The battle wages on in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, but points were awarded for the end of the first segment of the Michelin Endurance Cup.
Felipe Nasr went from fourth to the lead in the final seven minutes to the segment to collect five bonus points and promote the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R into the lead of the Endurance Cup following four hours of racing. Nasr and co-drivers Pipo Derani and Eric Curran now have 37 points to 36 for Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande – with their No. 10 Cadillac running seventh at the end of the segment.
Points will also be awarded after eight hours (on a 5-4-3-2 basis) and at the conclusion of the 10-hour classic. The Michelin Endurance Cup embraces the four longest races on the WeatherTech Championship schedule, including the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and Sahlen’s Six Hours of Watkins Glen.
While Scott Dixon is not in contention for the GTLM title, winning the segment allowed No. 67 Ford co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe to close in. With leaders Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet earning the minimum two points for the No. 911 Porsche, the Ford drivers closed to within three points with the five-point bonus, 33-30.
Toni Vilander led the segment in GTD, pulling himself and No. 63 Ferrari co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Westphal to within two points, 33-31. Felipe Fraga ran second in the No. 33 Mercedes, allowing himself and co-drivers Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen to retain the lead.
“We’re fighting for the Endurance Cup, and we need to finish each mark ahead of the No. 33,” Vilander said. “The track is not easy right now. The tires were wearing and I was hanging in there near the end of my stint. It was not fun. Hopefully, it will come to us when it gets cooler.”
The biggest development in the overall race involved the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac. Under the second caution, race leader Pipo Derani missed the opportunity to pit. That put the dominant car off sequence on pit strategy – which may make a difference over the 10 hours.