(Photo by Dean Treml/Red Bull via Getty Images)

Le Mans: Rolling blog for the 2017 24 Hours

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Updates from the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will follow throughout the day in this post.

HOURS 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (2 hours to go, back to Tony)

7 a.m. ET – After a sleep and a long stint by Kyle, picking this back up… and there’s no good idea where to start.

So Porsche looked set to win Le Mans overall, and they may still do so, but with a different car.

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani had the lead, but lost oil pressure with a lead of more than 13 laps on track in Hour 21.

So that brought the No. 2 Porsche into contention, with the sister car of Brendon Hartley, Timo Bernhard and Earl Bamber, despite having lost more than an hour earlier in the race with its front axle issue.

With under two hours to go, that car was less than a lap behind the new overall leader – the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson LMP2 car with Oliver Jarvis, Thomas Laurent and Ho-Pin Tung.

The LMP2 fight sees the Nos. 38, 35, 13 and 37 Orecas (35 being an Alpine A470) all in the overall top five before sixth-place United Autosports with the first of the Ligier JS P217s.

Five manufacturers run in the top five spots in GTE-Pro with the No. 63 Corvette, No. 97 Aston Martin, No. 91 Porsche, No. 67 Ford and No. 71 Ferrari.

In GTE-Am, the Nos. 84, 55, 62 and 61 Ferraris run in the top four positions in class.

Elsewhere, more cars beyond the remaining LMP1 entries have had further issues.

  • Richie Stanaway crashed out the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8, one of the GTE-Pro contenders.
  • Radiator damage has taken the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE out of the race.
  • Both Vaillante Rebellion Orecas have had issues, a starter motor issue affecting the No. 13 car and a gearbox issue affecting the No. 31 car.
  • A crash for the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca at the Porsche Curves took that car out of the race.

The race will now be a crazy fight to the finish, with no idea who will win overall.

HOURS 13 AND 14 (via Kyle Lavigne)

11 p.m. ET – Sunrise on Sunday morning closes in at the 85th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The class leaders are as follows:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 38-Oliver Jarvis, Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Nicki Thiim, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Will Stevens, Ferrari 488 GTE

The No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid continues its lead overall and in LMP1, with three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer at the helm now. The No. 2 Porsche continues its charge forward, with Brendon Hartley now sitting second in class and 13th overall. The No. 8 Toyota TS050 is also still in the fight, with Kazuki Nakajima now running 30th overall, but still third in class.

Oliver Jarvis has moved to the lead in the LMP2 class and sits second in the overall running order in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson. Nelson Piquet Jr. runs second in the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson, while the No. 31 entry experienced brief problems at the beginning of Hour 13 and spent a couple laps in the garage area. It quickly rejoined the fight, and sits third in class, with Julien Canal now at the wheel, albeit a lap down to class-leader Jarvis.

Aston Martin Racing continues to head GTE Pro, with Nicki Thiim leading the way in the No. 95 Vantage V8 and teammate Darren Turner running second in the No. 97. However, with eight cars on the same lap in GTE Pro, their lead is far from comfortable. The GTE Pro field did see another retirement in the form of the No. 92 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR, with driver Michael Christensen spinning and crashing at the beginning of Hour 14.

In GTE Am, the No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE continues to pace the class, with Will Stevens now its pilot.

 

HOURS 11 AND 12 (via Kyle Lavigne)

9 p.m. ETFollowing a chaotic four-hour stretch, Hours 11 and 12 during the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans were remarkably calm. The leaders are as follows:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-David Heinemeier Hansson, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Richie Stanaway, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, Ferrari 488 GTE

 

Nick Tandy assumed the lead following the troubles of Toyota Gazoo Racing and continues to lead overall and in the LMP1 class, now ten laps ahead of the second-place David Heinemeier Hansson in the Rebellion Racing No. 13 Oreca 07 Gibson. Teammate Nico Prost had been leading, but was forced to pit after reporting on the radio that something on the car had broken, possibly involving the gearbox. The team rolled it back into the garage immediately to begin repairs. Their problems also moved Ho-pin Tung, in the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, to second in the LMP2 class.

The GTE Pro class remains wide open, with the top six cars all on the same lap. As of writing, Richie Stanaway leads in the No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8, ahead of teammate Johnny Adam in the No. 97 entry.

In GTE Am, Dries Vanthoor maintains his lead in the No. 84. JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE, with Euan Hankey running second in the No. 90 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage V8.

Of note: the No. 2. Porsche 919 has been steadily working its way back forward following front axle problems early on. With Brendon Hartley now its pilot, the No. 2 entry sits 16th overall at the moment (second in the LMP1 class), and is on pace to reach second in the overall running order prior the race’s end.

 

HOURS 9 AND 10 (via Kyle Lavigne)

7 p.m. ET – Huge drama has it the 24 Hours of Le Mans as Hour 10 concludes. The class leaders are below:

  • LMP1: 1-Nick Tandy, Porsche 919 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Nico Prost, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 92-Dirk Werner, Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, Ferrari 488 GTE

 

Most notably, the No. 7 Toyota TS050, in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi and the dominant overall leader through the first 10 hours, slowed dramatically on course following a safety car period near the end of Hour 10. Kobayashi was reportedly unable to accelerate when racing resumed and was coasting slowly around the track on its way back to the pits. As of writing, it is unknown what the exact problem is, but the team indicated it may be a clutch problem. Kobayashi ground to a halt before the Porsche curves.

 

The troubles for Toyota have moved the No. 1 Porsche to the overall lead, with Nick Tandy at the helm. This comes after a clumsy moment for the No. 1 machine, as driver Neel Jani spun under the safety car while entering the pits for a driver change. However, he quickly recovered and the car suffered no damage.

The aforementioned safety car was for a spin involving the No. 66 Ford GT of Oliver Pla, who subsequently dropped gravel onto parts of the circuit. The long cleanup necessitated a safety car.

Meanwhile, the No. 9 Toyota TS050 encountered problems of its own that forced it to retire. Following contact with another car, the No. 9 machine suffered a left-rear puncture and incurred irreparable damage, highlighted by a small fire at the rear of the machine, while driver Nicolas Lapierre tried to nurse it back to the pits. Shortly after arriving, the car was retired and garage doors shut.

The No. 31 Rebellion moves back into the lead of LMP2, with Nico Prost behind the wheel now, while Dirk Werner has cycled to the front in GTE Pro in the No. 92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. Dries Vanthoor continues to lead GTE Am in the No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE.

 

 

HOURS 7 AND 8 (via Kyle Lavigne)

5 p.m. ET Just over a fourth of the way into the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans, the leaders at the end of Hour 8 look like this:

  • LMP1: 7-Mike Conway, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-Nelson Piquet Jr., Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 97-Daniel Serra, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 84-Will Stevens, Ferrari 488 GTE

Several frontrunners across all classes have encountered problems, however. While the No. 7 Toyota TS050 continues to lead, the sister No. 8 entry, with Sébastien Buemi at the wheel, suffered mechanical problems, with smoke coming from the right-front brake. Buemi drove the car into the pits, where it was promptly wheeled into the garage for repairs, and it remains there as of writing.

In GTE Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, in the hands of Pedro Lamy, suffered a major right-front tire failure that ripped the right front corner off of the car. Somehow, Lamy managed to keep control of the car and navigated it back into the pits. However, the car lost four laps as the team made repairs and allowed Will Stevens in the JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE into the class lead.

Also, the No. 64 Corvette, in the hands of Tommy Milner, suffered a huge crash in the Porsche curves when the left-rear wheel and tire fell off, causing him to spin and back into the barrier. Despite also spinning at the pit entry, Milner returned the No. 64 to the pits, where the team made quick repairs and the car has returned to the race, albeit four laps off the class lead.

Up front, the No. 7 Toyota TS050 remains in the lead, with Mike Conway now at the helm, despite incurring a black and white flag for abusing the track limits. In LMP2, the No. 13 Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson, in the hands of Nelson Piquet Jr., moves to the lead following a drive through penalty on the No. 31 of teammate Bruno Senna for overtaking in a slow zone.

 

 

HOURS 5 AND 6

3 p.m. ET – This year’s Le Mans has reached the one-quarter distance mark, and completed the length of a standard FIA World Endurance Championship race (six hours). Here’s your Hour 6 leaders:

  • LMP1: 7-Stephane Sarrazin, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Bruno Senna, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 97-Darren Turner, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 98-Paul Dalla Lana, Aston Martin Vantage V8

Further updates are below. The No. 2 Porsche has returned to the track but has lost 19 laps, and will now have a fight the rest of the race to make its way up the order. At current lap projections, the LMP2 leaders might be 24 to 25 laps off the overall pace, so there’s an outside shot at an overall podium for this car if there’s no further issues.

The concern over increased speeds in LMP2 bore fruit when Mathieu Vaxviere attempted to pass two GT cars while using the runoff area on the Mulsanne Straight going into the first chicane. Vaxviere thought he’d cleared both of them but instead came up and crashed into Pierre Kaffer’s No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, destroying the team’s brand new chassis on entry into the chicane. Kaffer was OK but the car was not, which ends the car’s race.

That brought out a couple slow zones for barrier repairs and slowed the overall pace of the race.

David Cheng had a spin in his No. 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07, exiting the Porsche Curves, near the end of the sixth hour.

In the fifth hour, the third Toyota had an issue when the passenger’s side door of Yuji Kunimoto’s No. 9 Toyota TS050 Hybrid came open.

HOURS 3 AND 4

1 p.m. ET – The race is through the four-hour mark, with 20 to go at 7 p.m. local time. Here’s your Hour 4 leaders:

  • LMP1: 7-Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 13-David Heinemeier Hansson, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 71-Miguel Molina, AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE
  • GTE-AM: 84-Dries Vanthoor, JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE

A handful of updates to note. First off, the No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid has stopped and gone into the garage, with Earl Bamber driving, courtesy of what Bamber called a front axle issue to Radio Le Mans. That’s cost the car several laps and has taken it out, in all likelihood, of any sort of win contention.

A tattered left rear tire has also slowed, but not completely stalled out, prior GTE-Pro class leader Marco Sorensen in the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Sorensen limped the car into the pits and lost a couple minutes, but have recovered.

The sister No. 97 Aston, in the hands of Daniel Serra, fought off a hard-charging Harry Tincknell in this stint. Tincknell was in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GT, with Tincknell handing the car off to Pipo Derani at the most recent pit stop.

IndyCar star Tony Kanaan is into the No. 68 Ford, meanwhile, for his first race stint at Le Mans. Ryan Briscoe was currently in the No. 69 Ford and due to hand off to Scott Dixon shortly thereafter. Like Kanaan, fellow Brazilian rookie Rubens Barrichello has made his Le Mans race debut in the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara P217 Gibson, and told Radio Le Mans his first stint was “wonderful.”

Ben Keating also had a moment at the start of the fourth hour. In his No. 43 Keating Motorsports Riley Mk. 30 Gibson, Keating and a GTE-Pro Porsche 911 RSR collided at the Dunlop Chicane, with Keating then losing control of his car and crashing into a couple signs. Both he and the car were OK and resumed after the incident.

Up front, while the No. 7 Toyota in Kamui Kobayashi’s hands pulled away, Nick Tandy ran a stronger stint to get ahead of Anthony Davidson by a significant margin for second in his No. 1 Porsche vs. Davidson’s No. 8 Toyota.

HOUR 2

11 a.m. ET – Here’s your leaders at the end of the second hour:

  • LMP1: 7-Mike Conway, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Nicolas Prost, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 69-Richard Westbrook, Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GT
  • GTE-AM: 62-Bill Sweedler, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE

Of those four leaders though, the No. 69 Ford – a car driven by Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon – has had a long stop for a rear decklid change with a lighting issue. That adds to the car having lost its in-car camera earlier in the race, and it will drop back a bit as a result.

Meanwhile, three retirements have already popped up into the second hour.

Two cars have collided at the Porsche Curves, and both are out following that collision. Roman Rusinov’s No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 contacted Khaled Al Qubaisi’s No. 88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR, with Al Qubaisi’s car suffering significant rear end and front end damage. Al Qubaisi, who was due to share the car with Klaus Bachler and Stephane Lemeret in an under-the-radar GTE-Am class lineup, only ran 18 laps.

Al Qubaisi told Radio Le Mans’ Nick Daman, “I was always contemplating something (bad) like this before the race. There’s only one line. You can’t open it up. He was too far away to make a proper dive.”

The No. 26 car’s race went from bad to worse after Rusinov was called to the stewards’ office for driving conduct, and then its chassis manufacturer, Oreca, confirmed the car’s retirement. This means polesitter Alex Lynn won’t be able to race in his Le Mans debut. The car completed only 20 laps.

ByKolles’ car is also out of the race, Oliver Webb confirming the car’s retirement after just 7 completed laps.

HOUR 1

10 a.m. ET – The race is underway with all 60 cars. First hour leaders are below:

  • LMP1: 8-Sebastien Buemi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid
  • LMP2: 31-Bruno Senna, Vaillante Rebellion Oreca 07 Gibson
  • GTE-Pro: 95-Nicki Thiim, Aston Martin Vantage V8
  • GTE-AM: 62-Townsend Bell, Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE

A spirit of unity was on the grid for the 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans between the Formula 1 and FIA World Endurance Championship, as evidenced by FIA President Jean Todt below. Chase Carey then waved the tricolore to get the race underway.

The first issue struck on the opening lap with an apparent left rear puncture for Oliver Webb in the No. 4 ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 NISMO, as he limped the car back to the pits. He then hit a cone, which required a nose change.

Quite a number of LMP2 cars have had issues in the first hour. To wit:

  • Gustavo Menezes, defending LMP2 class winner and WEC class champion, made a rare mistake running long in the Mulsanne Corner in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson. He got out of the gravel and returned to the pits, but this brought out the first Slow Zone of the race.
  • The No. 22 G-Drive Oreca 07 (run by DragonSpeed) went behind the wall with an alternator belt issue, per FOX Sports’ Andrew Marriott. Ryo Hirakawa was driving.
  • The polesitting No. 26 G-Drive Oreca (run by TDS) required a change of nose after a spin at Ford Chicanes. Roman Rusinov was driving.
  • Graff’s No. 39 Oreca, driven by Eric Trouillet, limped back with a left front puncture.
  • A starter issue occurred to the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca on its first pit stop with Oliver Jarvis driving, per Radio Le Mans.

Those issues came among a run of early pit stops for the LMP2 contingent, all pitting around or shortly after the 30-minute mark.

At 46 minutes into the race, Sebastien Buemi got his No. 8 Toyota ahead of Mike Conway in the No. 7 Toyota, following an arguably way too intense scrap for the first hour!

The GTE-Pro and Am races were pretty close through the opening hour and the field is through its first round of pit stops.

Weather looks good, but warm, the rest of the race!

PRE-RACE

8:30 a.m. ET – The cars are on the grid with the final preparations being made before the rolloff at 9 a.m. ET, 3 p.m. local time in France.

High temperatures are set to throw an added degree of unpredictability into this year’s race. You can view our preview here.

This photo from ACO President Pierre Fillon on the starting grid showcases the anticipation.

Here’s the final starting grid. TV coverage is split between FS1 and FS2 with full streaming via FOX Sports Go; Radio Le Mans also has full radio coverage on its website as well.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.