Stay tuned to the 24 Hours of Le Mans live blog for up-to-date news and notes from the great endurance classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
Porsche Moves Into Lead As Audi Hits More Drama At Hour 21
Porsche has taken over the lead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans following drama for the No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro in the 21st hour.
Race leader Tom Kristensen, seeking a record 10th overall win, ground to a halt on track with less than four hours to go. The Dane continued, made a scheduled fuel-only stop before pitting just a few laps later for a turbo change.
The stop, which cost the No. 1 Audi more than 17 minutes, handed the lead back to the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, who now holds a 1:30 lead over the No. 2 Audi of Andre Lotterer.
It was the second turbo failure for Audi this race following the same issue for the No. 2 entry, which cost them 23 minutes in the 16th hour.
Lucas di Grassi, back in the No. 1 Audi, now runs four laps behind in third.
Three hours and 20 minutes remain in the race.
The No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan continues to lead LMP2 while AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing are out front in GTE-Pro and GTE-Am , respectively.
Audi Remains Up Front At Hour 20
While Audi remains up front overall, drama has hit the LMP2 leaders in the closing stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan, which had dominated the LMP2 ranks since the opening hours, lost nearly 10 minutes in the garage with engine-related issues and a rear brake change in the 19th hour.
Mark Shulzhitskiy rejoined in second, giving the pole-sitting Ligier Nissan from Thiriet by TDS Racing the lead. However, Tristan Gommendy suffered left-front suspension failure and pitted his class-leading No. 46 car with four hours to go.
With engine concerns in the OAK camp, the third-placed No. 38 Team Jota Zytek Z11SN Nissan could be in the cat bird’s seat, with Simon Dolan only one lap behind Shulzhitskiy in the cost-capped prototype ranks.
Trouble also hit the GTE-Pro ranks, with the second-placed No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE of Bruno Senna spending more than 20 minutes in the garage with power steering failure.
It came following an intense battle for the lead between Senna and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, who now enjoys a two-lap lead over the No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz in second.
The No. 73 Corvette Racing C7.R has been promoted to third following the delay for the No. 97 Aston Martin.
Up front, the race-leading No. 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Tom Kristensen slowed on track at the start of the 21st hour. The nine-time Le Mans winner continued but it may not be the end of the story.
Kristensen holds a one-lap lead over the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Timo Bernhard, with Andre Lotterer’s No. 2 Audi running in third.
GTE-Am continues to be led by the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE of Nicki Thiim, who holds a three-lap lead over the competition.
Major Audi Drama At Hour 16
Following Toyota’s drama just before sunrise, Audi’s lead just prior to the Le Mans 16-hour mark had stabilized with the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro up front by three laps, now driven by Marcel Fassler.
But just before that two-thirds distance, Audi had drama of its own when Fassler pitted and the engine and nose covers came off.
The fleet of Audi mechanics surveyed the issue and sent it back into pit lane, planning to resume. Unfortunately it did not happen and the turbo was due to be changed.
Audi’s No. 2 still led at the 16-hour mark but only for the time being. It should promote the sister No. 1, which had taken second place, to the overall lead.
The No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid is in striking distance too, despite struggling for consistent pace and continuing to run anywhere from two-to-three seconds per lap off the Audis.
For the No. 7 Toyota, the official reason for retirement was an electrical issue related to a wiring loom. The remaining Toyota, the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid driven by Anthony Davidson, has been cranking out laps in the 3:26 and 3:27 range, roughly one-to-two seconds a lap quicker than the Audis, and is now in podium contention.
In LMP2, the same three cars that have run in the top three most of the race continue in the podium positions. That includes the pair of Ligier JS P2 Nissans, the No. 35 from OAK Racing up front with Alex Brundle and the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing car driven by Ludovic Badey in third.
Sandwiched in-between the two is the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan, currently driven by Nelson Panciatici. Brundle leads Panciatici by one lap. The fourth-placed No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd is poised to capture a podium position if any of the top three have issues.
GTE-Pro sees the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia still up front, the car now driven by Toni Vilander after taking over from Gianmaria Bruni. That car is still yet to do a brake change after the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage, which runs second, has already done so.
Porsche Team Manthey holds third with the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. Unfortunately for Corvette Racing, it will take a bit of attrition in the final eight hours to take a podium position.
The No. 74 Corvette C7.R pitted in the 16th hour with an alternator issue, replaced the belt, and lost three laps. That dropped it back behind the sister No. 73 for fourth place.
In GTE-Am, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicki Thiim have kept the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage up front before handing off to Kristian Poulsen. Behind the No. 95, there’s been any of four cars in contention for second place, three laps behind the leaders.
That quartet includes the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia, which runs second despite an incident in the 15th hour where it incurred some left rear quarter panel damage at the Porsche Curves. Others in podium contention include the No. 88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR, No. 90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia (which had a puncture but survived it), and No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia.
Nakajima’s Toyota has been the only retirement in this stint. Elsewhere, the No. 52 Ram Racing Ferrari F458 Italia’s troubled race has continued with another unscheduled garage visit, this one reported to be gearbox-related.
Toyota Hits Trouble, Audi Takes Over Lead At Hour 14
An Audi leads the 82nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time, following major drama for the pace-setting Toyota with 14 hours complete.
The No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Kazuki Nakajima, which had led for nearly the last 10 hours, stopped on track near Arnage just past the 5 a.m. mark.
Details on the issue for the gasoline-powered LMP1-H has yet to surface but it’s given the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Benoit Treluyer command with ten hours to go.
The No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley now runs in second after a few minor delays overnight, which has put the gasoline-powered three laps behind.
A injector change in the 13th hour, meanwhile, has put the No. 1 Audi in third, now in the hands of Lucas di Grassi, who has also benefitted from the Toyota’s misfortune.
Trouble has continued for the No. 14 Porsche, with Marc Lieb losing 20 minutes in the garage with fuel issues in the 13th hour, which struck the car earlier in the race when Romain Dumas was at the wheel. It currently runs in sixth.
LMP2 is continued to be paced by the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Jann Mardenborough, who holds a 1 lap lead over Oliver Webb’s No. 36 Signatech-Alpine A450b Nissan in second.
Both of the Nissan-powered Ligiers have impressively run trouble-free thus far, with the class pole-sitting No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing entry in a solid third position.
Darren Turner has taken over command of GTE-Pro, with the Aston Martin driver getting around the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella for the top spot halfway through the 14th hour.
Turner’s No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage holds a 30-second advantage over the AF Corse entry, now in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni.
The No. 92 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR of Richard Lietz runs in third, following a routine brake change for the No. 74 Corvette C7.R, which has dropped to fourth as a result.
GTE-Am also sees an Aston Martin up front, headed by Nicki Thiim in the No. 95 entry. Suspension trouble has dropped the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari to outside of the top-10 after running in a solid second overnight.
Recent retirements include the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan (suspected accident), No. 60 AF Corse Ferrari (mechanical), No. 47 KCMG Oreca Nissan (accident), No. 13 Rebellion Racing Rebellion R-One Toyota (engine) and No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca Nissan (accident).
Halfway — Toyota Continues To Stretch Gap Over Audi
Toyota continues to lead overall at the halfway mark at Le Mans. Stephane Sarrazin leads the No. 2 Audi of Andre Lotterer by two minutes. The No. 1 Audi of Tom Kristensen slowed down right before the end of the 12th hour.
At the end of lap 176 Alexander Wurz handed the wheel of the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid over to team mate Sarrazin, after completing a quadruple stint in the car. Sarrazin maintained the two-minute lead that Wurz had built up during his stint.
Nissan PlayStation GT Academy graduates Jann Mardenborough and Mark Shulzhitskiy and their team mate Alex Brundle are still in command in LMP2. Brundle’s pace in the last couple of hours have resulted in a comfortable near three-minute lead for the No. 35 G-Drive Racing by OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan over the No. 36 Signatech-Alpine Alpine A450b Nissan of Paul-Loup Chatin.
While the race in the LMP1 and LMP2 categories seems to have settled for now, the fight in GTE-Pro has been an ongoing battle between the No. 97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage, the No. 74 Corvette C7.R and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari.
Aston Martin Racing’s Bruno Senna rejoined right in front of AF Corse’s Toni Vilander and the fight was on again just after 1 o’clock. The three cars were separated by just a couple of tenths, but it was the Brazilian who kept his Vantage in the lead of the class.
At the halfway mark, right after another round of pit stops, Senna was half a minute ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in the AF Corse Ferrari and just over 50 seconds ahead of Richard Westbrook in the Corvette.
It is an Aston Martin Racing double at the halfway mark, as the No. 98 Vantage is on top in the GTE-Am class. David Heinemeier Hansson leads SMP Racing’s Alexey Basov by over two minutes. The No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSR is a lap behind in third place.
Darkness Is Upon Circuit As Toyota Controls Race At Hour 10
The No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid has increased its lead in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. After ten hours Alexander Wurz is leading the two remaining Audis by more than two minutes.
Alex Brundle, who took over from Jann Mardenborough, leads in LMP2. The No. 35 G-Drive Racing by OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan held onto the lead, while its competitors in the LMP2 category battled for second place.
Just before the end of the tenth hour Thiriet by TDS Racing driver Ludovic Badey was given a 35-second stop and go penalty for speeding in the pit lane. At that moment the No. 46 Ligier JS P2 Nissan was second in class.
The penalty for Badey resulted in the No. 36 Signatech-Alpine entry inheriting second and the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca taking third place.
In GTE-Pro Aston Martin, Ferrari and Corvette were still engaged in a battle for the class lead. At 1 a.m. Stefan Mücke was in the lead, but the No. 74 Corvette C7.R and the No. 51 Ferrari 458 Italia were still within striking distance.
There were problems for the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR. Just after 11.30 p.m. Patrick Pilet returned to the pits with a fuel pressure problem. The Porsche team worked on the problem for 41 minutes before sending Pilet out again.
Aston Martin Racing’s Pedro Lamy lost the GTE-Am lead just before the end of the tenth hour, when the No. 98 Vantage returned to the pits steaming. The car was quickly pushed into the box, where it was diagnosed with a power steering issue.
With the No. 98 in the box, the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage inherited the GTE-Am lead, ahead of the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari and the No. 88 Proton Competition Porsche. The No. 77 Porsche was given a three-minute stop and go for spinning its wheels in the pits.
Two more cars retired in the last couple of hours. The No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca Nissan went off at the Porsche Curves and Nathanael Berthon couldn’t get the car back to the pits, while the No. 60 AF Corse Ferrari is also out of the race.
No. 7 Toyota Leads Overall As GTE-Pro Class Heats Up
Up front in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid continues to lead overall, still in the hands of Kazuki Nakajima with the pair of Audis trailing by more than a minute.
OAK Racing’s No. 35 Ligier JS P2 Nissan, now driven by Jann Mardenborough after taking over from Mark Shulzhitskiy, leads in LMP2. The young Englishman has put in a number of storming laps – even getting down to the 3:39 range in race pace – to hold the gap over the fellow Ligier JS P2 Nissan of Thiriet by TDS Racing and No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd.
While the LMP1 and LMP2 classes have stabilized, the GTE-Pro battle represented the top action between the seventh and eighth hour.
Darren Turner, Giancarlo Fisichella and Richard Westbrook engaged in a great scrap for the lead. Westbrook had the lead in the No. 74 Corvette C7.R before Turner got the top spot into the first chicane on the Mulsanne in the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage.
Fisichella, in the polesitting No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia, then got past Westbrook and later past Turner to take the lead. But Turner got Westbrook back after that, and again into the first chicane.
The lead between the three has swapped based on pit stops. One car that lost time was the No. 73 Corvette C7.R, as the air stem to jack up the car broke off. That leaves that car more than a lap and a half behind the lead.
GTE-Am’s top three has remained unchanged with the Nos. 98 and 95 Aston Martin Vantages ahead of the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia. The pair of Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSRs, the No. 88 Proton and No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton entries, run fourth and fifth in class.
Alexandre Imperatori, early-race LMP2 leader in the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan, had an accident exiting the Porsche Curves, just before the Ford Chicane. With heavy front end damage, including the suspension, that has knocked that car out of the race.
Toyota Back Out Front At Hour Six:
At the one-quarter mark of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota has reassumed the lead with the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid.
After Alexander Wurz started, Stephane Sarrazin took over for the second stint and polesitter Kazuki Nakajima slotted in just before the six-hour mark.
Nakajima’s lead over the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro is 46.702 seconds, and the No. 7 car has completed 88 laps of the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.
The No. 2 Audi of Benoit Treluyer and the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley hung within a minute and a half of the Toyota through the pit stop sequences.
Hartley fell back after his Porsche suffered a puncture in the fifth hour, which required an unscheduled pit stop. Mark Webber was due to take over next, for his first Le Mans race action since 1999.
The star of the middle stint in LMP1 was Marc Lieb, in the sister No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Lieb climbed from as far back as 51st overall (the car lost nine minutes due to a fuel pressure issue) up to sixth place overall, within one lap of the fifth-placed No. 12 Rebellion R-One Toyota, the LMP1-L subclass leader. Lieb ran the middle stint after Neel Jani started, and Romain Dumas was third in the rotation.
LMP2 featured a neck-and-neck battle between the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan driven by Alex Brundle and the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd driven by the team’s Silver driver Michel Frey. Frey hung tough although Brundle made it past on a couple of occasions.
These two, plus the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan of Paul-Loup Chatin, all pitted within a few minutes of each other. Mark Shulzhitskiy took over the No. 35, Jon Lancaster the No. 34 and Oliver Webb the No. 36.
In the latest pit stop sequence, the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan ascended to second, the car now driven by Pierre Thiriet.
GTE-Pro saw the No. 74 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia clear of an outstanding four-car battle for third between the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs and a GTE-Pro and GTE-Am Aston Martin Vantage.
At the six-hour mark, the No. 74 (Richard Westbrook driving) led over the No. 97 Aston Martin and No. 51 Ferrari.
In GTE-Am, Aston’s pair of Vantages there ascended to the class lead after the Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR pitted and Patrick Long handed off the No. 77 to Patrick Dempsey. Long put in a three-hour and 37-minute first stint in the car.
While Dempsey ran consistent times, Aston’s quicker Silver-rated drivers Christoffer Nygaard and David Heinemeier Hansson ascended to first and second in class in the Nos. 98 and 95, respectively. SMP Racing’s No. 72 Ferrari F458 Italia runs third; the Dempsey-Proton No. 77 is now sixth with Joe Foster behind the wheel.
No additional cars have been retired beyond the six already out at this point.
Porsche Continues To Lead At Hour Four:
Porsche continues to lead overall at the four-hour mark of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, albeit on strategy rather than pure race pace.
After Timo Bernhard had made his third pit stop eary in the fourth hour the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, driven by Stephane Sarrazin, moved into the lead, ahead of the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer.
At the three-hour and 30-minute mark Sarrazin returned to the pits for the fourth pit stop of the No. 7 Audi, handing the lead back to the Porsche, now driven by Brendon Hartley.
In LMP2 Michael Frey took over from Franck Mailleux in the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 3 Judd and soon he had a charging Alex Brundle behind him. Brundle passed Frey just before 6.30 p.m. but two laps later the No. 35 G-Drive Racing by OAK Racing driver was back behind Frey.
Patrick Long in the No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche continued to race on slicks, and subsequently dropped behind the GTE-Pro leaders again. He stayed out knowing that the others still had to stop for slicks, but eventually dropped to second in GTE-Am, behind the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage of Christoffer Nygaard.
Out in front in the GTE-Pro category the two Porsche Team Manthey cars were unable to hold onto the lead. Tommy Milner was on a mission and caught Bergmeister halfway the fourth hour. After a short battle Milner put the No. 74 Corvette next to the No. 91 Porsche and moved up into the lead in GTE-Pro.
The No. 33 OAK Racing –Team Asia Ligier JS P2-HPD and the No. 60 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia both went into the gravel trap at Indianapolis, but both cars were towed out of the gravel and rejoined.
Six cars have retired at the end of the fourth hour. They are the No. 0 Nissan ZEOD RC, No. 3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, No. 37 SMP Racing Oreca, No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek and the No. 71 and No. 81 AF Corse Ferraris.
Porsche On Top In Hour 3:
Porsche has quite a story to tell at the three-hour mark of this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The German manufacturer leads in all three categories it’s entered in: overall in LMP1, and in both GTE-Pro and GTE-Am.
After Alexander Wurz pitted the polesitting No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid after the two-hour and 45-minute mark, Timo Bernhard took the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid into the overall lead. It puts Porsche into the overall lead for the first time at Le Mans since its last run in the top category in 1998.
Bernhard had only made two pit stops while the rest of the top five in LMP1, the No. 7 Toyota, Nos. 2 and 1 Audi and No. 12 Rebellion R-One Toyota had made three at the three-hour mark.
Franck Mailleux leads LMP2 in the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd, owing more to staying out of trouble thus far in the car he shares with Jon Lancaster and Michel Frey. A quartet of Nissan-powered entries run second through fifth.
In GTE-Am, Patrick Long in the No. 77 Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR led the GTE runners overall in P17, with strategy paying dividends.
Meanwhile, the two factory Porsches from Porsche Team Manthey, the No. 92 of Marco Holzer and the No. 91 of Jorg Bergmeister, ran 1-2 in GTE-Pro in the Porsche 911 RSRs. Both cars are on wet–weather tires as of the three-hour mark.
The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage (GTE-Am) and No. 74 Corvette C7.R (GTE-Pro) ran second and third in their respective classes.
After the deluge in the second hour that put the race under safety car conditions for more than 40 minutes, there was only 15 minutes of green flag time before another round of storms came through the circuit.
Heavy rain occurred on the Mulsanne Straight and there were two separate incidents. Howard Blank spun on the straight in the No. 62 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia (GTE-Am). Meanwhile there was contact involving two LMP2 cars, Karun Chandhok’s No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03 Nissan and Michael Munemann’s No. 41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek Z11SN Nissan, exiting Tertre Rouge.
Toyota’s No. 8 returned to the track after nearly 50 minutes in the garage spent fixing the damage from its incident on the Mulsanne in the first safety car period.
Sudden Downpour Leads To Carnage In Hour 2:
A sudden downpour over the Circuit de la Sarthe has resulted in chaos, a lot of damage and the first safety car procedure of the race.
As the leaders went onto lap 25 it began to rain and, within moments, the whole circuit was wet and teams scrambled out with wet tires.
In the treacherous conditions, the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid of Nicolas Lapierre spun and collected the No. 3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Marco Bonanomi and the No. 81 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia of Sam Bird. All three cars were seriously damaged.
Lapierre managed to bring the damaged Toyota back to the pits, Bonanomi and Bird retired on the spot.
At almost the same time, the LMP2 class leading No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03R Nissan spun on its own and knocked out the tire barrier at the first Mulsanne Chicane.
Race director Eduardo Freitas deployed the safety car as marshals rushed out to clear the track from debris and stricken cars.
Just before the end of the second hour the sun returned, with cars lined up behind the safety car. Toyota’s Alexander Wurz led from Andre Lotterer, with Timo Bernhard’s Porsche in third place.
Race Performance leads in LMP2 after two hours, followed by the KCMG Oreca, which didn’t suffer too much damage in its accident. Signatech Alpine is in third place.
Corvette Racing was at the top of the GTE-Pro class after two hours, Oliver Gavin in the No. 74 Corvette C7.R leads the two Porsche Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSRs.
With the former GTE-Am leading AF Corse Ferrari out of the race following its accident, Dempsey Racing-Proton Competion leads the class now. The RAM Racing and Krohn Racing Ferrari’s are second and third.
Wurz Leads After Hour 1:
The No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid leads after the first hour of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Alexander Wurz, who started the race from pole.
From the start, as Fernando Alonso waved the French tricolor flag to begin the race, Toyota streaked away early with the pair of entries driven by Wurz ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the sister No. 8.
Andre Lotterer was a man on a charge in the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, as he climbed from sixth to third within the first 15 minutes. The sister No. 3 and 1 Audis ran in tow, with the pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids falling back a bit. Lotterer’s pass of Neel Jani in the No. 14 Porsche for third occurred at the first turn on Lap 4.
Lapierre had a spin in the No. 8, and shortly thereafter that triggered the first “slow zone” of the race from the first chicane to the second one on the Mulsanne.
By Lap 12, all of the LMP1 cars in both the LMP1-H and LMP1-L designations, had made their first pit stops. Wurz and Lotterer had a hairy moment in pit lane as Wurz exited just ahead of Lotterer’s path, before the German made it into the Audi pits. The No. 7 car was then placed under investigation by Race Control for a potential unsafe release.
Neel Jani also made it into the Porsche pits, but at a much slower pace with a fuel pressure issue forcing him to the garage. He was stopped for nine minutes but resumed in the No. 14.
Harry Tincknell took the LMP2 class lead off the start in the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan, getting ahead of polesitter Tristan Gommendy in the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan. Following the first round of pit stops, Alexandre Imperatori had moved into the lead in the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan by the end of the first hour, after gaining six positions from his seventh place grid position.
AF Corse led in GTE-Pro for most of the first hour with the polesitting No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Gianmaria Bruni, although the No. 73 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R got ahead briefly with Jan Magnussen getting around Bruni on the run down to Indianapolis. The Corvettes pitted a bit earlier than the Ferraris but ran second and third at the end of the hour, with the lead No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage in fourth.
AF Corse’s No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia led GTE-Am for the majority of the first hour as well with polesitter Sam Bird, but lost the lead on the pit stop cycle. It promoted Seth Neiman in the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia to the lead ahead of the defending champion team in GTE-Am, Imsa Performance Matmut, and the No. 76 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by David Hallyday.
Of note, Matt McMurry took over from Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 42 Caterham Racing Zytek Z11SN Nissan to become the youngest starter in Le Mans history, aged 16.
The No. 79 ProSpeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had a left rear puncture exiting Mulsanne Corner, and Jeroen Bleekemolen limped the car back to the pits. That car has just Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil this race.
We’ve also had the first retirement of the race, when the experimental Nissan ZEOD RC stopped on track after the Arnage corner with a loss of drive and a suspected gearbox issue. Wolfgang Reip was behind the wheel of that car when the mechanical issue struck.
Sebastien Buemi led the way in Saturday morning’s warmup. The No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid, that Buemi shares with Anthony Davidson and Nicolas Lapierre, was fastest this morning with a lap time of 3:23.73, edging out the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer by just a hundredth of a second.
Alexander Wurz put the No. 7 Toyota in third, followed by the remaining two Audis.
The two Porsche 919 Hybrids finished the session in sixth and seventh overall.
In LMP2 it was the Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 that was fastest, ahead of the No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03 Nissan. OAK Racing’s No. 35 had been on top for a long time, before being relegated to third in the final minutes.
GTE-Pro was led by the No. 73 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor, while the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage of Nicki Thiim, Kristian Poulsen and David Heinemeier Hansson was on top in GTE-Am.
Unlike the previous sessions, there were no major incidents this session. A number of cars were reported to the stewards for speeding in the pit lane.
SMP Racing’s Mika Salo lost control of the No. 27 SMP Racing Oreca 03 Nissan into Porsche Curves as the checkered flag was out. The Finnish driver hit the barriers sideways, causing damage to the bodywork and giving the team extra work ahead of the start of the race.
Pre-Race News & Notes
***ProSpeed Competition will be allowed to race with its new chassis, but with only two drivers in Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil and the entry moved to GTE-Pro. Projected new third driver Sebastien Crubilé, who was due to replace the not-cleared Bret Curtis as Bronze-rated driver, has not received permission to drive either. Crubilé did not get the chance to turn any laps at Le Mans this week.
***The Nissan ZEOD RC has completed its goal of the first all-electric lap at Le Mans during morning warmup, only a couple days after it hit 300 km/h on all-electric power for the first time. Wolfgang Reip was at the wheel of this year’s Garage 56 entry, which he’ll share with Satoshi Motoyama and Lucas Ordonez. Reip will start the race from 27th overall; the car qualified at a best time of 3:50.185.
***James Calado has sent several tweets from the hospital following his Thursday accident in the No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia. The Englishman wrote on Friday he had a brain hemorrhage, but clarified Saturday to write “As bad as it sounds I feel fine. The French doctors are doing a great job in managing my condition… Already want to get back in the car!!” Pierre Kaffer replaces him this race alongside Olivier Beretta and Davide Rigon.
***The FIA and ACO have confirmed their partnership will extend at least for the next three years for the FIA World Endurance Championship through 2017. FIA President Jean Todt and ACO President Pierre Fillon were on hand to confirm the agreement.
***The starting field has been reduced to 54 cars following the withdrawal of the No. 99 Craft-Bamboo/Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE, which suffered chassis damage in a crash Wednesday evening in the hands of Fernando Rees. The Brazilian driver escaped injury.
***Two other teams, meanwhile, have been forced to revert to spare cars and substitute drivers. Pierre Kaffer joins Davide Rigon and Olivier Beretta in a replacement No. 71 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia following a heavy accident by James Calado, which sent the British GP2 star to the hospital.
***Bret Curtis has also been ruled out from competing after crashing his No. 79 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, also on Thursday. The Belgian squad, carrying the WeatherTech colors, have sourced the ex-Paul Miller Racing Porsche from Sebastien Crubile, who replaces Curtis as the Bronze-rated driver in the GTE-Am lineup.
***The other cars that had incidents on Wednesday and Thursday have been repaired on-site. That includes the No. 29 Pegasus Racing Morgan Nissan, No. 52 Ram Racing Ferrari F458 Italia, No. 48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03 Nissan and No. 90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari.
***The Nissan ZEOD RC, which is competing as the Garage 56 entry this weekend, recorded the highest ever speed by an electric vehicle at Le Mans with Japanese ace Satoshi Motoyama reaching 300 km/h (186 mph) on the Mulsanne Straight in qualifying Thursday. The team will now attempt to complete the first all-electric lap in the race.
***The ACO and Toyota have clarified the position of the Toyota TS040 Hybrid’s ERS braking system, which has been reported by some to be illegal. ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil said Toyota’s system is “OK” by the rules. The FIA issued a clarification this week of what could be done with the braking systems.
“We have read the regulations. Frankly some others need an explanation,” said Toyota Racing technical director Pascal Vasselon. “We are not doing more than what a clever F1 system is doing with the fully mechanical system. Functionally we are doing the same, so nothing new.”
***Corvette Racing Program Manager Doug Fehan was presented with the Spirit of Le Mans award Friday. Presented annual by the ACO to the person who has been instrumental in the growth in stature of the 24 Hours, Fehan has been an instrumental part of the American manufacturer’s success in the race.
***There are no plans to to build additional garages for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2015, according to ACO President Pierre Fillon. It’s understood to be a reversal of an initial concept to expand the grid that comes in the wake of a series of unexpected withdrawals from this year’s race.
***The ACO has scheduled a press conference for Saturday afternoon. While speculation had linked it to a possible announcement of a new manufacturer in LMP1 — widely believed to be Ferrari — news from the Italian manufacturer has reportedly been delayed. Two-time F1 champion and Ferrari factory driver Fernando Alonso will wave the starting flag on Saturday, with Allan McNish serving as the grand marshal.
24 Hours of Le Mans Broadcast Schedule (all times ET):
- Saturday, June 14 – 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Saturday, June 14 – 6:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 2 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 1, LIVE)
- Sunday, June 15 – 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. (FOX Sports 2, LIVE)
- FOX Sports GO will stream race LIVE in its entirety
24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, LM24, Sports Cars