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Le Mans 24 Hours: Hour 8, As It Happened, Four-Brand GTE Pro Scrap Continues

Toyotas lead LMP1, Alpine vs G-Drive battle continues in LMP2, GTE Am controlled by Keating Ford

LMP1

At the top of the hour, Kazuki Nakajima in the #8 Toyota took the lead back from Jose Maria Lopez in the #7 Toyota, after Lopez lost the car under braking going into Mulsanne and going into the gravel, but he did manage to keep the car out of the wall.

Nakajima continued to lead with a gap of around five seconds to Lopez. There was a further lap back to the third-placed #17 SMP, with Sergey Sirotkin leading Mikhail Aleshin in the #11 SMP by just over a second.

Thomas Laurent in the #3 was still consistently one of the fastest cars on track, closing the gap down to under 30 seconds by halfway through the hour. The #1 Rebellion, still with Neel Jani at the wheel, remained a further two laps back.

With Lopez making two unforced errors – once the aforementioned incident at Mulsanne, and another at Indianapolis – Nakajima kept the lead through the pitstop cycle, by around 11 seconds at the end of the hour.

The SMPs were likewise running together on track, separated by just a matter of seconds. Laurent had fallen further back, possibly due to an issue at a long pitstop, slipping to around two-and-a-half minutes behind. Just before the hour flicked over, Bruno Senna took the #1 Rebellion over from Neel Jani.

The #10 DragonSpeed, meanwhile, was back in the garage after briefly emerging back out on track, and had now fallen to 54 laps behind. It was the same for #4 ByKolles, with the car also in the pits and showing no signs of emerging any time soon.

LMP2

After a third of the race, the #26 G-Drive Oreca of Jean-Eric Vergne leads the way in LMP2.

Vergne led the field into the eighth hour, but it was still far from comfortable, with less than two seconds between the Frenchman and Andre Negrao in the #36 Alpine. Things would tighten up again following a short Full Course Yellow, with Negrao now acting as the aggressor, just as Vergne had in the previous hour.

With 20 minutes of the session in the books, the pair would yet again pit together. A slowing Dallara held up Negrao on the way into its pit box, and that left the Signatech outfit losing a few seconds. Nicolas Lapierre received the #26 Alpine that he started, and would look to hunt down G-Drive’s Vergne.

Shortly before the top two pitted, the third-placed #38 Jackie Chan DC Oreca also visited pit road. Stephane Richelmi received the car from Ho-Pin Tung, and lost track position to Anthony Davidson in the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca.

Critically, Davidson was just 13 seconds back from the two leading cars after their stops, though the #31 Oreca was and is slightly out of step with the top two in terms of pitstop sequence.

Elsewhere, towards the end of the hour, the #39 Graff Oreca is pushed into the garage with a potential transmission issue, ending a very good run from the back of the LMP2 field for the team that had set provisional pole during the week.

As we reached the one-third mark of this race, the leading pair of cars in class pitted, with the G-Drive car of Vergne out roughly a dozen seconds clear of Lapierre.

Roberto Gonzalez has now taken over the third place #31 DragonSpeed car, while the pair of Jackie Chan DC Racing entries run fourth and fifth, with the #38 of Stephane Richelmi leading Jordan King in the #37. Paul di Resta rounds out the top six in the #22 United Autosports Ligier.

GTE Pro

If there was ever a gap at the front of the GTE Pro field, it was formed during the eighth hour. Kevin Estre in the #92 Porsche was able to pull out a 10-second gap on the rest of the field. He led the #63 Corvette with Antonio Garcia behind the wheel, who was battling the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of Alessandro Pier Guidi.

The battle for second was intense, with Harry Tincknell also joining the battle. Garcia was fighting hard, passing both Tincknell and Pier Guidi around the outside at Indianapolis, using the exceptional torque of the Corvette to achieve both passes.

Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche was just a few seconds behind that battle in fifth. Interestingly, Tincknell is a little out of sync with the pitstop strategy, having served a drive-through penalty earlier in the race.

The key talking points though continue to be fuel conservation and tyre-saving.

As the temperature goes down, the speed goes up and the tyre wear improves. Although most teams are still trying to double-stint the tyres in order to save more for the rest of the race and save some time in the pits.

Additionally, Porsche is the team most actively trying to save fuel. This gave them a one-lap advantage on one of the stints through the hour, which could be significant later in the race.

As for the polesitting Aston Martins, they’re struggling with the pace over a stint, unable to keep the performance in their tyres through a double stint. After leading early on, they lost time under the safety cars and now sit 14th and 15th in class.

Meanwhile, the BMW team has never featured in the race and sit 11th and 13th in class after eight hours.

As a side note, Marcel Fassler in the #64 Corvette, who crashed with the #88 Porsche, has been held responsible for the incident with a fine and penalty points being handed down by race control.

GTE Am

Ben Keating maintained the healthy lead in the #85 Ford, holding a 30-second advantage on the rest of the GTE Am field. The Ford has run faultlessly during the race to date, allowing Keating to handle the race from the front.

The privateer GT continues to lead from the #84 JMW Ferrari with Jeff Segal behind the wheel chasing it down. The Ferrari is then 1:50 ahead of the #56 Project 1 Porsche with Jorg Bergmeister behind the wheel.

The #90 TF Sport Aston Martin sits in fourth, ahead of the lone surviving Dempsey Proton Porsche, with the #77 entry a lap off the lead, after a strong start.

The Aston Martin with Pedro Lamy behind the wheel finally ended its troubled run as the #98 car that had spent a lot of time in the garage throughout the race ground to a halt trackside. Lamy was soon out of the car and it was very apparent the Vantage would not be going any further.

The #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche has been withdrawn after Satoshi Hoshino, who has been involved in three incidents, including the one that put out the #64 Corvette, withdrew from driving as he no longer felt he could be safe behind the wheel.