Drama at the end of the second hour, as Brendon Hartley’s leading #1 Porsche 919 was involved in a sizeable incident at Farm Curve (below), forcing the reigning champion car to retire from the lead of the race.
The second hour had started with Hartley lapping in the 1:40s, holding a 15-second lead over the pair of chasing Audis. Down in fourth, the #2 Porsche continued to slip away from the top three, with Jani 31 seconds off the lead and 14 off of Lotterer ahead.
In LMP2, the key driver to watch was Kane in the Strakka Gibson, who down in third was catching Gonzalez’s RGR Ligier at a rate of knots. The gap was over 18 seconds when Gonzalez climbed aboard, and after 10 minutes was down to 13.
Aston’s Darren Turner made a move in GTE Pro to snatch fourth off of Priaulx’s Ford GT. After a tough opening hour, the #95 Vantage was starting to find a bit more performance. Just three seconds up the road after making the pass was Stefan Mucke’s Ford GT, with 70 minutes gone.
It wasn’t long until Turner would strike on his old team-mate Mucke, getting past five minutes later to put the #95 into a podium position. Michael Christensen’s Proton Porsche was next in his sights.
Kane’s move on Gonzalez came just after Turner’s second move. The Irishman, who started ninth in LMP2, was doing an incredible job for the Strakka team, moving through the field to second. Danny Watts was ready to get in the car at the next stop.
Up front, Hartley was unable to pull away from Jarvis, the Brit keeping the gap at 15 seconds until Lotterer caught his British team-mate and cruised past down the Hanger Straight to snatch second place back for the #7 Audi.
The #97 Aston’s miserable day at the bottom of the GTE Pro class after serving a drive-through continued as Stanaway had to be pushed back into the garage during the first stop.
After the second round of stops, Hartley emerged with a 40-second lead over the #7 Audi of Treluyer, the R18 losing further time because of the driver change. The Frenchman would have a costly spin at Vale, allowing the #2 Porsche to slip past and make it a Porsche 1-2.
The #8, which sat third, was also having a tough time, and slipped dow to sixth after a slow 112-second pit stop which saw di Grassi take over the wheel from Jarvis.
A few laps later, Turner, who was still on a charge, made his way through to second in GTE Pro after a right-front puncture for Christensen’s Dempsey Porsche at Becketts, allowing the Aston through to second. A very promising second hour for the British marque.
When Christensen came into the pits, the Porsche was pushed back into the garage for a check-up. By that time the two Fords had slotted in third and forth, the #67 of Billy Johnson heading the pair.
Sam Bird meanwhile, continued to control the Pro class, with a 34-second lead over the #95 Aston and the new 488 looking to be running faultlessly. In GTE Am, it was still the #88 Abu Dhabi Porsche in P1 ahead of the sister #78 car with Christian Reid driving, 17 seconds back.
As the second hour came to a close, Watts had to get past Gonzalez to take second in LMP2 for the Strakka team once again. The driver change had caused the Gibson to fall back behind the Mexican Ligier, but Watts dived up the inside at Brooklands to regain the place.
Just at the start of the third hour, Hartley dived round the outside of the Gulf Racing Porsche of Mike Wainwright going through Farm Curve.
The right front of the 911 clipped the left rear of the 919 sending it into a spin that for a heartstopping moment looked like becoming a rollover, but the dorsal fin did its job and the car landed back on its wheels, sliding off towards the barriers at the Complex. Both cars would retire on the spot, heavily damaged in the gravel, with Hartley clearly flustered by the incident.
This handed the #2 Porsche the lead, but as that happened the #8 Audi stopped at Farm Curve with mGU problems. Audi mechanics were despatched in a course car (as is allowed by the regulations for the hybrids) and a full-course yellow was called to cover both this incident and the double Porsche crash.
Later, Hartley was quoted as saying: “I feel very upset for the team. The car was incredibly good and Mark did a mega first stint. When I took over, everything was good. I had a comfortable lead, didn’t feel under pressure and did a good job in traffic, too. Then I wanted to get past a GT car on the outside, which is quite normal through that corner, but the driver didn’t see me and used all the road. I don’t want to blame anyone. It was a shocking moment and it is a true shame.”