Following a period full of drama for Toyota having lost two cars after midnight, the car number 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid took the Le Mans race lead at 00:45 hrs. At six this morning as the sun rose over the circuit, the trio of Neel Jani (CH), André Lotterer (DE) and Nick Tandy (GB) led by 11 laps in the overall classification. The car number 2 sister Porsche of Earl Bamber (NZ), Timo Bernhard (DE) and Brendon Hartley (NZ) has recovered to 10th in the overall classification after its one hour repair stop early on Saturday evening. In the LMP1 class it ranks second, 17 laps behind its leading teammates. With both 919 Hybrids, Porsche has managed smooth quadruple stints during the night.
After Neel Jani’s last refuelling at the end of lap 143, he has a spin on cold tyres during a safety car period and comes in early for his next pit stop after 152 laps. Jani hands over the car to Nick Tandy. When the number 7 Toyota stops on track after the safety car period, Tandy takes the lead of the Le Mans 24-Hours at 00:45 hrs. After lap 167 at 01:48 hrs Tandy comes in for fuel and continues – now with a 29 lap lead ahead of the sole remaining Toyota (car number 8). After 180 laps at 02:35 hrs, Tandy pits for fuel again. After 193 laps, André Lotterer jumps into the 919 Hybrid and continues the race on fresh tyres. He refuels after 206 laps at 04:09 hrs and then again after 219 laps at 04:57 hrs. Since 5.53am (end of lap 233), Neel Jani is at the wheel of the leading Porsche 919 Hybrid.
Since the end of the car’s lap 124 (race lap 143) Earl Bamber is at the wheel. After lap 138 (race lap 156) he serves a drive through penalty. Timo Bernhard was accused of having released his seat belts too early at an earlier stop. One lap later Bamber comes in for refuelling. In the LMP1 class he is now second to the leading sister car, because after car number 7’s demise, Toyota’s car number 9 has stopped on track. In the overall classification, the number 2 Porsche runs now in 17th position, despite his one-hour repair stop early on Saturday evening. Bamber refuels after the car’s lap 153 (race lap 172). After lap 167 (race lap 185) at 03:00 hrs Bamber hands over to Brendon Hartley who continuous on fresh tyres in 16th overall position. He has his first pit stop for fuel after 180 laps (race lap 198) and refuels again after 193 laps (race lap 210). At 04:27 hrs the car is placed 14th overall. At 05:13 (after 206 laps, race lap 223) Hartley hands over to Bernhard who continues on fresh tyres in 13th position overall.
Neel Jani (33, Switzerland): “I had a very difficult triple-stint that lasted until after midnight. In the first part the front screen was somehow greasy so that I had very poor visibility. This was better after the first stop but the overall grip level was very low. Also there was quite some confusion on track during the safety car period.”
Nick Tandy (32, Great Britain): “Yes, we are leading the race in the very early morning hours, but I don’t want to think about anything apart from doing our job, making no mistakes and just trying to bring our car home to the finish. We have to make sure we stay fully focused.“
Earl Bamber (26, New Zealand): “I had a crazy quadruple stint until three in the morning. I don’t know where some of the drivers out there got their licenses from. But our team does an amazing job and a podium is still possible for our number 2 crew. However, we are only half way through the race and have to push a long way.”
Brendon Hartley (27, New Zealand): “It has been a strange race with Toyota retiring from strong positions. My stints were good. We have a chance to recover to second position. We are trying as hard as we can, it is maximum attack.”