The darkness has set in now at Le Mans, and we’re heading toward half-distance. Hour 9 was headlined by movers and shakers in GTE, with the Pro and Am class both creating excitement.
The No. 92 Porsche, which led the Pro class at the start of the hour, saw its small lead of just under 20 seconds vanish. James Calado spent the hour reeling in Michael Christensen in his No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, passing him a few minutes before the turn of the hour.
Harry Tincknell continues to lead Ford’s charge in third, driving the No. 67, the former Nissan LMP1 man has been stellar throughout and has played a big part in keeping the car in the fight.
The sole-remaining Corvette C7.R is fourth, and just 11 seconds off the lead; it could all change yet.
At the back of the pack in Pro there was further drama, though this time for the MTEK BMW crew, with the No. 81 M8 GTE dropping to the back after a left-front suspension issue forced the team to push the car into the garage for over 10 minutes.
Am was also intriguing, the No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ford’s lead extending after Ben Keating climbed out and let Jeroen Bleekemolen loose once again, the Dutchman pulling away from the JMW Ferrari of Wei Lu, who lost time after a spin at the second Mulsanne Chicane.
Lu didn’t lose second, but he did fall into the clutches of the chasing pack. As it stands the No. 56 Project 1 Porsche is still third, and just 13 seconds back, with its Bronze driver Egidio Perfetti aboard. That may not last, though, as Euan Hankey is strapped into the TF Sport Aston Martin in fourth, and Julien Andlauer is aboard the No. 77 Dempsey Proton, both within two minutes of the Project 1 Porsche and catching fast.
The LMP classes, on the other hand, were relatively static. The No. 7 leads now, after Mike Conway found a way through past Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8. The past few hours have ebbed and flowed between the two factory cars, neither one able to create a comfortable margin.
It’s the same story in the privateer ranks, the two SMP Racing BR1s are leading the Rebellion R-13s.
LMP2’s lead margin is currently 12 seconds, the Michelin-shod Signatech Alpine A470 driven by Nicolas Lapierre, going toe-to-toe with Job Van Uitert in the leading Dunlop-shod G-Drive Aurus 01. The duel between these teams has been a thriller, and you still can’t call it.
It’s youth vs experience and Michelin vs Dunlop right now — a fascinating combination as the temperature drops trackside and the brake lights glow in the darkness.