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Le Mans: Hour 19 (9am-10am), Porsche From DC & Rebellion With Five To Go

#97 Aston and #84 Ferrari assert leads in GTE classes

LMP
We’d barely started the nineteenth hour when the first significant incident of the race for, well, several hours, took place: The #31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca, for some time the leader in LMP2, and even now a key contender in the class, came in for what was assumed to be a regular pitstop, but suddenly became anything but. The car was jacked up onto the dollies and next second was wheeled backwards into the garage. The car has had a succession of unidentified but minor maladies, so perhaps this is an opportunity to sort them out. Whatever the prompt, the net result is to begin a steady tumble down the order.

Eight minutes past the hour and the #45 performed an inexplicable, non-contact pirouette at the exit of the Ford Chicane. It’s assumed Mark Patterson simply came through a little too quickly, or clipped the kerbs a tad too heavily. Whatever the cause, no apparent damage done, and he pressed on to start his next lap.

9:18 and Nick Tandy brought the leading Porsche smoothly into the pitlane for fuel. The crew take the opportunity to clean the windscreen and also, intriguingly, the innovative rear-view “mirrors” that are encased in perspex and built into the side-pods of the left and right wheelarches. No mirrors on stalks here, designed to obstruct the airflow on the 919, but a smooth, aerodynamic and imaginative use of space.

Three minutes later the #13 Rebellion came in for fuel, but this stop didn’t go perfectly to plan. In his eagerness to return to the track, Heinemeier Hansson started to move off before the crew at the back of the car had completed a tweak to the rear bodywork. One mechanic, leaning over the rear wing, was carried along for a few feet before the crew chief persuaded HH to stop. It’s possibly an infringement of some kind, driving off with engineers draped across the car, but we won’t know until the stewards decide whether or not to “investigate”. The sister car, meanwhile, remained stationary in the garage, dropping from fourth to tenth overall, and dropping behind Earl Bamber in the #2 Porsche.

Mention of which prompts the observation that the second-placed LMP1 had moved through to 8th overall before Bamber’s next pitstop, and a notch back to ninth again. The #8 Toyota, meanwhile,  had claimed another scalp to be running 14th.

Just after half-past nine and the #32 United Autosports Ligier went cross-country, first spinning at Indianapolis, and then repeating the trick at the entrance to the Porsche Curves, the car skipping over the ripples like a pebble across a pond, skittering fit to shake Bill Owen’s eyeballs clear of their sockets. If nothing else that would have woken him up! The car had been showing well in fourth place, but Owen managed to collect the car neatly enough and continue, losing ground and ending the lap a place down; David Cheng passing in the #37 Jackie Chan Oreca to steal the position.

Meanwhile, in the Rebellion garage, the crew were still working feverishly to make-good the gearbox problems with the #31. They are replacing the gearbox cluster, but the car had been static for forty-five minutes, and in the process dropped from fourth to 11th in class (12th overall).

Others in P2 were making regular pitstops, for fuel, tyres and the occasional driver change. Ten minutes short of the hour and Jarvis still lead for Jackie Chan from the #13 Vaillante Rebellion second and the #35 Signatech Alpine third.

Another round of LMP2 pit stops was in process as the 19th hour came to a close; Jonathan Hirschi’s #24 Manor Oreca making some progress towards Will Owen’s United Autosports Ligier, the gap standing at just 50 seconds.

At the close of Hour 19 the top 15 positions in the prototype classes were:

LMP
1. #1 Porsche 919-Hybrid, LMP1 – 299  laps.
2. #38 Jackie Chan Racing  – 285 laps
3. #13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca
4. #35 Signatech Alpine
5. #37  Jackie Chan Racing
6. #32 United Autosports Ligier
7. #24 CEFC Manor TDS Racing Oreca
8. #2 Porsche 919-Hybrid LM P1
9. #40 Graff Oreca 07 Gibson
10. #23 Panis Barthez Ligier
11. #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara
12. #34 Tockwith Motorsports Ligier
13. #8 Toyota TS050 LMP1
14. #36 Signatech Alpine Gibson
15. #31 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca

GTE
With the loss of the #95 Aston from the lead of GTE Pro, P1 in the class was held for much of Hour 18 by the #91 Porsche – alternating with the consistent #63 Corvette and resurgent #97 Aston through the pit-stop cycle.

The #67 Ford, #71 Ferrari and #68 Ford continued to keep in touch in fourth, fifth and sixth, ready to pounce on a podium position should the opportunity present itself.

Richard Lietz running wide at Indianapolis towards the end of the hour was only the latest indication of how hard everyone was still pushing with just under five hours to go.

In GTE Am, the first blip in the #84 JMW Ferrari’s progress occurred when Dries Vanthoor spun at pit entry, but it was a case of ‘no harm done’ and he was able to continue without seriously denting the car’s significant lead, which now sees it ahead of several Pro class runners on the timing screens.

Second, third and fourth respectively in the class were the #55 and #62 Ferraris plus the #99 Beechdean Aston, while further back the #50 Larbre Corvette’s trying race continued with an off-track moment exiting the Porsche Curves for Romain Brandela.