Twenty hours to go now at Le Mans, and the classes to watch continue to be LMP2 and GTE Pro.
LMP2’s lead battle has hotted up again. The 10 seconds lost at the last pit stop for the No. 26 G-Drive ORECA (photo above) has already been gained back, thanks to a stunning first stint from debutant Job Van Uitert. The Dutchman, last year’s LMP3 ELMS champion, has successfully chased down Pierre Thiriet in the leading Signatech Alpine.
Heading into the fifth hour of the race the two were nose-to-tail, battling for the lead through traffic. Van Uitert finally took the lead down the Mulsanne Straight, selling Thiriet a dummy through traffic just before the start of the fifth hour.
GTE Pro, too, has been frantic. Corvette’s lead with the No. 63 has shrunk to just under two second, with Earl Bamber in the No. 93 Porsche keeping Mike Rockenfeller under pressure.
The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari is very much in this fight as well. James Calado’s stint was stunning, and saw the Briton climb into the top three before handing over to Daniel Serra.
Best of the Fords is now the No. 68. Joey Hand has pace but lost fourth at the end of the hour to a hard-charging Laurens Vanthoor in the recovering No. 92 Porsche. Hand took over as the leading ‘Blue Oval’ with a great move to get past the sister No. 67 of Jonathan Bomarito during the hour.
The No. 67 has now dropped to 11th after being handed a drive-through for a close call in the pits — a tough pill to swallow after such a strong opening few hours from Harry Tincknell and Bomarito.
Aston Martin continues to struggle here, as does Ford, their four cars toward the bottom of the 17-car class.
Marco Sorensen, fresh from a stint in the pole-sitting No. 95 Aston which led early on, shed some light on the team’s struggles:
“I think the damage we have to the front end came from the first hour,” he told WEC TV. “Nicki was under enormous pressure to keep it on track, and he tried to use too much of the track. We can’t do anything except stay hopeful and hope it changes during the night stints. I’ve tried two different compounds; we’ll try and stick with the one that works best. The tires go off fairly quick for us.”
GTE Am sees Dempsey Proton’s No. 77 Porsche still leading, last year’s winners looking poised early on to win a sixth race this season. Drivers Julien Andlauer and Matt Campbell have been machine-like so far.
The Keating Motorsports Ford GT is second, 31 seconds back, and the JMW Ferrari sits in the final podium spot.
LMP1 is still a Toyota show, the privateer LMP1s all a lap down now after just four hours. The R-13s and BR1s just can’t keep the pace over the course of a stint through traffic.
The No. 7 still has a minute lead over the No. 8 Toyota. The No. 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 is third, with the No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 just outside the podium spots in fourth.