First LMP1 driver changes saw the Ginettas switch, #5 to Leo Roussel, #6 to Oliver Rowland with Henrik Hedman taking the wheel of the #10 DragonSpeed BR1 Gibson soon afterwards 15 minutes into the hour the Slow Zone for barrier repairs at Indianapolis was withdrawn and we went back to full green flag running.
One additional piece of information regarding the incident at the very start of the race. It appears that the bodywork of the #1 Rebellion was already dragging as the car came through Turn 1, whether via contact, failure or finger trouble is not known.
At the half-hour mark, Fernando Alonso stepped aboard the #8 at its latest stop, the Spaniard having to reverse in the pitbox to find the room to exit around the GT car pitted ahead and then almost clipping a mechanic as he left.
Jose Maria Lopez climbed aboard the sister #7 car with Messrs Beche and Senna taking over the #33 and #1 Rebellions respectively, those cars running 4th and 5th, Bech though would soon be past the #17 SMP, Orudzhev now aboard (with the sister car still in the garage).
Dominik Kraihamer was recovering up through the LMP2 lead pack in the #4 ByKolles throughout the latter part of the hour, with both Ginettas also making up ground, but from further back – running 17th and 20th at the top of the hour.
At the head of the field Lopez in the #7 Toyota led by 5 seconds from Alonso in the sister #8 TS050, the pair about to lap the third placed Rebellion of Matthias Beche, doing so as the Swiss pitted for his latest routine stop.
The #22 United Autosports Ligier has suffered a delay after a seven minute stop to replace the GPS locator aerial.
The next pit stops for the leading LMP2 cars saw a slew of driver changes – Andrea Pizzitola climbing aboard the leading #26 car, Francois Perrodo now second in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca, Canal taking over from Will Stevens in the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier, still fourth.
Negrao, still aboard the #36 Signatech Alpine was soon up into second place in class with Canal in the #23 also going by Perrodo – up to third soon afterwards.
Pizzitola though was defending a 75 second led over the Alpine at the top of the hour with Canal a further 30 seconds back.
Thirty-eight laps completed, and Fred Makowiecki re-took the lead for the #91 Porsche after Laurens Vanthoor pitted the #92, making the Pink Pig the first of the Pro field to stop for a third cycle of fuel and tyres.
Olivier Pla (#66) and Nick Tandy (#93) entered the pitlane together, the Porsche driver late-braking and so very nearly making contact with the Ford as the cars squirrelled their way into the entry lane. Out on track meanwhile …
With Vanthoor out of the way, Makowiecki was able to focus on the road ahead, and pushed hard as his fuel load declined, making the most of a clear lap to set one of the Porsche’s quickest laps of the race so far. This paid dividends later, when he emerged after his own pitstop. Makowiecki had clearly done enough before his stop to keep the class lead and Porsche resumed their 1-2 at the front. Behind them, Tandy had emerged just ahead of Olivier Pla to split the Fords, now third, fifth and sixth.
The two Porsches were latched together, close enough to seem that only a short rope separated them. AS close-fought battle ensued that made for enthralling viewing, as Vanthoor’s warmer tyres gave the Dutchman the edge through the twisty sections, while Makowiecki battled to get the #91 up to speed.
The leading BMW, Antonio Farfus’s #82 car, was eight seconds behind these in fifth. Elsewhere, the #64 Corvette was still sat in its garage, fairly serious work going on with its suspension. Immobile, the ‘Vette was dropping rapidly towards the bottom of the timing screens, 58th overall.
There was clearly no team strategy at play between the leading Porsches, with Vanthoor closing right onto Makowiecki’s tail as the two ran flat-out along the Mulsanne, almost touching on the approach into the first chicane. The pink car’s tyres seemed to be giving Vanthoor better traction, but Makowiecki was defending hard and keeping an edge in a straight line.
Given a couple of laps to get his rubber up to temperature, Makowiecki was finally able to ease out enough of a gap to breathe more easily, and by the close of the third hour, he enjoyed a gap of just over a second on his team-mate.
The first change to hit the leaders of GTE Am came when Thomas Flohr (#54 Spirit of Race Ferrari) dropped to third, having been passed first by Julien Andlauer’s Dempsey-Proton Porsche #77, and then by Cooper MacNeil’s JMW Motorsport Ferrari #84. The GTE-Am field was now looking decidedly strung out, but settling into a regular rhythm.
After a fairly frantic first couple of hours, the race finally established something approaching routine. The threat of rain had receded, there’d been a smattering of “large drops”, but nothing to unsettle the drivers, and the clouds had lifted.