An eventful opening few hours to Motul Petit Le Mans put the pole-winning Patron ESM Nissan of Pipo Derani and the No. 55 Mazda on the back foot for victory after separate incidents, while Juan Pablo Montoya’s race came to an early end with a perplexing wreck.
Derani grabbed the lead with a clean start and pulled away by a couple of seconds over and the two pursuing Mazdas over the opening 10 minutes, by which time they were already lapping the tail of the GTD field. The Mazdas took the fight to each other 18 minutes in, with Bomarito displacing Jarvis in second, taking advantage when Jarvis was delayed momentarily in traffic in Turn 1.
Derani’s lead came to an abrupt end 26 minutes in when left-rear tire puncture for the 22 Nissan, forcing Derani to limp slowly to the pits. The incident cost the polesitter the best part of a lap and briefly created a Mazda a 1-2.
Juan Pablo Montoya brought out the first full course yellow in dramatic fashion after he speared the No. 6 Acura Team Penske entry into the tire barrier on the outside of Turn 3 a little more than an hour into the race. The car suffered extensive front end damage and, after the caution, returned to the pits on the back of a flat-bed truck.
“The rear brakes locked up,” said Montoya. “The car and the brakes had been solid there all day. It’s weird. Normally if you have a problem there the car goes right, but this time it went hard to the left. I don’t know if we cut a tire or not.”
A second FCY was thrown just 20 minutes later when the No. 96 BMW of Dillon Machavern made hard contact with the wall at Turn 1 after being punted off by the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari — who in turn was clipped by the Whelen Action Express Cadillac. The ensuing yellow brought a setback for the No. 55 Mazda, now in the hands of Spencer Pigot, who had the left-rear wheel separate from his car after his pit stop, then had to pit with the GT cars to replace it, which meant he had to serve another pass-through (avoiding a penalty since the stop was purely for emergency service). He and his teammates still have eight hours to go to make amends.