The first 25% of this race has flown by and we cannot help to capture every incident. So we will provide a by category summary of our impressions as to how the pendulum has swung and to develop a feeling for how the race is turning out.
LMP1 saw a frantic start and sadly for one of our fan favourites (for many and varied reasons) the race was almost over before it began with engine issues emerging in warm-up leading to concerns as to whether we would see the car in the race. Once the race started things only got worse with the car barely completing 3km before an off following contact with a marker/cone, and on returning to the pits despite efforts to repair the nose, the engine compression was lacking and the adventure drew to an all too early conclusion.
At the front of the field after slippery moments on cooler tyres at Dunlop chicane the Toyota Hybrid TS050s established there advantage over the Porsche 919 Hybrid. The first hour completed with the #8 Toyota in the lead, but the #7 came on stronger and took the lead. The #8 Davidson/Buemi/Nakajima car appears to be slow, and it could be speculated they are working round a problem. The remaining Toyota #9 had some contact early on and consequentially pitted early, it is able to lap well, but may need some mishaps ahead to pull it back to the fore.
The Porsche 919 Hybrids have chased and hounded the lead Toyota and in the fourth hour just before the conclusion of its stint the #1 Porsche pedalled by Nick Tandy was able to ake to the lead briefly. Ominously though the #2 with Earl Bamber slowed on track and returned to the pits with loss of front drive. After an extensive stop for new front corners, the problem appears resolved and the car has rejoined 18 laps adrift. This would be the stuff of legend, and we will now see a Porsche 919 Hybrid driven at Maximum Attack for as long as it lasts. It does allow for the interesting prospect of being a test mule for strategy decisions for the remain car.
In LMP2 action has been frantic; the Orecas have maintained their advantage over the Ligiers, Dallaras and sole Riley but, as the race has eased into its stride what has become apparent is how the best drilled or more experienced teams are coming to the fore of the pack. That said, there have been quite some LMP2 incidents, not least from drivers such as Roman Rusinov (#26 G-Drive Oreca) and Vaxiviere (#28 TDS Racing Oreca), both taking out GTE cars, Rusinov the #88 Porsche at Ford and Vaxiviere the #82 Ferrari at the first Mulsanne chicane.
The Keating Riley spun off the track at the entry to Dunlop, collecting a bunch of TOTAL advertising hoardings before hitting the barriers – luckily it appeared that the hoardings helped soften the blow and the car was returned to the track to return to the pits.
In GTE it has been a case of Aston Martin all the way. The weather conditions are clearly favouring the British marque with them the team to beat in both Pro and Am classes. Both factory Corvettes started to climb the lap sheets as the temperature started to drop. The Fords appeared as journeymen for much of the first few hours, if any lingering doubt remains that the American marque were sandbagging the first six hours seem to have dispelled them.
Le Mans returnee Fernando Rees stormed into the lead of the GTE Am class in the insanely good looking #50 Labre Competition Corvette art car, proving that the Brazilian still has what it takes to top the timing sheets.