Ticking over into day two of this Le Mans 24 Hours, the lead for the #7 over the sister #9 Audi stood at just 29 seconds, while the gap back from the #9 to the #19 was 17 seconds and narrowing.
Harry Tincknell hit trouble, quite literally, when the #22 Nissan GT-R caught some debris at speed. “I was doing 340kph and bang, I hit something,” said the Briton. “I lost the bonnet, and something’s broken on the steering. I was stuck in fourth gear and felt lucky to get the car back in one piece. I’ve no idea what happened. It was very scary, but the boys reckon they can fix it.”
At the end of lap 148 the leader headed down the pitlane and the #9 Audi eased into the lead, with the #19 Porsche inheriting second. Lotterer took over the #7 and came back out in third place.
There was more drama for Nissan at half-past midnight, when Matsuda in the #21 was warned for not displaying rear lights and shown the black-and-orange flag. It was about to get significantly worse. The next view of the #21 showed the car running slowly and trailing a massive plume of sparks, apparently due to some suspension or wheel problem. With the rear dragging on the ground, Matsuda struggled to make it round Mulsanne Corner and on down towards Indianapolis and Arnage.
Arriving at Arnage, the Nissan rounded the apex and then spun off on the inside, perhaps in sympathy with the Krohn Ligier, which had overstepped the corner and stopped on the outside of the bend. Marshals were seen telling Matsuda to stop and kill the engine, but the Japanese driver persisted and managed to get the lengthy bonnet pointed in the right direction again, and started crabbing off into the darkness and the Porsche Curves. He never made it. After only a few yards the car slithered to a halt, and it was game over for the #21. The car became the seventh official retirement.
At the other end of LMP1, Rast in the #9 was standing some 20 seconds ahead of Tandy, but the gap was visibly narrowing and the gap beyond to Lotterer in third was lengthening, but stood then at 28 seconds.
At quarter to one, Rast pitted the #9, and Tandy moved through to lead the race for the first time, with the #7 Audi second by some 30 seconds. Tandy then began to extend his lead, almost with ease. Within a lap it had stretched to 34 seconds, with a similar margin back to Bonanomi in third.
Tandy’s pace was impressive, and the gap grew lap on lap. Three minutes before the end of the hour it stood at 53 seconds, and then he took to the pitlane. Such had been his lead that when he did rejoin the track (in second) he was just six seconds down on Lotterer in the #7.
The positions on the hour, at 01:00, were: #7, #19, #9, #17, #18, #8, #2, #1, #13, #12
The 11th hour kicked off with a close duel between Lotterer and Tandy, the gap between them down to a car’s length on some corners and extending occasionally to as much as five seconds. They started the 161st lap nose-to-tail.
At eight minutes past one, the #21 was cleared from the trackside at Arnage and the yellow zone restriction was finally lifted. Three minutes later and Lotterer pitted the #7 and Tandy moved back into the lead for Porsche. Bonanomi also moved through in second, with Lotterer rejoining in third, just 9 seconds behind Bonanomi. As he had before, Tandy started to stretch the advantage and, on the quarter hour, it stood at around 34 seconds.
For the second time, we then saw the #18 going straight on at the Mulsanne Corner. This time Jani only nudged the tyre wall very gently, apparently due to after inadequate braking. A yellow zone was established while the car was picked up by the Manitou and hauled back onto the perimeter track. Once on the tarmac, Jani was swiftly away, heading back to the pits and handing over to Lieb.
By half-past, Tandy’s leads had grown to 42 seconds over Bonanomi, with Lotterer third, 13 seconds further down the road. Ten minutes later the gap had extended to 62 seconds, thanks to a pitstop for Bonanomi that had seen the #9 emerge 40 seconds behind Lotterer.
Ten minutes ahead of the hour, Tandy brought the #19 in for a routine pitstop. but such was his advantage by then that he came back out with the lead intact, albeit diminished to some 20 seconds, only for that to extend again when Lotterer also pitted at 01:56.
Lotterer slipped to third behind Bonanomi, who is now a minute behind Tandy, as we round off the next hour. The positions on the hour, at 02:00, were: #19, #9, #7, #17, #8, #18, #2, #1, #13, #12.
As the raced progressed into the tenth and eleventh hours, there were few significant events to recount in LMP2. Most teams continued to make fairly regular and routine pitstops, and these alone were largely responsible for any changes in position that arose.
On the whole, though, speeds increased, and most of the top ten in the class were seen to set new personal bests at some stage or other during the two-hour period.
Derani was one of those moving well, setting new fastest laps for the #28 soon into the 10th hour (3:41.056), while Turvey was also pushing hard, and while never quite stringing the fast lap into one, posted a succession of fastest sectors for the #38 Jota Gibson.
Towards half-past midnight, Berthon pitted the Murphy #48 and handed the Oreca across to Chandhok. The #48 dropped a couple of slots as a result, but with Gommendy handing over to Badey, and Turvey and Watts also both making pitstops, it would all come out in the wash a little later.
As the half-hour ticked by, car #37 was warned for not displaying rear lights and shown the black and orange flag, while the sister #27 car was spotted travelling slowly down the Mulsanne. It arrived in the pitlane five minutes or so later and was dragged unceremoniously backwards into the garage.
The leader made a scheduled pitstop for fuel before the #43 also pitted, from 4th, and once more the #48 moved back up the order. It was all a bit of swings and roundabouts. Chandhok takes the position.
Another fastest lap for Derani in the #28, clocking 3:40.816, before he made the G-Drive’s next scheduled pitstop. At 00:46 Chandhok followed suit, dropping to fifth from third as Rusinov in the #26 G-Drive Ligier and then Amberg in the #43 Teram Sard Morand Morgan moved through the gap.
At 01:00, the positions on the hour were as follows: #47, #46, #26, #43, #48, #28, #38, #34, #42, #27, #31. The only change being the swap between the #43 and the #48.
More pitstops came early into the 11th hour from Evans in the #38 and Watts in the #42. It was a lengthy stop for Evans and ESM’s #30 was reported for speeding in the pitlane.
Chandhok again was one of those making up ground, and had the gap to Amberg down to just 15 seconds, yet was lapping typically three seconds faster.
At 1:20pm Bradley brought the leading #47 KCMG into the pits to hand on to Lapierre. Amberg and Yacoman then both pitted and Chandhok rose through to 4th.
Bird was flying again, and setting new fastest sectors for the #26, just as the #31 was seen with no headlights and extensive damage to the front bodywork. It transpired that Fogarty in the ESM Ligier had gone off in the Porsche Curves and hit the wall fairly heavily, although thankfully at an angle, not head-on. The damage appeared repairable, and after limping back in darkness to the pits, the team hauled the car into the garage and started work. He was back out and racing again in about fifteen minutes.
Chandhok had completed another pitstop for the #48 at 01:33 when the track suddenly ‘came good’ for a whole raft of P2 drivers. Almost simultaneously, we had new fastest laps set by the #46 (3:39.576), the #26, the #38 (3:37.626), and then the #47 (3:38.940).
Closing in on the end of the eleventh hour, the LMP2 leader’s advantage stood at just under two minutes.
At 02:00, the positions on the hour were as follows: #47, #46, #26, #48, #28, #43, #38, #34, #42, #27, #45. Notable here is the return to P4 of the #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca, and the slipping of the #43 to 6th.
GTE Pro & Am
The situation in GTE Pro remained largerly unchanged as Saturday turned into Sunday and the race entered its 10th hour. Gavin aboard the #64 Corvette headed Stanaway in the #99 Aston, with the lead still changing during the pitstop cycles. The #91 Porsche continued to plug away in third.
In GTE Am, two of the top three cars had gentleman drivers aboard for night stints – Dalla Lana in the #98 Aston in first and Perrodo in the #83 Ferrari in third. Bertolini continued to man the second-in-class #72 SMP Ferrari.
When Gavin emerged from his latest pitstop, Lietz wasn’t far behind and the Austrian sensed an opportunity to get past, completing the move on the Mulsanne straight. Lietz was at this point lapping faster than class leader Stanaway, 50-odd seconds up the road, but then he had to pit as scheduled and dropped back behind the Corvette. Christensen then got into the #91. A short time later, Corvette was at the front again when Stanaway pitted the #99 to switch with Rees.
Broken front right suspension caused Aguas in the #83 Ferrari to make a second stop almost immediately after a routine pit visit at 1:11am. The car was pulled into the garage and Seefried in the #77 Dempsey Porsche sailed into a class podium position.
Segal in the #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari was now in fourth.
In GTE Am, rapid lappery from Bertolini saw the #72 SMP Ferrari cruise up to within seven seconds of the Dalla Lana-driven class-leading #98 Aston at around 1:25am, before the Italian pitted to hand over to co-driver Shaytar.
Gavin’s next stop in the leading Corvette was slightly baulked by a damaged recovering ESM Ligier LMP2 car. Once again, the #91 Porsche moved ahead during the #64’s stop and once again they swapped around again when the Porsche came in. The #99 Aston, meanwhile, was less than 10 seconds up the road.