LM24 Hour 5: Porsche grabs the GTE Pro lead

Image by Trienitz/LAT

LM24 Hour 5: Porsche grabs the GTE Pro lead

Le Mans/WEC

LM24 Hour 5: Porsche grabs the GTE Pro lead

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Hour 5’s big headline came in GTE Pro, the lead now held by Porsche GT Team after a monumental four-way, Porsche-Corvette-Ferrari-Porsche, scrap.

The No. 63 Corvette of Mike Rockenfeller was gradually reeled in by the chasing pack, and eventually caught by a group of Daniel Serra’s No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, No. 92 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and No. 93 Porsche of Earl Bamber.

The four ran nose to tail for multiple laps, before Serra made a bold move for the lead on the entry to Indianapolis round the outside. The quartet then pitted and Vanthoor emerged in the lead, ahead of Serra, while Rockefeller fell to third with Bamber fourth.

For the GTO Pro leaders, it’s become a bit of a peloton, with the rest of the class all a minute back now, the best of the Fords, the no. 68 and No. 59 now fifth and sixth, and ahead of the No. 71 in seventh. They’ve all gradually fallen away as teams experiment on strategy, some trying new compounds; some double-stinting. It’s not yet clear what is the right combination.

GTE Am has also had its moments. Keating Motosports’ Ford now leads GTE Am, Felipe Fraga getting the better of the No. 77 Dempsey Proton’s AM driver, Christian Reid during the hour.

JMW’s Ferrari is still third, with the WeatherTech Racing Ferrari fourth.

“It’s going great, we get so much support from Chip Ganassi Racing and Ford as well as Keating Motorsports’ crew,” said a delighted Bill Riley, who is calling the race for the Keating team. “So it’s a good run. Everything has gone smooth. We have a bit of nose damage, but we’ll just keep clicking the laps off and go for a strong run.

“It’s good to have it all work out.”

Further down the order, there was drama for a GTE Am title contender, the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari. The early hours saw the car running in the top three, but since Thomas Flohr’s stint it’s been a struggle for the team, which caused an FCY after Francesco Castellacci had an off in the Porsche Curves, ending up in the gravel.

It’s also been a tough hour for the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing crew, Paul Howarth calling the car in for more check ups in the garage after an off that filled the engine bay with gravel. It’s now six laps down off the race leaders, and it’s going to be a long race for the outgoing GTE WEC Champions.

LMP2’s lead battle has settled now, and it’s G-Drive Racing out front by a clear margin. Roman Rusinov is aboard and holds a 16-second lead over Andre Negrao who has just taken over from Pierre Thiriet.

Third is the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, with Ho Pin Tung aboard, 58 seconds off the lead. The Chinese-flagged car is now 10 seconds clear of the DragonSpeed ORECA.

Since the puncture for Racing Team Nederland’s Dallara, the ‘best of the rest’ baton for the non-ORECA teams has been handed to United Autosports, its No. 22 Ligier sixth in class behind the recovering, pole-sitting, TDS ORECA.

LMP1’s lead gap has shrunk: After five hours of racing, the No. 7 Toyota is now only 44 seconds clear of the No. 8, Fernando Alonso slowly catching Kamui Kobayashi.

It’s also hotted up in the privateer ranks. The No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 is now up to third, former McLaren F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne proving much faster than Nathanael Berton in the No. 3 Rebellion R-13.

At the turn of the hour, out of sync, the No. 3 is down to fifth as we await the SMP BR1s stops.

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