SUMMARY: Just three hours left now and still Porsche is pushing Toyota hard at the top. In P2, GTE Pro and GTE Am, leaders Alpine, Ford and Scuderia Corsa Ferrari were looking strong at the head of their respective fields.
LMP1: Davidson charges to the lead
The battle for second place heated up at the turn of hour 19, with Marc Lieb all over Mike Conway, Lieb beginning to get desperate to keep Porsche in the fight. Conway would pit for the 22nd time though shortly after it hotted up, and with Kobayashi aboard would rejoin 20 seconds off the lead.
After the #2 Porsche made its 24th stop however, it swung back to the German factory, with Lieb re-joining four seconds in the lead.
But it wouldn’t last, as Anthony Davidson blasted by Marc Lieb to take the lead on the run down to the second Mulsanne Chicane, the Brit clearly had more pace. The #5 was back to the lead.
As the race reached its final four hours the #6 Toyota had a scare, when Kamui Kobayashi got it totally wrong through karting, spinning off into the gravel. Remarkably though, he got back out of the trap without assistance and didn’t need to pit, even for a check up. It left the #6 55 seconds behind the leader in third.
The #8 meanwhile rejoined the race after a 39-minute trip to the garage for repairs. It was hoeever still in fourth when Jarvis hit the track again, but just one lap ahead of the severly delayed #7.
LMP2: Race over for Manor
At the front in LMP2, the top three ran practically with the same gap, with the only real change being Nick Leventis slipped further and further away from Vitaly Petrov in the third place SMP BR01. It looked like it was going to be Alpine’s race to lose, with the #36 holding a lap advantage over the G-Drive Oreca.
After a trying race, Manor’s woes continued when Matt Rao went down the escape road at Indianapolis, and then later that lap had the front section of the car collapse on him, the bodywork went straight under the wheels and send him careering off into the barriers at the Porsche Curves.
Rao did manage to rip the bodywork off the front and have the marshals push it towards the pits. It was game over though, with the team announcing that they were unable to repair the car.
Another car having issues was the Murphy Oreca, which spent extended time in the pits in the 21st hour with drivetrain issues.
GTE: Risi Ferrari spins but recovers; holds second in Pro
Following the pitstops at the end of Hour 19, it was Malucelli in the Risi Ferrari just 6.5 seconds ahead of Hand in the #68 Ford at the head of the Pro field. Ryan Briscoe in the #69 Ford was still on the lead lap in third. Things were a little more strung out after that, with erstwhile team-mates Turner in the #95 Aston and Mucke in the #66 Ford fourth and fifth and the other Aston (the #97) sixth in the hands of Richie Stanaway.
The long-threatened showdown between GTE Pro 1 and 2 finally materialised with four and a half hours to go. Hand had no particular trouble moving out and driving past the Ferrari along the first portion of the Mulsanne, putting the Ford definitively in the lead for the first time in many hours.
After Vilander had taken over the Ferrari, the gap stood at about seven seconds. Elsewhere, Mark Patterson found the barriers again in the AAI Corvette, the latest episode in a trying race for the Prospeed-run car.
The #98 Aston meanwhile was still feeling the effects of Dalla Lana’s earlier excursions and time spent in the garage saw the recovering #60 Formula Racing Ferrari gain another place, moving up to sixth in GTE Am. At the front of this class, a fastest lap of the race so far from Pat Long in the #88 Porsche showed things were still on the boil even as the #62 Ferrari started to look increasingly comfortable in the lead.
Towards the end of Hour 21, there was bad news for Aston fans as the #95 was spotted driving slowly down the Mulsanne with a puncture. Then, Vilander lost the back end of the second-place Ferrari exiting the Porsche Curves. The Finn managed to get the car out of the gravel and immediately pitted for a precautionary tyre change, retaining second in class but making things even less pressured for the leading Ford.