Two of the top three contenders in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans were involved in an incident at the exit of Turn 1 moments before the halfway point that suddenly changed the complexion of the 10-hour event.
Up until that point, the No. 6 Team Penske Acura driven by Dane Cameron had dominated the race, although challenged by the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R of Pipo Derani and the No. 77 Mazda DPi of Tristan Nunez.
Nunez was leading near the end of a round of green-flag pit stops. Exiting pit road, he was clipped by the second-place GTD No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 Evo of Alessandro Balzan. That sent the Mazda into the tire barrier, although it was able to continue directly to the paddock with a damaged nose and right-rear bodywork.
Cameron also was involved in the incident, although able to continue without apparent damage. Following pit stops at the five-hour mark, Ricky Taylor held the lead in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura, followed by the championship-leading No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac of Ryan Briscoe and Derani. Cameron was running fifth, +7.6 seconds back.
After the No. 6 Acura led all but seven of the opening 171 laps with Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud, Felipe Nasr quietly took the lead at the 3:38 mark during an exchange of green-flag pit stops that gave the No. 31 Cadillac a 3.168s advantage.
The second caution waved at the 4:03 mark for an incident involving the No. 51 Inter Europol Competition ORECA LMP2-Gibson of Rob Hodes. During pit stops, Nasr tried to get around Cameron as they were exiting the pits. Nasr pulled ahead, but was ordered to relinquish the position. Cameron then led until the incident that dropped the Acura back in the running.
— IMSA After Dark (@IMSA) October 17, 2020
Prior to the halfway incident, the biggest moment in the first half was in GTLM shortly after the two-hour mark. Jesse Krohn, driving the No. 24 BMW, passed the Corvettes of both Tommy Milner and class leader Jordan Taylor on the same straight to take over the lead. Moments later, though, the RLL sister No. 25 BMW driven by Colton Herta went to the garage after reporting being down on power. The car returned after losing 31 laps for repairs.
Following the halfway pit stops John Edwards led in the No. 24 BMW, followed by the No. 912 Porsche of Mathieu Jaminet and the No. 3 Corvette of Nicky Catsburg.
The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers has dominated GTD, although challenged by Balzan in the No. 63 Ferrari; Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 12 Lexus; and Shinya Michimi in the No. 86 Acura.
The No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA currently driven by Scott Huffaker is leading in LMP2, with John Farano second in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport by Starworks ORECA, 33s back.
Harry Tincknell was the first contender to experience problems when he straight-lined the No. 55 Mazda off Turn 10 through the gravel and back on course. After a short pit stop, Tincknell took the Mazda to the paddock to replace the left-front rotor. He returned to the race after losing six laps — although another problem after four hours sent that car back to the paddock.
On lap 19, Gabriel Aubry went straight off exiting Turn 1, nosing the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R into the tire barrier. That brought out the first full-course caution — although it was followed by a very long stretch of green-flag racing.