 8 (which was hit by the No. 1 Rebellion at Turn 1 on Lap 1), having its rear end changed, dropping it to second.
There has been further drama though in the class, with the No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 AER spending 40 minutes in the garage with its engine cover off. Though Vitaly Petrov did rejoin the race with 11 minutes left in the hour, before pitting again.
CEFC TRSM Racing’s two Ginettas, meanwhile, are still running in seventh and ninth in class, despite their early niggles.
While not surprising at this point, it’s clear that well driven, clean-running LMP1 Privateers are nowhere near to being able to compete with the Toyotas. The EoT formula has, as expected, been proven to be lopsided in favor of Toyota.
After three stops for the LMP2 field, the battle is shaking out nicely, the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA of Jean-Eric Vergne holding a minute lead over the TDS Racing ORECA and No. 36 Signatech Racing Alpine in third. The best of the Ligiers in the field is now up to fourth, Will Stevens running very steadily in the Panis Barthez JS P217 to this point.
One key contender did hit trouble in the hour. The No. 31 DragonSpeed ORECA of Nathanael Berthon, which led the class early, losing a wheel after its second stop, dropping it to 19th in the class.
GTE Pro continues to be the hardest fought class in the race’s early stages, most of the class running line astern for much of the 60 minutes. Up front, the No. 92 ‘Pink Pig’ Porsche 911, now driven by Laurens Vanthoor after Michael Christensen took the lead after the first stops.
Behind, the No. 68 Chip Ganassi ford is just 4.8 seconds back, with the No. 91 ‘Rothmans-liveried’ Porsche completing the top three, a further six tenths adrift. One of the big movers in the class was Alex Sims in the No. 82 BMW, the Britain storming from fifth to third to put an MTEK M8 in the top three for the first time in the race.
The big moment in GTE Am came not in the battle for the lead, but in an incident involving a previous leader. Mike Wainwright in the Gulf Racing Porsche (which led the class through Hour 1) had a spin near-identical to the No. 94 Porsche during qualifying at Indianapolis, hitting the barriers side on, causing a slow zone for barrier repairs. Wainwright did get going again, though, and made it back to the garage for repairs.
Up front in the class, the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari — now with Thomas Flohr at the wheel — is leading, Giancarlo Fisichella getting past the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche at a Mulsanne Chicane to snatch the top spot.
The No. 88, though, is now down to fourth after the second stops, the top three completed by the JMW Motorsport Ferrari and No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, both of which have had a very steady, quiet race to this point.