Toyota vs. Porsche battle heats up, Corvette crashes out

Stephane Sarrazin is leading a Toyota 1-2 ahead of Neel Jani’s Porsche, while Tommy Milner crashes the #64 Corvette out of GTE Pro.

Toyota vs. Porsche battle heats up, Corvette crashes out

In the #6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Sarrazin headed teammate Kazuki Nakajima after 16 hours of competition, but the #2 Porsche 919 currently driven by Jani appears able to match the Japanese cars punch for punch and currently lies 22s off the lead and just 9s from the second Toyota.

Audis #8 and #7 run fourth and fifth, but they are two and 12 laps behind respectively, with Loic Duval and Marcel Fassler currently at the wheel.

With the demise of the #13 Rebellion Racing entry, it’s the #1 Porsche of Timo Bernhard that is sixth in class, although it is a massive 38 laps down.

Three for the lead in LMP2

The fight for class honours looks set to be an Alpine/Oreca walkover, and right now, Monaco-born Stephane Richelmi is leading in the #36 Signatech Alpine-Nissan after a brilliant stint by his teammate Nicolas Lapierre.

His advantage is a minute over Pierre Thiriet in TDS Racing’s #46 Oreca-Nissan, with G-Drive’s ever-reliable Rene Rast in third in the #26 G-Drive car.

Sadly the fourth place G-Drive car, the Gibson chassis, understeered into the wall on the pit-straight in the hands of Simon Dolan while running fourth, handing this spot to SMP Racing’s #37 BR01.

Also in trouble just past the top of the hour was the ByKolles CLM, which is sitting smoking trackside.  

GTE Pro

In the GTE Pro class, the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari has maintained its pace advantage over the Ford GTs, with Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella setting strong and consistent laps to edge away from Sebastien Bourdais in the #68 Ford, which currently lies just under 20s in arrears.

Scott Dixon is third in the #69 Ford, while Nicki Thiim in the #95 Aston Martin Vantage is ahead of a third Ford GT, the #66 car currently piloted by the redoubtable Olivier Pla.

After the embarrassing exits by Team Manthey works Porsches, Dempsey Proton Racing is waving the banner for Stuttgart with Philipp Eng in sixth, ahead of the #97 Aston Martin and the sole remaining Corvette, the #63 now driven by Jan Magnussen.

Sadly the #64 ’Vette crashed out just past the pits at the end of the 15th hour, as Tommy Milner’s car went light over a bump, knocking him onto the grass at the Esses and sending him plowing into the end of a tyre wall. The American got out unaided but sorrowful.

GTE Am had been shaping up to be a thrilling battle, until Townsend Bell took the wheel of the #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari just as the team’s chief opposition – the Proton Porsche #88 – was taken over by gentleman driver Khaled Al Qubaisi.

Bell remorsely built a huge lead, and since then Jeff Segal has maintained that pace and kept the margin over Pat Long who took over the #88, and who has now handed over to David Heinemeier Hansson.

Behind them, the AF Corse Ferrari of Emmanuel Collard is third and on the same lap, ahead of Clearwater Racing’s similar car. 

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Le Mans 24 Hours: Toyota still in control at half-distance

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