Moving into the midpoint of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the likely areas of movement in P1 would be the No. 3’s battle with No. 11. Gustavo Menezes was at times five seconds a lap faster than Vitaly Petrov with 25 seconds to make up. What actually happened however at around 1:20 a.m. was a big backward crash coming out of the Porsche Curves for Egor Orudzhev in the third-placed No. 17 car after a very strong run, so suddenly the pendulum swung in Rebellion’s favor as Menezes retook third place overall.
The Russian appeared to have lost control when changing direction. Orudzhev initially tried to clear the debris and recover the car, but it looked a forlorn task. The safety cars were again deployed.
The Toyotas were almost as one again at the close of the hour, Sebastien Buemi in No. 8 ahead of Conway in No. 7.
Nathanael Berthon took over the No. 3 car under the safety car and rejoined still in third place despite being held at the pit exit.
“It is always a shame to see any competition have a bad day,” said Menezes. We lost over a lap with the number light on the sidepod, which lost us around three and a half minutes.”
Menezes’ view was this was an unnecessary intervention by the officials because the light would have illuminated anyway when the car was switched to full beam. He also confirmed that they had been prepared to take risks to catch the SMPs, but now they were back to third, they would take less risks and try to preserve it.
In P2’s top-10 tussle, Pastor Maldonado was trying to wrestle third place away (again) by putting his No. 31 DragonSpeed Oreca ahead of the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA. The gap was around 14 seconds but the pace among all the top P2 cars was unrelenting. It was in fact No. 31 that faltered first, a three-minute pit stop dropping DragonSpeed back behind the No. 37 JCDC car. Matthieu Vaxiviere had hauled the No. 28 right up through the top 10. TDS have been recovering from a lack of pace when Francois Perrodo took an early stint, so a pit stop for No. 37 saw No. 28 fifth.
In GTE Pro, the No. 51’s pit stop saw Daniel Serra fall back behind Michael Christensen’s No. 92 again, the safety car preserving these two’s healthy lead. The No. 71 Ferrari remained in the garage with work on the car seemingly having ceased.
In GTE Am, Toni Vilander had overtaken the TF Sport Aston Martin when Hankey took over the No. 90, so when he handed his No. 62 Ferrari to Cooper MacNeil, the Weathertech car was up to fifth in class, but only just. The big gain was for the No. 77 Porsche, with Julien Andlauer in second place moving a safety car group ahead of the rest in second place, albeit himself still a safety car down on the Keating Motorsport Ford GT (pictured above).