The highlight of the fourth hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans came just before the safety car was deployed for the first time due to the No, 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA suffering a major blowout on the Mulsanne Straight 30 minutes in, leaving tire debris all over the circuit.
The action in question was the battle for the lead of the GTE Pro class, which spiced up when the No. 91 Porsche of Fred Makowiecki was chased down by the No. 92 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and No. 68 Ford of Sebastien Bourdais, the duel climaxing with Vanthoor running side-by-side with Makowiecki into Indianapolis to take the lead halfway through the hour.
The Belgian then pitted, handing the lead back to the No. 91 once again, but Bourdais wasted no time in pouncing on Makowiecki , taking the lead around the outside at the first Mulsanne chicane.
They then pitted, as the safety car came out causing both of them to be held at the end of the pits after their stops. This caused the Pro class order to change, as the No. 92 regained the lead ahead of the No. 69 Ford of Scott Dixon, which was promoted up the order, and No. 81 MTEK BMW of Nicky Catsburg which slotted in third, but quickly rose to second at the restart, the Dutchman pouncing on the Kiwi into Turn 2.
The No. 91 and No. 68, meanwhile, slipped all the way down to seventh and ninth in class respectively, just in time for the race restart.
GTE Am on the other hand, was still led by the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Matt Campbell with 20 hours remaining, ahead of the JMW Motorsport Ferrari which continues to circulate second. Up to third, though, after running at the back for much of the opening hours, was the Team Project 1 Porsche with Jorg Bergmeister at the wheel.
Also on the move was the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, Mathias Lauda up to fourth and just a handful of seconds behind Bergmeister’s Porsche. The only notable drama was the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche having to serve a drive-through for track limits, dropping it from third to sixth.
In the LMP classes, meanwhile, it was a stalemate up front, although in LMP1 the No. 8 Toyota retook the lead of the race after the No. 7 was forced into the pits unscheduled due to a slow puncture. This promoted Fernando Alonso into the lead of the race for the first time, the pair of TS050 HYBRIDs ending the hour just 2.1 seconds apart.
Behind, and a lap down, was the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 of Egor Orudzhev in third, ahead of the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 of Mathias Beche by a minute and a half.
LMP2 saw the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA maintain its minute-and-half advantage, Andrea Pizzitola aboard, leading Pierre Thiriet in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine and the Graff SO24 ORECA of Johnathan Hirschi.
Further down the order in the secondary prototype class, a lengthy slow zone was forced before the safety car in the hour, after the Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara of Felipe Nasr hit the barriers in the same place it did during qualifying, though this time the team’s P217 was able to get going again and back to the pits for repairs.