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Le Mans 24 Hours: Hour 16 Report, #7 Audi Delayed

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LMP1

Both LMP classes were in a rather metronomic phase with Nico Hulkenburg continuing to lead the race in the #19 Porsche, a few runners experienced drama as 7am approached.

Both Rebellions had off-track excursions, the #12 of Nico Prost going straight on at Indianapolis into the gravel. The #13 later looked to have a damaged front suspension as it too ran through a gravel trap under the control of Alex Imperatori.

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The biggest incident though was the right-hand engine cover on the #7 Audi R18 flying off on the run down to the Ford Chicanes. Marcel Fassler was behind the wheel in second spot at the time and didn’t seem to notice, nevertheless when he came in for the car’s 20th stop the car was pushed back into the garage for short repairs. The time lost was valuable in the fight for the lead however as it slipped from second to fifth by the time it left the pit lane losing almost seven minutes.

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Taking over Audi’s leading role was therefore the #9 of Rene Rast. The German was still within striking distance behind the #19 which while all the drama was unfolding had managed to put the third place sister #17 919 a lap down.

The top five at 7am was #19, #9, #17, #8, #7.

LMP2

LMP2 was much the same throughout the run to 7am. KCMG still held a strong lead of a lap over the #26 G-Drive Liger of Bird and Murphy Prototypes Oreca of Chandhock.

The top three were on different laps in the class which was beginning to suffer from attrition following the TDS Oreca’s retirement. Just outside the leading trio was the Jota Gibson which after gear-selection issues in the opening hours had managed to climb the order throughout the middle portion of the race and put itself in position to grab a podium.

Happy hour came and went, many of the runners setting personal best times.

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#47, #26, #48, #38, #28 was the still the top five at seven in the morning.

GTE Am & Pro

Rain was again being threatened, but with heavy clouds moving through at dawn it was a case of so far so good.

Peter Mann’s #61 Am Ferrari had made an unscheduled call, moving slowly into pit lane for attention before returning to the race, now down to ninth in class with Matteo Cressoni aboard. The GTE Am class had settled into a pattern again as Pedro Lamy’s #98 Aston Martin drew steadily away from the #72 SMP Ferrari of Aleksei Basov, setting the Aston’s best lap of the race, a remarkable 3:56.988 (remarkable considering the Portuguese driver had been suffering from Chickenpox all week and was running a fever). Lamy had made the best of the situation against Basov, extending a strong advantage but with Bertolini climbing back aboard the SMP car the fight could be back on.

Duncan Cameron’s Ferrari was in the wars, having a brush with the #45 Ibanez Racing Oreca and catching some debris. The #55 car fortunately emerged relatively unscathed.

Giancarlo Fisichella had finally settled into the lead of the Pro class after pit cycles had traded first place back and forth between AF Corse and Corvette. Fisichella had the bit between his teeth as his times came down: 3:56.288 was the Ferrari’s best of the race but GTE Pro times were far from static elsewhere. Jordan Taylor was trying to respond to the Ferrari’s extending lead by posting strong sector times, but it was James Calado’s #71 AF Corse car that was really getting on with the job: a 3:55.608 was the best of a sequence of fliers as the British driver sensed the #71 car’s earlier problems might be behind it and started to push towards the #91 Porsche’s third place. Christoffer Nygaard was aboard the chasing fifth placed #95 Aston, setting times in the 3:56’s and 3:57’s. With eight hours of racing left it was game on.

Standings:

GTE Pro:
#51 Ferrari: Fisichella; 224 Laps
#64 Corvette: Gavin; – 1:20
#91 Porsche: Christensen; – 1 lap

GTE Am:
#98 Aston Martin: Lamy; 223 Laps
#72 Ferrari: Bertolini; – 2:38
#77 Porsche: Dempsey; – 1 Lap

ML