With the first hour and first round of pitstops completed, Tincknell remained in the lead of the race in the ‘Mighty 38’ G-Drive Gibson-Nissan, over 22 seconds to the good on Chatin in the #23 Panis-Barthez Ligier, who was himself 27 seconds up on third-place Bjorn Wirdheim in the Krohn car. Julien Canal had taken over from Rojas in the fourth-place Greaves Ligier, with Enjalbert aboard the fifth-place IDEC Sport machine. In sixth, Julien Leal had taken over the second SMP BR01 from race starter Gelael, while Franck Mailleux held a solid seventh in the Race Performance Oreca 03.
The lead changed when Tincknell pitted to hand the G-Drive car to Simon Dolan for the middle driving stint of the race. Wirdheim pitted, too, having briefly been promoted to second in the Krohn Ligier, handing over to team owner Tracy Krohn. Chatin, meanwhile, stretched his stint to 48 laps.
Sir Chris Hoy had put in some good laps since the start of stint in the Algarve Pro Ligier, but spun out and beached the car on lap 48 at the exit of Chapel, bringing out the full-course yellows. The Greaves car was able to complete its scheduled pit stop just before the flags waved, while Chatin pitted just after the FCY began. He handed the Panis-Barthez car to team co-owner Fabien Barthez, who would lead the race at the beginning of the middle stint. Dolan was staying within 20 seconds, however – a margin that should allow G-Drive’s third man Giedo van der Garde to stay in control in the final third of the race.
Outside of the class rankings, quadruple amputee Fred Sausset got into the SRT41 car to begin his ELMS racing career and properly kicking off his road to Le Mans’ Garage 56 in June. There was a slight hiccup, however, as the car was almost immediately called back to the pits for drive-through due to a stop infringement involving a tyre over the white line during refuelling.
The second hour started with the first round of stops in full swing. When the pack was back in sync, the #3 United Autosports Ligier had snatched the lead, leapfrogging the sister car and returning to the race three seconds ahead. In the two United cars were Mark Patterson and Mike Guasch after Matt Bell and Alex Brundle’s respective opening stints. In third was the #9 Graff car with Eric Trouillet behind the wheel.
The #18 car, which was in the final podium position, went into the pits with a problem and would slip quickly down to the last of the classified runners in 40th before retiring. At the 75-minute mark, the United Autosports 1-2 was no more, after Patterson lost second place, losing out to the hard-charging Trouillet.
Half-way through the second hour, Patterson had slipped further down the order, after Jakub Smiechowski’s InterEuropol Ligier took third and Enzo Potolicchio in the #6 Graff Ligier managed to squeeze past to claim fourth.
The #14 Murphy Ginetta LMP3 was forced to retire from the race soon after the shuffle up front, making the total number of LMP3 dropouts four.
By the end of the second hour, Guasch held a 22-second lead over the field in the #3. His stint saw him stay consistent and quick. Trouillet was still running second with Smiechowski third.
In GTE, the AT Racing Ferrari led briefly after a fast initial pitstop from not changing tyres, Alexander Talkanitsa Jr now aboard. Hall had stayed on board the #96 Aston for its stop and was in third, while the #99 Beechdean car was up to second in the hands of the Alex MacDowall.
AT’s unusual strategy continued to play out with another stop (presumably to change tyres this time) putting the car back down in fourth behind the two Astons (less than two seconds apart, with MacDowall still in front) and the JMW Ferrari, with Rory Butcher now at the wheel. A second stop for the JMW machine saw Bertolini get in, the team clearly opting to single-stint its three drivers.