Hour 5 of the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours was mostly spent behind a safety car, with much of the interest coming in the LMP1 class.
Following on from Hour 4’s safety car, the racing was neutralized again in Hour 5, the safety car called for a second time due to a huge accident at the Porsche Curves.
Dominik Kraihamer’s ByKolles ENSO CLM collided with the side of the Ebimotors Porsche, causing the rear wing of the prototype to fly off and sending him flying into the barriers, the car ending up in the gravel. Fortunately, Kraihamer was able to climb out and walk away. The wrecked car was the race’s first retirement.
There was further drama for the No. 1 Rebellion Racing R-13, which came into the pits and ended up spending time in the back of the garage for repairs. The car rejoined in seventh behind the LMP2-leading G-Drive Racing ORECA and the No. 10 DragonSpeed BR1, which since its Hour 1 dramas has run a steady race.
While the stops were happening during the safety car, the No. 8 Toyota (pictured above) was called in at the same time as the No. 7 sister car unexpectedly. The team reported another right-rear puncture, the first for the No. 8 but second for the team. That ended with the No. 7 of Jose Maria Lopez leading the race, ahead of Fernando Alonso in the No. 8.
At the back of the field, there was good news for British fans trackside as the No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 finally rejoined the race after lengthy repairs, Jenson Button at the wheel for his first racing stint.
When the race went green, it produced a spectacular sequence, most of the field piling down the Mulsanne Straight to Mulsanne Corner, with many of the LMP1 cars (including the two Toyotas) threading their way through the field.
The driving standards were exceptional, with no incidents occurring as a result of the melee — although Alonso came close, running inches from the guardrail down the Mulsanne Straight trying to get past a pack of GTs, before getting by Lopez to take the lead.
The hour ended with the GTE Pro cars heading into the pits, after the cycle ended, the No. 92 Porsche of Kevin Estre still in the lead, ahead of the No. 81 MTEK BMW of Nicky Catsburg, and the No. 93 Porsche of Earl Bamber. Earlier in the hour there was a notable casualty when the No. 66 Chip Ganassi UK Ford of Billy Johnson had to spend time in the garage for suspension repairs after the American flew over the curbs at the Ford Chicanes. The excursion damaged the rear-right corner. The car has since rejoined the race, but multiple laps down.
In LMP2, the order remains the same, with the No. 26 G-Drive ORECA of Roman Rusiov leading the Signatech Alpine and Panis Barthez Ligier.
GTE Am also saw no major changes during the hour, the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche continuing to lead the way in the hands of Matt Campbell. JMW’s Ferrari still sits second, with the Team Project 1 Porsche third.