We’re now seven hours into the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, and the race is beginning to settle down, most of the action being errors from drivers or mechanical issues, as the sun begins to dip around La Sarthe.
Up front, another swap of positions for the Toyotas provided the only notable change in the LMP1 class. Both TS050 HYBRIDS made their 10th stops during the hour and they changed the order, with the No. 7 of Kamui Kobayashi emerging leading the No. 8 of Kazuki Nakajima by less than a second.
Running in formation, the two Toyotas have had a faultless run aside from two punctures (detected early by the team), and are now two laps ahead of the best of the Privateers, That is the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 (pictured above), which is running just 18 seconds ahead of the No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13, which sits fourth.
Further down the order, the two TRSM Ginettas are now both ahead of the DragonSpeed BR1 in the standings, running a very respectable sixth and seventh. The BR1 is now back out on track after 48 minutes of repair work following Renger van der Zande’s off in the previous hour.
In LMP2, the story was much the same, with very little to report during the hour.
At the head of the field, the No. 26 G-Drive Racing ORECA, now being driven for the second time today by Jean-Eric Vergne, is just a minute ahead. The car lost almost 30 seconds during the previous 60 minutes over Paul Loup Chatin’s IDEC Sport ORECA, which is now back up to second.
The No. 36 Signatech Alpine is third, ahead of the Panis Barthez Ligier, which is still enjoying a remarkably clean and quick run through the first half of the race. Will Stevens is back behind the wheel of the No. 23 Ligier, still on the lead lap.
In GTE, by contrast, there was plenty of action in both the Pro and Am divisions.
The No. 94 GTE Pro Porsche hit trouble, Romain Dumas spotted by the trackside cameras slowing down through the Porsche Curves, the Frenchman forced to pull into the pits for a check-up. It’s not yet clear what the issue is, and the mechanics were frantically removing parts of the bodywork when it was pushed into the garage.
In terms of positions, it’s a Porsche 1-2-3 with the No. 92 holding a comfortable lead, Michael Christensen managing the gap ahead of the No. 91 of Gianmaria Bruni — who has pushed on to climb up the order — and No. 93 of Patrick Pilet. At this point, it’s clear that the performance of the Porsches is improving as the temperature drops around the circuit.
In Am, there was big drama, Paul Dalla Lana going straight off at the Porsche Curves in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage at the very end of the hour. The Canadian hit the tire barriers head-on at the entry to the section.
The incident put a further damper on Aston Martin Racing’s tough week, which has seen both its new Pro cars far off the pace, and its GTE Am challenger once again in the wars in a race in which it is considered a class favorite. The car hasn’t made it back to the garage as of yet, the cars chances of a good finish, now all but over.
There were more battles for position behind the leading No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche, which has a lead of over two minutes now. The most notable scrap was for second, Jeff Segal in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari climbing to second after a lengthy duel with the ill-fated No. 98 Aston Martin. As a result of the Vantage’s misfortune, Team Project 1 has once again inherited third, with Patrick Lindsay behind the wheel.