After hours of racing broken up by safety cars, full-course yellows and slow zones, the 2019 Le Mans 24 Hours is beginning to settle down. The sun has gone down now, as we enter the night hours of what is turning into a pretty memorable race.
Up front in LMP1 Toyota’s pair of TS050 HYBRIDs have changed position again, the No. 8 ahead of the No. 7 once again, after an error by Jose Maria Lopez at Arnage. The Argentinian had an off into the gravel, on his own, which allowed Kazuki Nakajima through into the lead. Since then, the pair have been holding station, and after a second off for Lopez at Indianapolis a couple of laps later, have stayed clean as well, five seconds apart.
In the Privateer ranks, it’s still the two SMP BR1s sitting third and fourth, with the No. 3 Rebellion within a lap still.
LMP2 is still a G-Drive vs Alpine war. Right now it’s advantage G-Drive, the mechanics at the most recent round of stops gaining 10 seconds with speedy work over the Alpine crew. Jean-Eric Vergne is now 13 seconds up on Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 36.
Further back, Stephane Richelmi is circulating third in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA, gradually pulling away from the DragonSpeed ORECA of Roberto Gonzalez. The sister No. 37 JCDC 07 Gibson is still fifth, ahead of the two United Autosports Ligiers, which are lurking, but now a lap down on the leader.
“We are lacking pace to the guys in front. We can hope for P3, but the guys in front are just a bit quicker. We are doing our best, having fun, driving through the night. We’ll rely on mistakes from other drivers,” said Filipe Albuquerque after getting out of the No. 22 United JS P217.
GTE Pro has been the closest class in the field, and it still is up front. However, Porsche’s No. 92 911 RSR is pulling away, Kevin Estre lap after lap pulling away from Alessandro Pier Guidi’s No. 51 AF Cars Ferrari.
Third is the No. 63 Corvette, although Antonio Garcia had to fight for it, after Harry Tincknell managed to get through during the hour briefly in the No. 67 Ford. The Briton is now fourth, ahead of Ryan Briscoe who is steering the No. 69 Ford.
GTE Am is a similar story. Keating Motorsports’ Ford GT has a comfortable lead, although Ben Keating is now aboard and is being caught by Jeff Segal (JMW Motorsport Ferrari), who has taken a lot of time out of the Texan. In what may develop soon into an all-American battle for the Am lead.
Team Project 1 is still holding station in third, ahead of the TF Sport Aston in fourth.
At the back of the class, we have had another dropout, Pedro Lamy pulling over at the side of the road to retire the No. 98 Aston Martin after a constant round of mechanical issues. It’s been a horrid time for the 2017 WEC GTE Am champions. What do Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy and Mathias Lauda have to do to score a strong finish here?