With midnight now upon us at Le Mans, attrition continues to hit the LMP1 class.
After his off at the Porsche Curves at the very end of the eighth hour, Matevos Isaakyan spent almost the entire ninth hour attempting to get the No.17 SMP Racing BR1 AER back to its garage for repairs.
The Russian managed to take off all of the rear bodywork to ensure the wheels could turn, but once he got the car fired, he was only able to move a few meters before the engine expired in a big way, forcing him to climb back out and retire the car. That leaves SMP with just one LMP1 left — the No. 11 suffered early engine woes and is 58th overall, 50 laps off the leader.
That meant that just four LMP1 cars are now running ahead of the LMP2s: the two leading Toyotas (the No.7 now 36 seconds ahead of the No.8 and edging away), and two Rebellion Racing R-13s. Behind, in fifth and sixth in class but down in 17th and 24th overall, are the CEFC TRSM Ginettas.
Moments after climbing above the retired No.17 SMP BR1 in the standings, both Ginettas were pushed into the garage for work. The No.5 has suffered a lingering issue after Leo Roussel collided with the barriers under a safety car, and the No.6 has a problem with the rear which the team is still diagnosing.
This was the first time that either car had spent any true time in the garage for mechanical issues to this point. RACER understands the team will take its time to fully check over both cars while they solve the issues.
The Porsche 1-2-3 was broken up by the end of the hour when the second of the CORE autosports-run Porsches dropped out of the top three and was pushed back into its pit box for work. Nick Tandy was challenging for second in class, battling Fred Makowiecki (No.91 Porsche) before the problems developed.
“Both the American cars are in the garage; we had to stop, we’ve got a problem in the electrical system somewhere,” Tandy told Radio Le Mans. “The guys are changing bits and pieces, and will fire the car back up in a few minutes, but we’re out of the race now, so I’m really disappointed.”
That put an end to what should have been a very strong first half of the race for John Bennett’s CORE Porsche team, here for its first Le Mans this year. Instead of being in contention, both cars have suffered poor luck, and are in the garage being worked on as we move into Sunday.
That issue promoted the No.81 MTEK BMW M8 GTE to third in class, and in the running for second with Philipp Eng in for his first stint and pressing on to try and take second from Makowiecki.
The only real mover and shaker was the No.56 Project 1 Porsche, which has fallen out of the top three in class after the team had to bring the car in for a brake change. The running order is now the No.77 Dempsey Proton Porsche leading the No.84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari and the No.85 Keating Motorsport Risi Ferrari, which is now in the top three.
LMP2 was very quiet through the final Saturday hour. G-Drive Racing’s No.26 ORECA still holds the top spot, by 2m43s over the Signatech Alpine, which is gradually falling away, and the No.23 Panis Barthez Ligier. Only the top three runners are still on the lead lap now.