The second quarter of Motul Petit Le Mans opened with some pretty bizarre developments. The first was Ben Keating going off in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car, sending it hard into the Turn 1 tire barriers and ending the race for the car, which has now been crashed by all three drivers during the weekend. The crash and retirement could also mean that the Michelin Endurance Cup bid for Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker is in jeopardy.
In the full-course caution that ensued, because the GTD-class No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 was leading the GT field overall and with the timing of the yellow, the No. 1 was on lap 100, and the GTD PRO-leading No. 14 VasserSullivan Lexus was on lap 99. Thus all the cars in GTD that were ahead between the pace car and the No. 1 BMW when the yellow came out received a wave-around, while the GTD PRO cars did not. Once the class split commenced, all the GTD cars on the lead (GT) lap were put together ahead of the GTD PRO cars, a lap ahead.
Whether that led to the incident that at least for a moment changed the face of the GTD PRO battle or not, Corvette and Pfaff Porsche ended up at the back of the field after coming together. Matt Campbell in the No. 9 Porsche was attempting a pass on Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette into Turn 10A when the two had contact. Taylor, immediately felt that something was off and ducked into the pits, while Campbell didn’t realize he had a tire going down until it was too late, and had to lap slowly with a flat until he got back to the pits.
As the first half came to a close, The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura was at the front with Filipe Albuquerque in for his first stint. The No. 10 had headed title rival No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura for much of the second quarter of the race, and got some good fortune as a full-course caution came out while they were in the pits. Most of the other DPis had pitted a lap before. When they slowed for the full-course caution, it allowed WTR to complete its pit stop and get in front, leading over the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac (Mike Conway) and the No. 60 with Oliver Jarvis at the wheel. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Renger van der Zande in the No. 02 and No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs, respectively, were banging doors fighting for fourth, van der Zande reaching the halfway point in the position.
The full-course caution, the sixth of the race, came when Loic Duval in the No. 5 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac turned into Aaron Telitz in the No. 12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F in the Esses, sending both cars hard into the tire wall. Neither car will continue, although it appears both drivers are OK.
With the problem between the GTD PRO Corvette and Porsche, it’s the No. 62 Risi Ferrari 488 at the front of the GTD PRO field, Daniel Serra at the wheel, pursued by the pole-sitting No. 14 Lexus, now driven by Kyle Kirkwood and Nicky Catsburg in the Corvette.
Robby Foley is back behind the wheel of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 and leading GTD. The No. 70 Inception McLaren (Seb Priaulx) and the No. 21 AF Corse Ferrari (Simon Mann) in in pursuit. The second- and third-place cars were off-sequence for a while and apparently getting stellar fuel mileage looking for a caution that didn’t come, but got back on sequence during the sixth caution.
Tristan Nunez is leading LMP2 in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA that Steven Thomas had put on pole, followed by Fabio Scherer in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA.
Felipe Fraga leads LMP3, doing everything he can to give Gar Robinson and the No. 74 Ligier the LMP3 championship. The No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier that entered the race atop the points suffered a setback when third driver George Kurtz beached the car in Turn 6, bringing out the fifth full-course caution of the race. Jon Bennett is currently in the car, in sixth. The No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier and No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier are second and third in LMP3, Josh Burdon and Garrett Grist wheeling those machines, respectively.
Penalties have hurt the chances of several cars for a race win and championships. The No. 01 CGR Cadillac received a drive-through penalty for tire requirements, likely pressure out of spec, and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin GTD entry is well down in the field after Maxime Martin hit a tire exiting the pits. Martin’s teammate, Roman De Angelis, entered the race in the GTD points lead.