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Le Mans 24 Hours: Hours 15-16, As It Happened, Advantage Ferrari In GTE Pro

Toyota, G-Drive continue to lead prototypes; Keating Ford unchallenged in GTE Am

LMP1

At the top of the 15th hour, both Toyotas pitted, right on schedule, with Fernando Alonso staying on board the #8 while Jose Maria Lopez replaced Kamui Kobayashi in the #7.

The #4 ByKolles was also officially retired from the race since it stopped on track after Arnage, meaning there were only five runners left in LMP1 – two Toyotas, #7 and #8, the lone #11 SMP, and two Rebellions, #3 in third and #1 in fifth.

Mikhail Aleshin was around a minute and a half behind Thomas Laurent in #3 Rebellion, with Laurent himself three laps down compared to the two Toyotas, who were separated by around 55 seconds, although this was coming down slowly as Alonso showed why he was a two-time Formula 1 world champion.

Kazuki Nakajima replaced Alonso in the #8, with the gap to Lopez rising to around a minute and 20 seconds before the full-course yellow to rescue the stranded GTE cars at Porsche Curves and Indianapolis.

As we ticked down to the race’s final third, the gaps in LMP1 remained consistent, with Gustavo Menezes, who had earlier replaced Laurent in the #3 Rebellion, around four laps behind the leading #7 Toyota in third place and the best of the non-hybrids. The #11 SMP of Vitaly Petrov was then a further lap behind, while Bruno Senna in the #1 Rebellion sat eight laps off the leaders.

LMP2

At the start of the 15th hour, the leading P2s pitted, with the gap after the stops working out to just over a minute and half between Jean-Eric Vergne in the #26 G-Drive and Nicolas Lapierre in the #36 Alpine.

Stephane Richelmi in the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca was in third, a further minute and a half back, almost a lap behind leader Vergne.

Half way into the 15th hour and Radio Le Mans reported the garage door on the #49 ARC Bratislava had closed, meaning the car had officially retired from the race after owner-driver Miroslav Konopka took it out for a single lap. Unfortunately for the first Slovakian team competing in the race, the damage from Henning Enqvist’s multiple incidents in one lap was too great to repair.

During the hour, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing car was also officially retired due to a punctured gearbox casing; the regulations stipulating the gearbox casing cannot be replaced meant the car was an immediate retirement.

At the hour break, Alex Brundle spun the #32 United Autosports Ligier in the Porsche Curves due to a delaminated tyre, damaging the left rear and requiring the car to be pushed back into the temporary garages. The car had already been significantly delayed in the previous hour due to alternator problems, resulting in more bad luck for the #32 squad.

Young Dutch hotshoe Job van Uitert climbed into the #26 G-Drive, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne, and continued the good work started by the Frenchman and Roman Rusinov before him in building and maintaining the gap to second-placed Lapierre.

Towards the middle of the 15th hour, Richelmi handed the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca over to Gabriel Aubry, maintaining third place in LMP2 in the process over Pastor Maldonado, who was now in the #31 DragonSpeed after taking it over from Anthony Davidson.

As the race entered the final third, van Uitert led from Andre Negrao in the #36 Alpine, a gap of around a minute and a half remaining largely consistent. There was another minute-and-a-half gap between Negrao and Aubry in third, with Maldonado in fourth and Mathieu Vaxiviere in the #28 TDS Racing Oreca in fifth.

GTE Pro

Halfway into hour 15, James Calado in the #51 Ferrari held an 18-second lead over Richard Lietz in the #91 Porsche, with Jan Magnussen a further 15 seconds adrift in third – just 40-odd seconds covering this three-marque battle for GTE Pro honours after nearly 15 hours of circulating

A lap down, fourth place was held by Nick Tandy in the #93 Porsche, about 14 seconds ahead of Richard Westbrook in the #69 Ford, leading his team-mates Dirk Muller and Harry Tincknell in the #68 and #67 respectively.

At about 6:15am local time, Lietz came into the pits in the #91 for the car’s brake change – which took 12 seconds longer than the equivalent job on the the leading #51 Ferrari.

Other stops saw Patrick Pilet take over the #93 Porsche from Tandy and Westbrook come in at the wheel of the #69 Ford, staying aboard.

Out on track, Joey Hand, having taken over the #68 Ford from Muller, passed Westbrook on his out-lap. Westbrook then had a tough time of it in traffic, losing several seconds behind Philipp Eng’s BMW and Kimura in the GTE Am-class CarGuy Ferrari.

Magnussen briefly led the class before diving in for the #63 Corvette’s next scheduled stop, while further back, Tincknell held third for a time ahead of Pilet before taking the #67 Ford in for a routine stop, dropping him to seventh.

Once the pitstop cycle was complete, the leader Calado had 30 seconds on second-place Lietz, with third-place Magnussen just five seconds behind Lietz’s Porsche.

Westbrook was back in the pits as a full-course yellow came out for GTE Am incidents, with the team electing to bring the #69 Ford into the garage for work.

Calado then made his regular out-of-sequence pitstop in the #51, dropping the leading Ferrari temporarily down to fourth.

GTE Am

As the sun started to rise, car owner Ben Keating climbed aboard the leading #85 Ford, co-drivers Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga having alternated at the wheel during the hours of darkness.

The car continued to hold a comfortable lead of between one and two laps over the second-placed Team Project 1 Porsche of Egidio Perfetti. Behind him, Euan Hankey in the TF Sport Aston Martin was being chased down by Jeff Segal in the JMW Ferrari mid-way through hour 15.

The next three positions were all held by Ferraris: Come Ledogar in the CarGuy 488, Matt Griffin in the Clearwater entry and Toni Vilander in the WeatherTech car, with Ledogar and Griffin close on track.

A routine stop for the CarGuy Ferrari saw Ledogar out and Takeshi Kimura in, the car dropping to sixth in class and Griffin and Vilander bumping up a spot each.

A routine stop then saw Griffin back down to fifth, leaving Segal third and Vilander fourth as the sun rose higher in the sky. The pitstop cycle continued, bringing Segal back to third, Griffin to fourth and Julian Andlauer to fifth in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, ahead of Hankey in the TF Sport Aston Martin.

About 6:40AM local time, both Mike Wainwright in the #86 Gulf Racing Porsche and Sergio Pianezolla in the #60 Kessel Ferrari found the gravel in separate incidents around the track, bringing out a full-course yellow. The #56 Project 1 Porsche was able to make its next routine stop under FCY conditions, while both cars that went off were returned to the track with the help of marshals.