The Le Mans 24 Hours is a fickle mistress. Leading is never a guarantee of victory – or even finishing at all. Audi’s initial dominance in LMP1 has ebbed away to a single car over the course of the race so far, leading the two Toyotas and two recovering R18s. In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin Racing had been leading the class from the ominous challenge of the new Porsche 991s, trying to put the horrible memories of the first hour behind them.
But within the last half hour, the leading #99 Vantage driven by Fred Mackowiecki speared off into the barrier at the first Mulsanne chicane, destroying the front of the car and instantly knocking it out of the race. Just 20 minutes before, I’d been watching Fred take the Aston down to Tertre Rouge for yet another run down to Mulsanne, with a lap in hand over the opposition. They’re just one of many to have a sudden end to their participation: we’ve lost almost four hours to various safety cars so far.
Like the ever-changing weather, nothing is set. Audi’s lead in LMP1 is tenuous; Porsche may have been handed the lead in GTE-Pro, but they have a second Vantage on their tail looking to make up for their comrades; the leading pair in LMP2 are on the same lap after 19 hours of racing. And we still have five hours of racing to go: and more rain is forecast…
Postions after 19 hours:
1: LMP1 #2 Audi R18 TDI e-tron quattro (McNish/Kristensen/Duval) 279 laps
2: LMP1 #8 Toyota TS030 Hybrid (Davidson/Sarrazin/Buemi) +1 lap
3: LMP1 #7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid (Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima) +2 laps
4: LMP1 #3 Audi R18 TDI e-tron quattro (Digrassi/Gene/Jarvis) +2 laps
5: LMP1 #1 Audi R18 TDI e-tron quattro (Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer) +10 laps
7: LMP2 #35 Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan (Plowman/Gonzalez/Baguette) +16 laps
16: GTE-Pro #92 Porsche/Manthey 991 911 RSR (Lieb/Dumas/Lietz) +27 laps
27: GTE-Am #76 Imsa Matmut Porsche (Vernay/Bourret/Narac) +35 laps