Le Mans 24 Hours: Bamber leads as dawn breaks

Porsche’s part-time LMP1 racer Earl Bamber led the Le Mans 24 Hours with nine hours remaining, fending off the challenge of Audi regular Benoit Treluyer – but the gap between them remains under a minute.

Le Mans 24 Hours: Bamber leads as dawn breaks
#9 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: René Rast, Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi
#19 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber
#96 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage GTE: Francesco Castellacci, Roald Goethe, Stuart Hall, #7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Marcel Fässler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer
#43 Team SARD-Morand Morgan LM P2 EVO: Pierre Ragues, Oliver Webb, Zoel Amberg
#19 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Marcel Fässler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Marcel Fässler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer

Bamber continued to underline Porsche’s slight advantage in the cooler conditions of early morning.The Kiwi took over the No.19 Porsche 919 Hybrid from teammate Nick Tandy, and despite losing some initial seconds to the No.7 Audi, he bedded himself in to the rhythm of his first full LMP stint in night-time conditions.

Bamber and Treluyer traded times for much of the 3-6am period, and the gap fluctuated around the one-minute mark.

The Audi briefly took the lead when Bamber pitted and was slightly delayed when he was forced in to an acute position by the Rebellion car in the adjacent pit. The order returned to Bamber’s favour when Treluyer made his own stop a few laps later. At 6am the gap was 55-seconds. 

Best of the rest

The No.9 Audi R18 e-tron quattro continued to keep in touch in third place, with Filipe Albuquerque taking over for his second stint at the wheel.

Brendon Hartley was attempting to drag back some of the lost time from the earlier penalty in the No.17 Porsche, which he triggered for overtaking and not respecting the speed limit in a slow zone.

The New Zealander showed remarkable consistency to start a serious challenge to the No.9 Audi before handing the seat back over to Mark Webber at 05.50am.

The top six was filled out by the No.8 Audi and the No.18 Porsche, which had Lucas Di Grassi and Romain Dumas at the wheel respectively.

Toyota Gazoo Racing continued to have a quiet but troublefree run as morning started to break. Mike Conway ran in a lonely seventh in the No.2 Toyota TS 040 HYBRID, while Kazuki Nakajima was at the wheel of the recovering No.1 car.

The two remaining Nissan GT-R LM NISMO entries still circulated in a much-delayed 45th and 46th overall. Incredibly both were on the same lap with Max Chilton leading Michael Krumm.

Disaster for TDS ORECA

KCMG were in an even better position in LMP2, as first Nicolas Lapierre and then Matt Howson continued a metronomic pace to lead the No.26 G-Drive Ligier by a lap.

There was drama at 04.50am as the then-second-placed Thiriet by TDS ORECA was hit and spun by Fernando Rees in the No.99 Aston Martin Racing LMGTE Pro car.

Rees had just returned the Vantage V8 to the track after receiving new brakes. Arriving at the first Mulsanne Chicane the Brazilian cannoned in to the hapless TDS ORECA, pitching Tristan Gommendy in to a lurid spin and severely damaging the right rear of the second-placed LMP2 car.

The tall Frenchman made it back to the pits but terminal damage to the rear suspension and gearbox ensured a sad retirement.

This development allowed the No.26 G-Drive Ligier in to second place, while the Murphy Prototypes Oreca-Nissan settled in to the final podium position.

JOTA Sport was creeping closer to the front with Oliver Turvey and then Simon Dolan bringing the Gibson-Nissan back in to contention in fourth place.

A fighting fifth was the No.28 G-Drive Racing Ligier-Nissan. ‘Pipo’ Derani was arguably one of the stars of this period and set a succession of quick laps to reduce the gap to the JOTA Gibson in a battle for fourth position.

LMGTE balance of power shifts

With Rees being forced to pit with the badly damaged No.99 Aston Martin, the Chevrolet Corvette of Jordan Taylor looked set to capitalise but at approximately the same time as Aston Martin were changing the brakes, Corvette followed suit.

All this handed the initiative to reigning WEC champions No.51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia which had Gianmaria Bruni ensconced in the cockpit. The Italian needed no second invitation to mount the challenge to defend the crown he and his teammates – Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella – won last year.

The Aston Martin crew worked wonders to repairs the No.99 car and Rees re-emerged from the pits with a patched up car to place sixth in class.

After a few static hours, the LMGTE Am class was spiced up with a duel between the No.98 Aston Martin and the No.72 SMP Racing Ferrari 458 Italia.

Some impressive laps from Russian drivers Alexei Basov and Victor Shaitar saw the Ferrari come in to contention, but it was the familiar pace of Pedro Lamy that ultimately told, and he quickly built a lead that expanded to over a minute as 06.00 approached.

shares
comments
Le Mans 24: Porsche leads Audi at halfway point

Previous article

Le Mans 24: Porsche leads Audi at halfway point

Next article

Le Mans 24 Hours: Tandy still in control at 18-hour mark

Le Mans 24 Hours: Tandy still in control at 18-hour mark
Load comments
Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood Prime

Inside the Le Mans finish too barmy for Hollywood

Team WRT has been at the forefront of GT racing for years and made a successful move to prototypes for 2021, capped by an LMP2 win on its Le Mans debut. It could've been even better had the race been one lap shorter, when its cars ran 1-2, but the stranger-than-fiction reality has spurred the team to reach greater heights.

Le Mans
Oct 16, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Prime

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far Prime

What we've learned from the Le Mans 24 Hours so far

The new dawn for the FIA World Endurance Championship has arrived at Le Mans, as Hypercars prepare to duel for victory in the world's oldest endurance race. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 things we have learned in the build up to the race.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide Prime

Le Mans 2021: The team-by-team guide

After a two-month delay due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours is set to get underway with the start of the Hypercar era at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Le Mans
Aug 21, 2021
The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans Prime

The ex-F1 drivers making a name for themselves in LMP2 at Le Mans

Kevin Magnussen will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this weekend alongside father Jan in LMP2. But the Danes won't be the only ex-F1 drivers to appear in the hotly contested category this year.

Le Mans
Aug 20, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Prime

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload Prime

How to prepare an amateur for Le Mans sensory overload

The 23-car GTE Am field promises to be one of the most open in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours, with the added jeopardy of managing the enthusiasm of amateur drivers to boot, as Absolute Racing Porsche driver Marco Seefried explains

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Prime

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success.

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021