The second hour began with a safety car period for the #92 Porsche catching fire. It occurred as the #13 Rebellion R-One of Alex Imperatori also made contact with the rear of the Strakka Racing Dome at the First Chicane. Imperatori slipped on the #92’s oil, resulting in the Swiss car getting beached in the gravel after hitting the DOME on the inside before being hauled out by the marshals.
Upon returning to the pits, it didn’t take long for the Rebellion mechanics to repair the front of the damaged red R-One and get it back into the race.
When the safety car came in, the restart was like the beginning of the race all over again. A long train of six LMP1 runners followed each other nose-to-tail to start the 20th lap of the race, running without traffic holding them up. Bernhard held the lead initially in the #17, but Lotterer’s #7 Audi took third off the sister #8 R18 of Bonanomi.
As the laps continued to tick by, the frontrunners continued to tussle, with the top three of Bernhard (#17), Jani (#18) and Lotterer (#7) breaking away. As they did Lotterer picked his spots, and blasted past both Porsches to hand Audi the lead for the first time of the race as the second stops approached.
Lotterer found himself behind Bernhard’s #17 and Jani’s #18 Porsches after his stop. He managed to fight back through traffic and take the place back from Jani to regain second spot, catching up Bernhard took a little longer, but the Audi-star managed to take the lead of the race back for the #7 Audi as the second hour ended.
Down at Nissan, All three cars were continuing to run well, with the #22 and #21 still fighting amongst the LMP2 runners through the second round of pit stops.
The second hour began with the race under Safety Car conditions, as a result of the fiery demise of the #92 Porsche, soon confirmed as the first official retirement.
Jonny Kane took the Strakka Dome straight to the pits for a check-up, but it was a brief visit, and the black and white coupé was soon back out and running again.
Ten minutes into the second hour and with 19 laps gone the fairly static order in LMP2 stood as #46 Thiriet by TDS leading from the #47 KCMG, with the #34 third, the Greaves Gibson #41 fourth and the Signatech Alpine fifth. Sixth place was held by Berthon in the Murphy Oreca ahead of the Team Sard Morand Morgan #43. The #28 G-Drive Ligier was running eighth ahead of the first of the ESM Ligiers, the #31, with Sam Bird having dropped back to ninth, and the next ESM #30 rounding out the top ten.
At 16:23 racing resumed, and there were some instant changes. Out at the sharp end of P2 Bradley pounced on Gommendy and regained the lead, while Berthon lost a slot to the #43 ESM Ligier. A little further back, it was a reverse of fortunes for ESM, with Sam Bird back through on the #31 to retake ninth.
The next round of pitstops began soon afterwards, and Thiriet by TDS and Oak #34 were among the first to dive into the pitlane. With 21 laps gone the resolved order had become #47, #36, #43, #48, #28, #46, #31, #26, #34, #41 and #30.
Oliver Turvey and the #38 Jota were now running strongly again, after the lengthy pitstop, and the Gibson had made up several places to be running 45th overall.
Half-past the hour and the incessant dicing for the overall lead showed no sign of diminishing, and the TDS Ligier gets caught in the middle as Neel Jani took the black Porsche #18 through as they negotiate the first chicane. There was a firm nudge, but Gommendy did well to hold the line and presses on.
At 16:38 Bradley pits the #47 from the lead, just as the #28 G-Drive is reported for speeding in the pitlane. Still in the pits, after stopping there about seven laps in, is the #37 SMP BR01 Coupé. The issue is thought to be gearbox related.
Moments later and Tracy Krohn was spinning again at the first chicane. He appeared to catch the residues of oil left over from the retirement of the #92 Porsche, but he then makes the risky manoeuvre turning the lime green Ligier round by driving straight across the track and almost nurfing the barriers on the other side. He gets going again without incident. Tracy took over from Joao Barbosa 25 minutes ago, at the last round of pitstops.
At quarter to five, and with 25 laps completed, the LMP2 order had the #47 KCMG Oreca still leading from the #46 in what was developing into a long-term battle for the top slot. Third was the #26 G-Drive, with Greaves #41 fourth, Murphy #48 fifth and the first ofn the Oaks, # 34 sixth. Seventh through tenth was occupied by #36, #43, #28 and #30. The P2 leader was in 10th overall.
Berthon meanwhile was coming under increasing pressure from Kevin Estree in the #34 Oak, while Ed Brown was spinning the #31 at Mulsanne Corner. The #28 was awarded a stop-go for speeding in the pitlane.
Here was then another incident for Tracy Krohn at the first chicane, this time involving the #30 ESM. Krohn ended up in the gravel and the yellows were waving once more. They’d been side-by side on the approach, with Sharp in the ESM having just eased ahead, only to have Krohn snick back in on the inside and hold the tighter line into the right-hand element. Sharp then cut across and the two made contact. Krohn was left stranded in the gravel until the Manitou could haul him clear.
The pressure from Estre was counting on Berthon in the #48, and as we came up on the end of the second hour, the #34 was through into fifth.
The top-ten in LMP2 at the end of the hour was #47, #46, #26, #41, #34, #48, #36, #43, #28, #30, #42.
GTE Pro & GTE Am
The second hour of the race began under the safety car as the #92 Porsche of Patrick Pilet pulled off at the first Mulsanne chicane with a serious engine fire. The Frenchman had to make a swift exit but got out of the car unharmed. A simultaneous prototype accident at the same place meant there was enough clearing-up to do to justify the safety car coming out.
As the field circulared under yellows, Thiim in the #95 Aston led GTE Pro from Bruni in the #51 Ferrari and Mucke in the #97 Aston. Bertolini (#72 SMP Ferrari) was at the head of GTE Am after early leader Lamy (#98 Aston) made an early fuel stop, putting him second in the class ahead of Matt Griffin in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari. With the entire GTE field having just completed their first scheduled stops before the safety car came out, there was no advantage to be gained from pitting under the yellows.
The green flags flew after approximately 25 minutes under the safety car. Gavin in the #64 Corvette and Bruni in the #51 Ferrari were the men on the move now, Gavin getting the big American V8 into fourth in GTE Pro past Stanaway’s Aston but continuing to come under pressure from the Kiwi.
Bruni meanwhile was setting personal-best laps in his pursuit of class leader Thiim in the #95 Aston.
Three different makes made up the top three in GTE Am – the Lamy Aston leading from Bertolini’s SMP Ferrari and Patrick Dempsey’s co-driver Pat Long in the #77 Proton Competition-run Porsche. It wasn’t long before Griffin in the #55 AF Corse Ferrari had moved into a podium position at the expense of Long, however.
Another man going backwards was Jeff Segal in the #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, who lost places to both Bachler in the #88 Porsche and Bleekemolen in the #53 Viper. There was then a fantastic scrap between Stanaway, Gavin and Calado in the #99 Aston, #64 Corvette and #71 Ferrari, with Calado eventually managing to exploit the Aston-Corvette squabble and get ahead of both of them into fourth on lap 26 for the GTEs.
In GTE Am, early leader Lamy had handed the #98 Aston to co-driver Dalla Lana, the car on a different pit stop strategy to the rest of the field.
Class top threes after Hour 2:
1. #95 Aston
2. #51 Ferrari
3. #97 Aston
1. #72 Ferrari
2. #55 Ferrari
3. #88 Porsche