Two safety car periods broke up the sixth hour of the race, one for a big incident at the Porsche Curves.
The infamous set of sweeping bends have claimed their first victim of the race, the No. 64 Corvette Racing C7.R of Marcel Fassler, which was running just outside the top five in Pro.
The Swiss collided with the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche while lapping the Gulf Racing Porsche, Satoshi Hoshino in the Porsche turning into the side of Fassler as he came through. That sent both off the circuit, the Corvette straight into the barriers.
It was race over immediately for Fassler and the No. 64 crew, reducing Corvette Racing’s effort to just a single car. Thankfully he was OK — fit enough to tell the team on the radio that “there was nothing” he could do.
It’s not over for Corvette, though. Its No. 63 currently sits third behind the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 92 Porsche.
“He was talking and walking. We believe we have the safest GT cars in the world,” Corvette Racing’s Doug Fehan said.
“Our crush zone, seating and side window nets have all come into play. As a precaution he’s down at the medical centre. He’ll be back later, the car looks too badly damaged to be repaired. But we’ve done this before, we’ve been here and won with two cars, it’s not over yet.”
Earlier in the hour, the lead swung the way of Ferrari, thanks to a safety car period caused by the RLR M Sport ORECA having an off at Tetre Rouge. That set up a frantic restart, during which Daniel Serra in the No. 51 muscled past Laurens Vanthoor’s No. 92 Porsche to take the top spot for the first time.
Outside of the top three are a trio of imposing Fords, the No. 69 leading the recovering No. 67 and No. 68, just 14 seconds separating the leader all the way down to the No. 67 Ford.
The first safety car also prompted a lead change in LMP2. It’s still G-Drive Racing vs Alpine, in what is turning into a re-run of last year’s race. It was Roman Rusinov vs. Andre Negrao midway through the hour, the Brazilian having to almost bang wheels with the Russian to get past into the second Mulsanne Chicane. It was a great move, triggering an eruption of celebrations in the Signatech pit.
Behind, DragonSpeed has reclaimed third, with Anthony Davidson getting past Ho Pin Tung.
Quietly, the best of the Ligier pack has risen up the LMP2 order, the No. 22 United Autosports JS P217 now fifth with Filipe Albuquerque at the wheel.
In LMP1, there’s been a slight change. The Safety Car for Farano’s off cost the No. 8 Toyota (photo above) a minute, Fernando Alonso caught at a red light at the end of pit lane; but he gained it back at the Fassler SC. The No. 3 Rebellion also lost over a minute after being wedged between two other cars when pitting.
This leaves Jose Maria Lopez with a 23-second lead up front over Kazuki Nakajima. The No. 11 SMP Racing BR1 is now third with Mikhail Aleshin pushing, while Thomas Laurent is now fourth, battling back in the No. 3.
Keating Motorsports still leads GTE Am, but the class’ top three has changed: The No. 84 JMW Ferrari has risen to second, and the No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin is up to third after a strong performance from Euan Hankey during the hour.
The No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche has now dropped down to fourth, over three minutes behind the leader after its Am Christian Reid’s stint.
Adding to the drama is the weather now, too: Rain is coming down. It’s not heavy, but it’s enough to make teams reconsider strategy. 18 hours left!