Photo: Erik Junius
Mark Webber (#1 Porsche 919) took second in Turn 1 of the first lap from Loic Duval (#8 Audi R18) who was playing defense for his pole-sitting teammate Marcel Fassler (#7). Duval retook P2 three minutes in. Marco Sorensen (#98 Aston Martin Vantage V8), led Davide Rigon (#71 Ferrari 488 GTE) and Stefan Mucke (#66 Ford GT) in early GTE Pro competition. The #44 Manor (Roberto Mehri) passed the pole-sitting #36 Signatech Alpine (Nicolas Lapierre) to take first in LMP2. Kevin Estre (#88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911) led GTE Am, ahead of Pedro Lamy in the pole-sitting #96 Aston Martin and Ben Barker (#86 Gulf Racing Porsche).
The #66 Ford was pulled into the garage at 5:45 with an air-conditioning problem, elevating Darren Turner (#97 Aston Martin) into third. Lapierre passed Mehri to retake the LMP2 lead for Signatech. Half an hour in Fassler led Duval by 1.361 sec and Webber by 22.034. Estre and Lamy continued to run nose-to-tail. Lapierre led Mehri by 6.588 sec, Nelson Panciatici another 0.288 sec behind in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine.
Lamy passed Estre a few minutes later, Barker remaining in third. Sorensen, Rigon, and Turner continued to run 1-3 in GTE Pro. Lapierre went off in Turn 12 at 5:21 but retained the LMP2 lead. Bruno Senna (#43 RGR Sport by Morand) took third in LMP2 from Panciatici. Lapierre pitted from the lead at 5:14, Mehri and Senna also stopping.
The #7 Audi pitted the next time past, Fassler exiting and Lotterer getting onboard. The #8 stopped on the following lap, Oliver Jarvis taking over for Duval. Webber pitted at 5:08. The #5 Toyota got out of the lane first, stealing third with Anthony Davidson behind the wheel. The #36 Alpine led the #43 and #35 in LMP2.
Brendon Hartley, having replaced Webber, took third back during the next lap. The #35 made an unscheduled stop at 4:58, ceding third in class to the Rene Rast in the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca.
Sorensen pitted from the GTE Pro lead with 4:55 left. Nicki Thiim took over and remained in the lead when the pit cycle was complete. The Ferraris pitted well, Sam Bird (#51) rising to second and James Calado (#71) third. Paul Dalla Lana took the GTE Am lead in the #98 Aston, followed by Adam Carroll in the Gulf Racing Porsche and Khaled Al-Qubaisi in the the #88 Proton entry. Calado overtook Bird for P2.
The Audis held a 55 sec lead over the rest of the LMP1 field with one quarter of the race gone, building a lead in an effort to make up for their 1-lap/fuel run deficit to the Porsches (28 vs. 29). Toyota could in theory run 30, though they chose not to the first time. Richelmi (#36) pitted from the LMP2 lead at 4:22. Fernando Rees put the #97 Aston in third, passing Bird at 4:20.
Lotterer pitted from the lead at 4:20, 28 laps after the #7’s first stop. Benoit Treluyer took over. The #8 came in on the following lap and exited the pits in front of its teammate, Lucas Di Grassi behind the wheel. Hartley brought the #1 Porsche in with 4:13 left, Timo Bernhard replaced the Kiwi. The Audi’s lead shrank to 45 sec. in the pit cycle.
The #7 left the track slightly near the 4-hr mark, losing about 1 sec to the #8. Thiim pitted from the GTE Pro lead at 3:49, Sorensen resuming driving duties. Sorensen came out in the lead, followed by Gianmaria Bruni in the #51 and #71 Ferraris. The #98 Aston remained in the GTE Am lead.
A full-course yellow came out at 3:38 and the #7 Audi came in after just 22 laps. Richelmi also pitted under the caution from the LMP2 lead, getting out before the P2 #26 circled past. The #1 Porsche also stopped. DiGrassi was in the pits handing off to Duval when the caution ended and emerged just in front of the #7.
The #36 leading car was under investigation for its pit-lane speed with 3:25 left in the race. The #86 Gulf Racing Porsche beached itself at 3:02, bringing out the second full-course caution. Mathias Lauda (#98 Aston), Lars Viljoen (#50 Larbre Competition Corvette), and Joel Camathias (#78 KCMG Porsche) ran 1-3 after the #86 left the track and before the pit stops. Lamy retained the lead after stops in the #98, but the Corvette and Porsche flipped positions.
Webber pitted under the yellow, Hartley getting behind the wheel. Gustavo Menezes pitted the #36 from the LMP2 lead and remained in front on exit. Duval followed on the next lap in the leading #8 Audi, staying in the cockpit and retaining the lead, Fassler and Hartley in pursuit, the gap between the three reduced to less than a minute after 3 hours of competition.
Duval stopped on track with an electrical problem at 2:50, Fassler passed him for the lead but Duval remained in front of the Porsche. Hartley was running 3.131 sec back of Duval at 2:41.
Duval pitted at 2:22, turning over to Jarvis. Fassler pitted from the lead 8 min later. Stefan Mucke left the track in the #66 Ford GT at 2:10, following contact with an LMP2 competitor, bringing out a full-course yellow. Hartley pitted right as the caution was declared, Bernhard getting on board with a big lead intact over the now slowly circulating competition.
The #36 pitted as well, still in the lead in class. Both GT classes stopped too. Bernhard (#1 Porsche), Treluyer (#7 Audi), and Kamui Kobayashi (#6 Toyota) ran 1-3 when green-flag racing resumed at 2:01, the Toyota also having not yet pitted when the caution flew. Lapierre remained in control of LMP2. GTE Pro’s running order was also unchanged: Sorensen (#95) in front of the Ferraris of Bruni (#51) and Rigon (#71). Lamy led GTE Am in the #98 Aston Martin, ahead of Christian Ried in the #78 Porsche and Viljoen in the #50 Corvette.
Treluyer left the track going into Turn 18 at 1:41, hitting the concrete wall after passing through the gravel track, bringing out a full-course yellow. Jarvis moved into P3 as Kobayashi moved into second. Bernhard, Kobayashi, and Jarvis all pitted. The cars left in the same order, Webber Kobayashi, and Di Grassi now driving. The #8 Audi actually pitted twice under the caution.
Green-flag racing resumed with roughly 1:30 to go. With 1:03 left in the race, Dalla Lana (#98) was placed under investigation for full-course yellow speed violation.
Webber led Kobayashi by 27.209 sec with 1 hr to go. Di Grassi was another 14.409 sec behind. Nicolas Lapierre remained in front in LMP2 in the #36, one lap up on Felipe Albuquerque (#43). The #98 Aston led the #51 Ferrari by 16.450 sec. The #71 trailed its teammate by 43.250 sec. Aston Martin (#95) led GTE Am as well, one lap up on the #78 Porsche and two on the #50 Corvette.
Di Grassi took over second for Audi from the #6 Toyota.
The #1 Porsche took the overall win, followed by the #8 Audi and the #6 Toyota. The #36 Signatech Alpine won LMP2, the #95 Aston Martin GTE Pro, and the #98 Aston Martin GTE Am.
1. Timo Bernhard (Germany), Brendon Hartley (New Zealand), Mark Webber (Australia); #1 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid
2. Oliver Jarvis (Great Britain), Lucas di Grassi (Brazil), Loic Duval (France), #8 Audi Sport Team Joest R18: +23.641
3. Kamui Kobayashi (Japan), Mike Conway (Great Britain), Stephane Sarrazin (France), #6 Toyota Gazoo Racing: +26.096
1. Nicolas Lapierre (France), Gustavo Menezes (US), Stephane Richelmi (Monte Carlo); #36 Signatech Alpine-Nissan
2. Felipe Albuquerque (Portugal), Ricardo Gonzalez (Mexico), Bruno Senna (Brazil); #43 RGR Sport by Morand Ligier JS P2-Nissan: +14.915
3. Alex Brundle (Great Britain), Roman Rusinov (Russia), Rene Rast (Germany); #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05-Nissan: +1 lap
1. Marco Sorenson (Denmark), Nick Thiim (Denmark), Darren Turner (Great Britain); #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8
2. Gianmaria Bruni (Italy), James Calado (Great Britain); #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: +11.486
3. Davide Rigon (Italy), Sam Bird (Great Britain); #71 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE: +1 lap
1. Paul Dalla Lana (Canada), Pedro Lamy (Portugal), Mathias Lauda (Austria); #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8
2. Christian Ried (Germany), Joel Camathias (Switzerland), Wolf Henzler (Germany); #78 KCMG-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR: +1:02.838
3. Lars Viljoen (Denmark), Ricky Taylor (US), Pierre Ragues (Frances); #50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R: +1 lap