Once again the tide of LMP1 has shifted, now into the hands of Porsche which leads over the two TSO50s after leap-frogging their Japanese rivals. Toyota double stinted the tyres early which put them in the lead in the first place, prompting Porsche to do the same.
The running order with three hours remaining was #1, #7, #8, and #2.
The highlight of the first half came while the #8 held the lead in the second hour. Andre Lotterer in the #1 Porsche and Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota spent nearly six laps wheel-to-wheel battling for second. Eventually Lotterer got through, and was able to pull away from Lopez, who then had to concentrate on the charging Brendan Hartley in the #2 919 Hybrid who was gunning for third.
Eventually, the Porsches jumped back to the top after double-stinting tyres, leaving the Toyotas third and fourth once again. They changed places though, when Kamui Kobayashi in the #7 TSO50 was able to get by his teammate Stephan Sarrazin in the #8. Thus far in the race the #7 has been the faster of the two Toyotas.
In LMP2, Sigantech Alpine still leads, but it hasn’t been an easy ride.
The car had fallen from the lead after Gustavo Menezes was forced to double stint the tyres. The team used two sets of tyres in qualifying which then forced it onto the undesirable double-stint strategy in LMP2. Menezes was stuck lapping some four seconds slower, and was eventually passed and dropped down to third.
Alex Brundle had gotten control of the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Orecas and charged to the front of the field. Andre Negrao however caught Brundle and took the lead two hours into the race. Brundle then handed the car to David Cheng who got past Roman Rusinov and moved it back into second in class.
Third was eventually taken by the #31 Rebellion ORECA, with the #13 fourth. The G-Drive Racing ORECA, slipped to sixth in the class; the top six all close together and squabbling through traffic.
The #13 Rebellion would have been better placed, and ahead of the sister car, had David Heinemeier Hansson not trouble on the opening lap of his stint running in the top three, the Dane having a self spin on the exit of Turn 6. A few laps later he made slight contact with the #25 Manor, and spun for second time a turn later.
The #25 however would end up in the garage with a laundry list of problems including an elctrical issue that the team has been dealing with all weekend, an issue with the timing telemetry between the car and FIA WEC race control, and a suspension issue.
In GTE Pro the AF Corse Ferraris continued their sprint away from the #95 Aston Martin after getting past the Vantage at the end of hour 1. The two Ferraris rain close and leap-frogged around each other with James Calado and the #51 holding onto the lead at the halfway mark.
With the pace of the two Ferraris this left the #95 Aston Martin to focus on the charging #92 Porsche. The two were nose-to-tail coming into the pits and both did a driver change, Kevin Estre getting into the #92, and Nicki Thiim getting into the #95. From there the two battled it out with Thiim managing to hold onto the lead come the races halfway point.
The #51 AF Corse was reported to the stewards but as of halfway through the race nothing further has been made clear regarding the incident.
The standings in GTE Pro after three hours is the #51, #71, and #95.
The quietest class for the last two hours has been GTE Am with the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari still holding onto the lead after it passed the #54 Sprit of Race 488 in the opening hour. The #98 Aston Martin Vantage was able to get by the #54 Spirit of Race car. The #54 had an off track excursion at Turn 20, the course’s final turn. The off-track run though did not contribute directly to them losing second to the #95, as the pass came some laps later.
The #86 Gulf Racing Porsche with Michael Wainwright behind the wheel had two off track trips, the second being more serious as the Brit over-cooked it into the hairpin, sliding the Porsche 911 RSR into the barrier. He go the car going with no assistance and a local yellow was all that was needed.
The standings in GTE Am after three hours is the #61, #98, and #54.