As the time winds down, the Motul Petit Le Mans is heating up. Drivers aren’t waiting for the last hour to race, they’re going now.
It started in GTLM with Kevin Estre in the No. 97 Porsche attacking Nick Tandy in the No. 4 Corvette with 8h,14m complete. Estre got alongside, but then found himself on the outside, the two cars made contact and Estre was pushed off. That allowed Mathieu Jaminet into second in the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche. For a moment it looked like Jaminet might make a move on Tandy as well, but settled in behind while Estre had to make a call to the pits for tires. At the end of the hour, after each car pitted for tires and full fill, Tandy and Jaminet were alone in their fight, although Estre was in front, off-sequence. Jaminet got out of the pits just in front of the Corvette, but on cold tires, and the Corvette was back in front by the end of the lap.
As the ninth hour began, Filipe Albuquerque looked like he had been biding his time as he moved the No. 10 Acura ahead of Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Cadillac. As the field pitted, most cars electing for driver changes; Felipe Nasr went into the No. 31 and Ricky Taylor took over the No. 10. But things went sour on Taylor’s out lap, as he went off on cold tires at Turn 3 and dropped a couple of spots. Meanwhile, Nasr was on the attack, forcing Juan Pablo Montoya in the leading No. 60 Acura to get defensive, and indeed overly defensive in Turn 5, allowing Nasr to take the lead heading into Turn 6. That put the No. 31 and Derani and Nasr back solidly into championship position.
Montoya then had his hands full with Oliver Jarvis in the No. 55 Mazda, putting heavy pressure on the Myer Shank with Curb-Agajanian Acura driver. Jarvis pit off sequence to put Harry Tincknell back in the car, but coming out on cold tires, he was immediately in danger of losing a lap to Nasr, an as Nasr got alongside, Tincknell went too deep and into the dirt.
When the leaders pitted — full fuel and tires for all, a driver change inserting Castroneves into the No. 60 — Nasr and Tincknell were nose to tail, with Castroneves in third and Taylor in the No. 10 Acura in fourth. All except the Mazda are on the same pit stop sequence with each needing another stop to finish.
The top three in LMP2 had a 20-second spread at the end of the hour, with Mikkel Jensen leading in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. Tristan Nunez in the No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA is pursuing, but the fight isn’t as close as it was, and Gabriel Aubry is third in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA.
GTD seems to be coming down to the No. 23 Aston Martin and No. 9 Porsche, with Ross Gunn leading Laurens Vanthoor, although Zach Veach in the remaining No. 12 Lexus could certainly make his presence known.