After a quiet spell, things heated up again in the 19th hour at Le Mans when a lengthy safety car period for a loose drain cover at Tertre Rouge required attention.
The yellows bunched up three of the frontrunners in the GTE Pro class, and created a bumper-to-bumper battle for second in the class between the No. 92 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni [pictured] and the No. 68 Chip Ganassi Ford Team USA GT of Dirk Muller when the race went green, with Harry Tincknell’s fourth-placed No. 67 Ganassi UK GT third close behind.
Tincknell dived in for the car’s 21st stop just after the restart, but Bruni and Muller continued running together, the Ford unable to get past, but nevertheless creating an entertaining sequence. Up ahead, the Safety Car period didn’t made much difference to the class leader; the No. 92 still over three minutes up the road with Michael Christensen now behind the wheel.
At the head of the field in LMP1, the pause in action also benefited the No. 8 Toyota, which pitted under the Safety Car, Fernando Alonso getting in and now leading by a minute and 13 seconds into the 20thhour of the race after the No. 7 pitted straight after the race went green again.
“At the moment everything looks OK, but we know it’s not finished,” Pascal Vasselon told Radio Le Mans. “It’s not decided yet [whether or not the two cars will be told to hold station], but we will do what’s in the best interest of the team.”
LMP2 didn’t benefit from the Safety Car from the excitement standpoint either; the G-Drive Racing ORECA now a full lap clear of the field. It was the same in the GTE Am class, with none of the big gaps getting closed up by the three Porsche safety cars on track. The No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche’s lead is now almost four minutes.
Disaster then struck at the very end of the hour when Paul di Resta, who had moved the No. 22 Ligier JS P217 into fourth place at the previous restart, went straight on into a wall at the Porsche Curves. The Scotsman destroyed the front end, making the car an on the spot retirement. Di Resta able to climb out unassisted.
The incident forced another Safety Car which ran into Hour 20, and promoted the No. 39 Graff SO24 ORECA into fifth place in LMP2.