Eight minutes past the start of the second hour, and racing finally resumed after the lengthy safety car period for the medical extraction of Allan Simonsen and repairs to the barriers at Tertre Rouge.
With the removal of the safety cars the race picked up almost exactly where it had left off, with the nail-biting battle for the lead, with Audis and Toyotas duelling one another in almost equal measure – Davidson taking Lapierre for second, and then McNish getting back into third ahead of Lapierre. Within a few moments, Lucas di Grassi slipped through to demote Lapierre to fifth, down from second place in half a lap.
No sooner had the race resumed, than a raft of P2 cars dived into the pitlane, including Pecom #49, Greaves #42, Level 5 #33 and Alpine #30, all stopping for fuel but no apparent driver changes.
The leaders were heavily into traffic by this stage, and GT cars were adding complication to the mix, as the leaders diced not only for position, but through Porsches and Ferraris. Exiting the right-hander at Mulsanne, di Grassi had closed right down on McNish, but Lapierre was a distant memory in their rear-view mirrors, suggesting an intermittent problem in the #7 Toyota.
No such problems for Anthony Davidson, who continued to chase Lotterer in the leading #1 Audi R18, but with a growing deficit, soon lengthening to 6 or 8 seconds.
Those first pitstops among LMP2 were followed by yet more, as the remaining cars in the class paused for fuel, including a brief refuelling fire for the #31 Lotus. These allowed the leading group in GTE-Pro to move up the overall order, and reveal a change of leader, with Marc Lieb passing Bell and taking the top slot from Darren Turner.
Within LMP1, Audi’s smaller fuel tanks were starting to prove deceptively costly as Lotterer and Di Grassi both headed for the pitlane, allowing Davidson to take the lead for Toyota for the first time. With the track ahead of him wide open, Davidson really urged the #8 into top gear, and made the most of any gaps in the traffic in his desire to eke out an advantage. That included some hairy moments as he diced through the tail-enders.
At 16:22, Lapierre brought the #7 whistling down the pitlane for a quick refuel – briefly delayed as the lollipop man wisely waited for the Strakka Racing HPD to clear the box before releasing Lapierre once more. That was 14 laps into the race. Davidson made it to the end of his 15th lap before pulling into the pitlane.
Meanwhile, in LMP2, Olivier Pla had extended his lead to 6 seconds over Bertrand Baguette, running second in the sister Oak. Third was Pierre Kaffer in the #49 Pecom car. Two minutes further back, Brendon Hartley was making great strides in Murphy’s recovery from last place, running 35th overall.
With the unfortunate loss of the #95 Aston, GTE-Am was wide open once more, with Pat Long still leading for Dempsey in the #77, but 8 seconds ahead of Wolf Henzler in the #67 IMSA Porsche, from team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay in the 76 IMSA Porsche.
The Toyota pitstop must have been a tad slower than those completed by Audi, since Davidson emerged after taking on fuel in fourth, behind all three Audis. With an hour and 38 minutes completed, McNish re-took second overall, passing Di Grassi in the #3 and making it numerical order for the three R18 e-tron quattros.
The battles in LMP2 persisted, and a succession of passes and incidents punctuated what was developing well into exactly the kind of intensely competitively race that so many had predicted. Tom Kimber Smith (Greaves #42) took advantage of an intimate duel between Ryan Briscoe in the Level 5 HPD and Alexandre Imperatori in the #47 KCMG at Arnage to close on both, and then take 13th through the Porsche Curves. Just eight tenths separated first and second (Pla and Baguette) and there was an equally tight margin between Bleekemolen and Mardenborough (Race Performance and Greaves). A scheduled pitstop for Murphy at 16:42 saw the #48 slip back again, and for the first time go a lap down on the class leaders.
Just after half way through the second hour and a lead-change in GTE-Pro saw Darren Turner getting the better of Marc Lieb to ease out seven seconds on Marc Lieb (#92 Porsche), who had his mirrors full of Rob bell in the second Aston, #99.
As we neared the end of the second hour, we had the impending thrill of a resumption of the battle for the lead, on-going indecision from the weather, and no further news about Allan Simonsen.
We apologise for the late posting of these hourly updates, but the Internet connection in the Media Centre at Le Mans was “intermittent” to say the least. Five hours in, we finally secured a connection. This text was prepared before any official announcement was published concerning Allan Simonsen’s accident. Also, as a result of connectivity issues at Le Mans, it proved impossible to post this for almost four hours.