Above perhaps all others, this is the race they will remember. They'll remember it for the twists, turns, rain, drama, and tears. This year, Audi, Porsche, and Toyota battled for overall victory at Le Mans, but the powerhouse team showed that you should never count them out. Audi has scored their 13th win. The day-into-night-into-day classic delivered the struggle of a lifetime. Thanks for joining us. Now, for some sleep...
(Image via Audi Sport Twitter)
(Welcome to this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans live blog! Your hosts will be myself, Fred "Porsche9146" Smith and everyone's favorite Texan that thinks he's Australian, DannyCatSteve. All posts will be in ascending order, time stamped in Eastern Standard Time. Posts by me will feature a "P" alongside the time stamp, while posts by Danny will feature a "D". Your current host is DannyCatSteve.)
9:00 AM, D: After one of the most amazing days Circuit de la Sarthe has ever seen, the checkered flag has been waved.
LMP1 - After being underdogs, Audi once again showed their might and have claimed a 13th win with a 1-2! The #8 Toyota fought back to finish third and the #12 Rebellion comes home in fourth. Treluyer, Fassler, and Lotter win their third 24 Hours of Le Mans, while the #1 finishes a lap behind.
LMP2 - JOTA Sport has risen to beat the two dominating Ligier cars. Turvey/Dolan/ Tincknell score an all British victory after an amazing last hour battle. The Thiriet Ligier finishes second and the #36 Signatech Alpine rounds out the podium.
GTE-Pro - After a seesaw battle thoughout the whole race, the Vilander/ Brunni/Fisichella AF Corse Ferrari wins! The #73 Corvette finish second and #92 Porsche finishes third.
GTE-Am - The #95 Aston Martin, driven by three Danes will win the class, in honor of Allan Simonsen. Pulsen/Thim/Heinemeir-Hansson win ahead of the #88 Porsche and #61 Ferrari.
What. A. Race.
8:30 AM, D: The Audi's have made their final stop and are running together already, prepping for the formation finish. 30 minutes to go.
8:20 AM, D: The #12 Rebellion is now fourth. An impressive run for the LMP1-L outfit on the R-One's debut.
8:09 AM, D: The race has come alive again. The LMP2 battle is between the JOTA of Oliver Jarvis and the Thiriet of Ludovic Badey. The #95 Aston Martin which has dominated GTE-Am is in pit lane with an issue!
8:01 AM, D: This is it. The final hour of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans.
7:57 AM, D: Tom Kristensen is now in the #1 Audi and will take them to the checkered flag.
7:46 AM, D: The #92 Porsche has gone off and thus must pit to survey the damage. This places the #74 Corvette second in GTE-Pro.
7:37 AM, D: Perfect stop for the #2 Audi. It should be smooth sailing for the "all-er" car to the end in 93 minutes time. The #8 Toyota have moved up to third.
7:21 AM, D: A bad situation has become even worse for the #35 OAK. They've now fallen out of the top three and are in the garage. The #20 Porsche is done. A valiant, valiant effort on their return.
7:14 AM, D: The Thiriet Ligier with Tristan Gommendy is now the P2 leader! The injured OAK car with Alex Brundle at the wheel is now in third and JOTA is on the charge in second.
7:08 AM, D: The #20 has been wheeled into pit lane, classic Le Mans heart break. This opens the opportunity for the #8 Toyota to get back on the podium. Meanwhile, the #95 Am leader stopped on track temporarily, but is back going again.
7:04 AM, D: The #20 Porsche was indeed in strife. It is now limping back to pit lane. They had an almighty crack but now it appears it will come down to the Audi's.
7:00 AM, D: Hour 22 Update
LMP1 - The decision to allow Webber to take the #20 to the finish may cost Porsche. The Aussie is unable to match Lotterer's pace and is losing ground with what could be an ailing 919.
LMP2 - The top three are all on the same lap. The OAK and Thiriet Ligiers are in front of the JOTA Sport Zytek.
GTE-Pro - AF Corse leads by two laps over the #92 Porsche and #74 Corvette which are on the same lap.
GTE-Am - The #95 AMR still dominates and should be able to ease their way home.
6:53 AM, D: Webber just does not have the pace to stay with Lotterer. The #2 Audi enters the pits and once again, it's a fuel only stop. No driver change, yet.
6:41 AM, D: The GTE-AM #88 Porsche has been dealt a 45-second stop-and-go for pit lane speeding.
6:37 AM, D: The #20 Porsche is in! Webber will take it to the finish of the race. An early stop for the 919 perhaps, and now the #2 Audi leads.
6:26 AM, D: Lotterer is still closing, but at a less consistent rate. The gap is 49 seconds.
6:15 AM, D: The #58 Ferrari has gone into the gravel at the start/finish line. Just a local yellow will be required to clean it up.
6:11 AM, D: Well, Treluyer will eventually. Lotterer still in the #2 for this stint.
6:09 AM, D: The #2 is in! Treluyer will take the car home following a smooth stop from Audi.
6:04 AM, D: The leading Porsche takes on fuel only and rejoins in the lead. The #2 Audi is still yet to make its stop.
6:00 AM, P: From here, DannyCatSteve will take you through the end of what is shaping up to be a fantastic race.
5:52 AM, P: Brendon Hartley confirms to Fox Sports 1's Andrew Marriott that Mark Webber, recent Formula 1 "Graduate", will finish the race for Porsche's #20 team, a slight surprise given that Hartley has been quicker than Webber throughout the event.
5:49 AM, P: If you're curious, there's still GTE-Am cars spinning on their own and getting beached all around the circuit, with the #67 IMSA Performance Matmut the latest to do as such.
5:42 AM, P: The leading Porsche has slowed the lead bleeding, at least to some extent. The #2 Audi was taking as many as 10 seconds out of the car's lead a lap on the last stint, but since the issue for the #2 Audi, the Porsche is now only about 3 seconds a lap slower than the #2.
5:35 AM, P: Audi's #1 R18 returns to the track with a new turbo, after sitting behind the wall for just 17 minutes. It sits laps behind the new race leaders, the #20 Porsche an #2 Audi, but it did successfully beat out the #8 Toyota, which is still circulating six laps down of the leaders.
5:31 AM, P: There are three and one half hours remaining. The gap for the overall lead in LMP1 is one minute and forty seconds. Suddenly, this race is all about that gap. This, like the 1982 Indinapolis 500, is an interval race. That distance, and the speed at which it closes, will decide who wins this race, and the #2 Audi R18 is fast enough to close that gap up. One of the greatest ever fights for an overall Le Mans win is about to unfold in front of our eyes, and we are all witness to it.
5:22 AM, P: With just four hours remaining in the motor race, Porsche leads Le Mans overall! The repair on the #1 Audi continues, and is confirmed as another full turbocharger change.
5:18 AM, P: If the #1 indeed does fall back, there will be a battle for the race win on track between the #20 Porsche, which has a lap lead over the #2 Audi, and that Audi, which has as much as seven seconds a lap of pace on the Porsche. The #1 Audi remains in the pits, clearly taking massive maintenance. In one lap, that car will lose the overall lead.
5:12 AM, P: The #1 Audi makes an unscheduled stop for fuel only and returns to the track. It will come back in, however, for what is expected to be a turbo change, like what was given to the #2 Audi now sitting in third.
5:08 AM, P: MASSIVE DRAMA as the #1 Audi briefly stops on track! The overall leader re-cycles that R18, and the car returns as if nothing had happened at all!
5:03 AM, P: The LMP2 leading #46 TDS car has a major issue! The suspension on that car is destroyed. It goes behind the wall for repairs, which moves the #35 OAK Racing Ligier back into the race lead, and the #38 Zytek of Jota Sport into second place in class.
5:00 AM, P: Hour 20 Update
LMP1 sees the final three healthy cars in class relatively far away from one another, with the leading #1 Audi a lap ahead of the #20 Porsche, that is then in turn half a lap ahead of the #2 Audi
LMP2 has seen the biggest shake up of any class, with the once-dominant #35 OAK Racing Ligier falling to second after a long stop to repair a broken brake rotor and the once-second-running Signatech Alpine Oreca see a similar issue, dropping it to fifth. Thiriet by TDS's #46 Ligier now leads that class over the #35 OAK Racing Ligier and the #38 Jota Sport Zytek.
GTE-Pro is now a one car race, as the #51 Ferrari sits alone in first. A lap back is the #92 Manthey Racing Porsche, and behind that car on the same lap is the #73 Corvette Racing Corvette. Issues for the once-leading #97 Aston Martin have relegated it to fifth.
GTE-Am is still lead by the #95 Aston Martin, then the #88 Proton Racing Porsche, then the #61 AF Corse Ferrari.
4:51 AM, P: Dempsey Racing Proton's #77 Porsche is making a very late brake change, an incredibly strange time fofr a GT car to do so. That car still sits fifth in GTE-Am.
4:10 AM, P: Alex Brundle reports that the issues on his #35 OAK Racing Ligier have not been repaired by that brake change. That car still sits second in class.
4:03 AM, P: OAK Racing's #35 has stopped the bleeding, and leaves the team's garage still second in class.
4:00 AM, P: RACER's ace reporter Marshall Pruett reports that the issue on the #35 is a misfire, which is seemingly being examined while regular maintenance is being performed. The delay has caused the car to lose the LMP2 lead, which now belongs to Thiriet by TDS Racing's #46 OAK Ligier. In GT, the #97 Aston Martin, just having returned to the track, is bellowing smoke once more.
3:55 AM, P: The #35 OAK Racing Ligier, leader in LMP2, has gone into that team's garage for what seem to be routine maintenance. The car is only one lap ahead of TDS Racing's OAK Ligier, which sits second in the class. Meanwhile, the #97 Aston Martin finally exits the garage.
3:53 AM, P: Nearly 20 minutes on, the #97 Aston Martin is still in the team's garage. By extent, the #92 Manthey Racing factory Porsche has moved into second in GTE-Pro, while the #73 Corvette Racing Corvette moves into third.
3:36 AM, P: An absolute nightmare for the hero of the race's last hour, Bruno Senna, who sees his routine stop result in emissions of smoke and a trip to the garage to diagnose the problem. The issue is the same power steering failure that afflicted the team's #98 GTE-Am entry, but the team is trying to do a simpler fix that will get the #97 back on track as soon as possible. It seems the fight of the year is over.
3:26 AM, P: Another lead change in GTE-Pro as Bruno Senna again passes Gianmaria Bruni!
3:17 AM, P: An extended trip to the garage for the #36 Signatech Alpine Oreca, just concluding and claiming to be a (Suspiciously long) brake change, has promoted the #38 Jota Sport Zytek to the podium in LMP2. That car, which was to have current overall race leader Marc Gene as a pilot before he was called up to Audi to fulfill his reserve driver duties, is Zytek's only real bullet in the chamber with which to compete against what feels like a horde of Oreca and OAK Racing pilots. Oliver Turvey, who replaced Gene on Thursday, is behind the wheel at the moment.
3:07 AM, P: Big dramas in LMP2, where the #36 Signatech Alpine goes behind the wall for undisclosed repairs! On track, the fight for GTE-Pro is not over and Bruno Senna is still attacking Gianmaria Bruni for the class lead.
3:03 AM, P: The GTE-Pro battle again sees a change in the class lead, as Gianmaria Bruni forces the #51 Ferrari of AF Corse past the #97 Aston Martin Racing entry being piloted by Bruno Senna.
3:00 AM, P: Hour 18 Update
LMP1 has calmed, with the #1 Audi leading the class and the race overall by a full lap on the #20 Porsche, which in turn has nearly two full laps on the #1 Audi.
LMP2 remains as it now has most of the day, with the #35 OAK Racing Ligier car leading the #36 Signatech Alpine Oreca and the #46 TDS Racing OAK Ligier.
GTE-Pro continues to be all about the battle for the class victory that has shrunk from seven cars to just two after a day's attrition. Those two cars are the #51 Ferrari, wich again leads, and the #97 Aston Martin, which its only a few tenths of a second back. Behind then and not yet out of contention is the #92 Manthey Racing factory Porsche.
GTE-Am continues to see the #95 ASton Martin lead the #88 Proton Racing Porsche and the #61 AF Corse Ferrari, but the #77 Dempsey Racing Proton Porsche is only one lap off the podium, trailing the AF Corse car in fourth.
2:52 AM, P: After driver changes for both cars, Gianmaria Bruni is catching the #97 Aston Martin of Bruno Senna from behind the wheel of his #51 AF Corse Ferrari. This pursuit sees him stuck behind his AF Corse shopmate the #90 8Star Motorsports car, which chops in front of him and nearly wrecks him! Just corners later, the car lets the #51 by.
2:36 AM, P: The #20 Porsche, second overall, has gone a lap down to the leading #1 Audi R18.
2:19 AM, P: Yes, the #75 Porsche has been towed over the wall and will be retired. A disappointing end to what has been a hard fought race for TruSpeed's lone GTE-Am car. Their car promoted to GTE-Pro in the morning, the #79 Porsche driven solely by Cooper MacNeil and Jeroen Bleekemolen, is still running without fail.
2:13 AM, P: Mucke passes on the Mulsanne to take the lead in GTE-Pro for Aston Martin, who is now leading both GT classes yet again. Meanwhile, the #75 Truspeed Porsche that had seen its door pop off on a stop just a few minutes ago, has just lost a wheel in the middle of the second Mulsanne chicane. That car is falling apart at the seams, and looks to be a retirement here.
2:11 AM, P: The sleeping giant that is the fight for the GTE-Pro leads awakens once again, this time the fight is between the leading #51 AF Corse Ferrari being driven by former F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella and the #97 Aston Martin, piloted by Stefan Mucke. The gap is less than a second, as it has been many times today.
2:08 AM, P: During a routine driver change, the #75 TruSpeed Porsche's door just up and falls off! The crew quickly attaches a new one and the car is back underway.
1:59 AM, P: The #2 Audi, after all that, is only 2 laps down. Furthermore, it still has a clear pace advantage on both the #1 Audi that leads the race and the #20 Porsche in second. At the 17 hour mark, there are still three cars in contention for the overall win.
1:51 AM, P: As back to full course green flag conditions, the #1 Audi's lead on the #20 Porsche has dwindled to just 1 minute and 51 seconds, per SportsCar365's Tony DiZinno.
1:48 AM, P: The barrier repairs in the Porsche Curves have been completed and, soon, the slow zone there will end. Just before this happens, Aston Martin Racing pits their leading #97 GTE-Pro car early, so as to gain an advantage from the slow zone while they can.
1:34 AM, P: The safety car is in, but it will not end the slow zone in the Porsche Curves. Barrier repairs are expected to continue there for 30 more minutes. The #1 Audi starts past the slow zone, but the #20 Porsche starts before it, meaning that the Audi will likely gain an extra 40 seconds of gap on top of the 2 minutes it gained by catching a lucky safety car split.
1:26 AM, P: The #74 Corvette is behind the wall, to repair an extension of the earlier problem with an oil leak. Up front, it appears that the leaders have indeed been split by the safety car, meaning that Marc Gene will enjoy a 1/3rd lap lead given to him by the process when the race restarts.
1:24 AM, P: Just before the safety car was declared, the #2 Audi returned to the track. Its repair, presumably a full turbo replacement, took just 24 minutes, but that was enough for it to lose contact with the two race leaders.
1:20 AM, P: Marshal examination has shown that the barriers in the Porsche Curves are in need of repair after the SMP Racing incident, maening that a safety car has been called for barrier repairs. Porsche, now in second, lost a lot of the time it had gained on the now lead#2 Audi because of the time of the declaration of the slow zone earlier, with the Audin running it one less time than the Porsche. If the two have fallen under the same safety car, that gap will be erased, but if they have not, that gap will expand threefold.
1:11 AM, P: Hour 16 Update
Another two hours down, another overall leader with a major issue!
LMP1's headline is clearly the issue for the #2 Audi, which still sits in the garage with its bodywork off. That car loses the overall lead, which now goes to the #1 Audi, as well as second, which belongs to the #20 Porsche. The car still sits in third but is in danger of losing that, too.
LMP2 is still lead by OAK Racing's #35, which is still followed by the #36 Oreca of Signatech Alpine and the #46 Ligier of TDS Racing.
GTE-Pro has become a two car fight, but what a two-car fight it is. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari leads the #97 Aston Martin by just half a minute, with the #92 Manthey Racing Porsche waiting in the wings a lap behind.
GTE-Am has seen both the second and third place cars go into the garage for unscheduled repairs, but the podium remains the same as it did two hours ago. The #95 Aston Martin leads the #88 Proton Racing Porsche and the #64 AF Corse Ferrari.
1:08 AM, P: The 2's continued issues have brought the the #1 Audi into the race lead, and moved the #20 Porsche 919 into second! Two thirds of the race remain, and there are now worried faces in the Audi #1 garages.
1:06 AM, P: The Audi's turbo issue is ironic, given that blown turbos were the only reason that the marque won the race in 2010, the year when four separate turbo issues on three Peugeot 908s ended a surefire 1-2 for the French marque and lead to a shock 1-2-3 for Audi's R15+, a car built with the simple goal of finishing the race at a competitive pace.
1:02 AM, P: The #72 SMP Racing car spins, wrecking in the Porsche curves. This will bring out a slow zone in the Porsche Curves, giving the #2 Audi VITAL time to cure what has been diagnosed as an issue in the turbo.
12:59 AM, P: We've spoken too soon! After the car gets wheeled out, it stalls on the pit lane, and quickly is wheeled BACK into the garage, where the body panels are again removed, this time with panic. The overall lead is very much in question as Marc Gene and Mark Webber, in the #2 Audi and #210 Porsche respectively, have already made up one lap each.
12:56 AM, P: More major dramas as the #2 Audi suddenly gets pushed into the garage during a routine stop! The rear and front covers are quickly pulled off, changes are made, and the car is snapped back together. The overall leader by two laps looks fine after a worrying moment, but it will have lost time in the garage. It may now be in the sights of the #1 Audi and #20 Porsches just a few laps behind...
12:39 AM, P: The GTE-Pro battle may have lost most of its contenders to attrition, but the battle between the remaining healthy #97 Aston and the #51 AF Corse Ferrari still rages. The Ferrari, piloted by Toni Vilander, leads the Aston Martin, driven by Stefan Mucke, by 20 seconds. Fred Makowiecki sits in third, almost exactly one lap down, in the #92 Manthey Racing factory Porsche, while the Corvettes sit in fourth and fifth, two laps back.
12:20 AM, P: Or not. The Krohn car is in for its brake change.
12:19 AM, P: One issue for an American GTE-Am Ferrari promotes another as 8Star Motorsports sees their third position in that class slip away with a flat tire, promoting Krohn Racing's #57 to that position.
12:12 AM, P: For the first time in a good while, the #1 Audi has passed the #20 Porsche 919, meaning that Audi again has a 1-2 and any issues for the #2 would not end Audi's chances at their thirteenth overall win.
12:09 AM, P: The GTE-Am leading Aston Martin, #95, pits for its routine brake change. The car has a two lap lead, so even if that change goes long, the car should still lead handily.
12:07 AM, P: The #14 has safely returned to the pits. The #74 Corvette's issue was a minor oil leak, which has since been repaired and the car is back out on track. It seems to have fallen out of contention for the GTE-Pro win.
12:02 AM, P: The slow zone finally ends, about 15 minutes after the #61 freed itself from the gravel trap that triggered the period. However, the #14 Porsche is now beached in the gravel trap at Indianapolis, and could trigger a similar event.
11:54 PM, P: The car that moved into second in GTE-Am after the #61's incident, the #88 Porsche, has pulled into the car's Proton Racing garage, where it is undergoing an in-race fluid change. The #74 still sits in Corvette Racing's pits.
11:52 PM, P: Suddenly, dramas for the #74 GTE-Pro Corvette! Third in GTE-Pro just a few seconds ago, the car now sits on pit road as the team is changing the car's belts on pit road. The incredibly well designed C7.R is undergoing a repair outside of the garage, with just the decklid removed for access, but that doesn't mean the issue is anything short of major.
11:47 PM, P: AF Corse's #61 has made it back to the garage with minor body damage. Some quick bodywork changes are completed, the brakes are changed, and the GTE-Am entry looks ready to return to the track soon.
11:43 PM, P: The #97 Aston Martin Racing entry has gone into the garage from the lead in GTE-Pro for a brake change. Meanwhile, the #61 incident in the Porsche Curves has triggered a slow zone.
11:41 PM, P: The #61 AF Corse Ferrari spins in the Porsche curves, where it is stopped. That car was second in GTE-Am at the time of the incident!
11:32 PM, P: After another long night, the sun again rises over the Circuit de la Sarthe. As ever, the night has taken its toll on the field, but it has been cruelest of all in its last moments: The #7 Toyota TS040 will continue no more, listing their reason for retirement as an electrical issue. But now, the sun rises for the remaining competitors, 42 left in all, and with it comes hope. That hope, however, is a false one. There are nine full hours remaining in the race, and these last hours are the cruelest of all from an attrition standpoint. These cars are no longer in raceable condition, but despite that, they will race on. That, after all, is what they are here for.
11:29 PM, P: Unfortunately, the #7 Toyota has been retired. The fastest car on the track all weekend, the polesitter, and the leader of the majority of the race no matter what hapens next will not see the event to its end, as it becomes the 12th such retirement of the race.
11:11 PM, P: Hour 14 Update
The issue for the #7 Toyota has been the story of the last two hours, if not the race itself. However, the other classes have seen changes as well.
LMP1 has obviously seen the most major changes, as a yet-undiagnosed problem for the dominant #7 Toyota. With that car moving from the lead to sitting on the side of the track, Audi's #2 now leads ahead of Porsche's #20 and Audi's #1.
LMP2 still sees OAK Racing's Jann Mardenborough pushing the #35 Ligier to the top of that class. Signatech Alpine's #36 Oreca and TDS Racing's #46 Ligier still wrap up that podium.
GTE-Pro is lead by the #97 Aston Martin, still in a long fight with the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. In third is the #92 Porsche , which passed the #74 Corvette when that car, now fourth in class, went behind the wall for a brake change.
GTE-Am saw dramas too, and though the #95 Aston Martin still holds a dominant lead, second place now belongs to the #61 AF Corse Ferrari, thanks in no small part to continued issues for the #72 SMP Racing Ferrari. The #88 Proton Racing Porsche rounds out that class's podium.
11:10 PM, P: The #7 Toyota has now fallen off the overall podium, with the #1 Audi moving into the third overall position on that lap.
11:08 PM, P: Reports now indicate that the #7 Toyota's driver, Kaz Nakajima, is talking to the Oreca-lead Toyota team from a cell phone stored in the car.
11:05 PM, P: With this, Audi Sport Team Joest's first lead of the day, all three LMP1-H manufacturers have lead overall. The Toyota remains stopped and, thanks to a majority of the French world feed cameramen being asleep, the exact condition of the car is not known by anyone but driver Kaz Nakajima. The car that has inherited second in this is the #20 Porsche, but that car sits two laps down of the lead Audi.
11:00 PM, P: MASSIVE dramas as the leading and dominant #7 Toyota has stopped on track at Arnage! Suddenly, The #2 Audi leads overall and the Toyota is parked behind a cutout in the track! Is Toyota's dominant race unraveled?
10:32 PM, P: The #72 SMP Racing Ferrari exits the garage 10th in GTE-Am after entering 2nd 10 minutes ago.
10:22 PM, P: Corvette's #74 in the garage for a routine brake change from third in class. It falls into fourth in class.
10:06 PM, P: After a long series of stops for the #74 Corvette and #97 Aston Martin, the #51 AF Corse Ferrari now leads the race in GTE-Pro.
9:49 PM, P: The #14 has made it back to the garage and is being looked over by Porsche crews now.
9:43 PM, P: Porsche's 919 numbered 14, which has been running reliably since issues in Hour 2, is again slow on the Mulsanne, crawling back to the garage.
9:26 PM, P: The original, 2011 to 2013, Audi R18 program has just been estimated by the official Le Mans overnight stream as costing nearly $300 million dollars for those three seasons. Our own Andrew Bakke reports that this is three times the annual GDP of the Falklands, and nearly equal to that of Micronesia. In short, Audi's R18 program could be its own country, and their extravagant hospitality suites could be the capitol.
9:15 PM, P: The #1 Audi's problem was a suspect injector and it has since been replaced. The car fell to fourth overall, behind the #20 Porsche, but looks to be healthy now and has not lost contact with the possibility of win contention.
9:11 PM, P: The #1 rejoins the track, now with Lucas Di Grassi behind the wheel. Only time will tell if the issue is resolved.
9:07 PM, P: An important message from our own Nobody, who is at the Circuit de la Sarthe today enjoying the race.
9:02 PM, P: Major dramas for Audi, whose #1 car limps into the garage with an unknown issue from second overall!
9:00 PM, P: Hour 12 Update
LMP1 remains clearly Toyota's race to lose, although Audi has been quicker through the night than under the heat of the sun. The #7 leads the #2 and #1 Audis by about two minutes and three minutes, respectively.
LMP2 is still lead by OAK Racing's #35 Ligier Nissan, ahead of Signatech Alpine's #36 Oreca and Thiriet by TDS's #46 Ligier.
GTE-Pro remains a four manufacturer fight, with Aston Martin Racing's #97 leading Corvette Racing's #74 and AF Corse's #51, all ahead of Porsche's #92.
GTE-Am is lead by Aston Martin's #95, ahead of the #72 SMP Racing entry and the #88 Proton Porsche.
8:54 PM, P: Corvette's struggling #73 spins on what is Jordan Taylor's first lap of his stint. His team mate Tommy Milner pits to hand over to Richard Westbrook from P2 in class.
8:40 PM, P: Rebellion's #12 is back out on track, so their engine problem may not have been as serious as originally thought.
8:37 PM, P: After separating over the course of this fuel run, the fight for second in GTE-Pro is back on! AF Corse's #51 is on the tail of Corvette Racing's #74, and is continuing to pressure the Corvette for the position. The car, however, does not yet seem to have the pace to pass.
8:32 PM, P: An engine issue is what ultimately doomed the #13 Rebellion R-One, and it now seems one has developed on its team mate, the #12. The Rebellion crew is working to fix the Toyota engine, which unlike the car itself has completed 24 hours in the past, but it is certainly a much more serious issue than anything else faced by the #12 crew today.
8:13 PM, P: The #58 Team Sofrev Ferrari is rolled into the team's garage, making it yet another GTE-Am car to encounter mechanical issues during an otherwise clean run.
7:44 PM, P: The #26 G-Drive OAK Morgan-Nissan is the race's 11th official retirement after a myriad of on-track issues. The car was the only Morgan roadster being run by OAK Racing's factory team, which is otherwise running their new Ligier coupes.
7:41 PM, P: The race may be uneventful at the moment, but Tommy Kendall has just told a story about a time when his co-driver peed out of a Ferrari window under safety car and onto an Audi at Petit Le Mans. So, there's that.
7:30 PM, P: Rebellion's #12 is headed back behind the wall. With the team's #13 already retired, the Rebellion R-One's first Le Mans is not going as planned.
7:26 PM, P: While lapping the 1 Audi, the now purely experimental #8 Toyota nearly clips the barriers in Tetre Rouge! Fortunately, the car continues on undamaged, avoiding what would be its second collision of the day.
7:17 PM, P: Finally, the #98 GTE-Am Aston Martin returns to the circuit after a lengthy trip to the garage to repair a power steering unit. GTE-Am has seen only two retirements, but at this point almost every car in the class has encountered at least one problem.
7:11 PM, P: Italy scor-Wait, wrong thing. The #51 Ferrari, driven by Toni Vilander, makes a move for the GTE-Pro lead on the Mulsanne, but instead loses the tow of the Aston Martin and falls to third behind a flying #74 Corvette!
7:07 PM, P: 7/10ths of a second now divide the lead in GTE-Pro, with the #97 Aston Martin leading the #51 Ferrari, and the #74 Corvette only 2 seconds behind that!
7:00 PM, D: Hour 10 Update
My first stint on the blog has come to an end. Fred will be joining you again shortly, but here's where we stand as the teams attempt to survive the night.
LMP1 - Toyota #7 is showing no signs of slowing down with Alex Wurz driving. It has a comfortable lead over the #2 Audi in second and the #1 Audi in third. The #20 Porsche is two laps down in fourth.
LMP2 - Ligier chassis stand first and third, split by Signatech Alpine. Alex Brundle is currently in control of the leading OAK entry.
GTE Pro - It's settled down a bit, but the battle is far from over between Aston Martin, Corvette and AF Corse. Stephan Mucke leads Tommy Milner and Toni Vilander.
GTE Am - The #95 Aston Martin is now leading and the favorite in class with the other team's car being forced into the garage with smoke billowing from it.
Retirements: 0, 3, 13, 37, 41, 47, 60, 71, 81
6:49 PM,D: Full service stop for the #2 Audi; Andre Lotterer is now in the R18.The #7 Toyota pits for fuel only and Alex Wurz heads back on track. Alex Brundle is now back in the LMP2 OAK Ligier.
6:42 PM,D: The #98 Aston Martin which has dominated GTE-Am for most of the race is in the garage with some sort of issue! The#95 has inherited the lead.
6:33 PM, D: The #91 Porsche has spent the last half an hour in the garage, ammending a fuel cell drama. The car has rejoined as its protoype sister has switched drivers from Mark Webber to Timo Bernhard.
6:24 PM, D: The third placed LMP2 running Thiriet Ligier has been reported for speeding in pit lane.
6:17 PM, D: Nothing has changed up front. OAK Racing's Liger still leads LMP2, but now the Race Performance Oreca is in second. The #97 Aston Martin leads the #51 Ferrari, with the #74 Corvette in third. The GTE Am leaderboard is the same as it's been since I took control of this blog. #98 Aston in front of the #95.
6:03 PM, D: It is now Sunday in Le Mans. The two overall leaders have come in for fuel only stops. Fassler still trails Wurz.
5:57 PM, D: Mr. Le Mans is now in the #1. The Dempsey Porsche has served a three minute stop and go for spinning wheels during their last stop.
5:49 PM, D: Apparently, it was the #20 that went off at Arnage, again! The Murphy Protoypes entry which stopped on track a little over an hour ago is now officially out of the race.
5:45 PM, D: Neel Jani took the #14 Porsche off at Arnage (the Porsches really seem to like that corner).
5:39 PM,D: The #2 Audi is now lapping two seconds faster than the race leading TS030. If they can maintain this pace and their tire advantage, then Audi is in with a very big shot.
5:22 PM, D: The #12 Rebellion has finally made it back to the pits after limping for eight miles. The team has pushed it into the garage to fix any damage.
5:15 PM, D: The #20 Porsche has gone down the escape road at Arnage, yet again and the lone Rebellion left standing (the #12) is reportedly driving on three wheels. Apparently, they are supposed to drive on four. As those two things happen on track, Alex Wurz regains control of the leading Toyota from Kaz Nakajima. Their sister car has rejoined.
5:11 PM, D: The #8 Toyota has been wheeled into the garage to fix what the team is describing as "aero balance issues."
5:00 PM, D: Hour 8 Update
We are a third of the way through the race and to say it's been eventful would be an understatement. Now the teams and drivers must survive the night.
LMP1 - Kaz Nakajima is unchallenged in the Toyota. The #7 Toyota and the two remaining Audis are the only cars left on the lead lap. Surprisingly, a Rebellion still leads the sub-class.
LMP2 - Ligiers continue to control LMP2. It's OAK leading Thiriet at the moment.
GTE Pro - After a fun battle for the lead, Darren Turner has Aston Martin in the lead in front of Oliver Gavin's Corvette and Gimi Bruni in the Ferrari.
GTE Am - It's a double GT class lead for the English manufacturer at the moment. The #98 still leads the #95.
The #13 Rebellion became the seventh offical retirement in the last two hours, and the KCMG Oreca is unlikely to rejoin. Murphy Prototypes is still working on their entry to get it going again.
4:53 PM, D: The race has begun to calm down now. The twilight and night time hours of the race are always so magical. This year's event is already much more enjoyable than last year's.
4:39 PM, D: The #48 Murphy Prototypes machine has stopped at the Porsche curves; just a local yellow flag at the moment. As that's happening, Antony Davidson brought in the #8 Toyota after just three laps. The cause of the #73 Corvette's issue was a broken valve stem. They are now a lap down and Jan Magnussen (yes, Kevin's dad) is in the car.
4:28 PM, D: Now Gavin is closing in on this ripper of a battle. The #7 Toyota still leads over the #2 and #1 Audi as they begin stops. The #20 Porsche runs fourth. Aston Martin still holds a 1-2 (#98 in front of the #95) in the Am class, as well.
4:22 PM, D: And now it's Turner vs. Fischella for the lead in Pro! Turner takes back first from the Ferrari! This GTE Pro battle is a great way to start the night time portion of the race.
4:17 PM, D: Jordan Taylor and the #73 Corvette are in for a lengthy stop. The hood is off and Corvette mechancis are working on the problem.
4:10 PM, D: Jann Mardenborough just set the fastest LMP2 lap of the race. He continues to lead the class over the #36 Signatech Alpine car. Oliver Gavin has hopped into the #74 Corvette and rejoined.
3:58 PM, D: We have a new leader in GTE Pro and it's Darren Turner in the Aston Martin! Now Westbrook must contend with Fischella's Ferrari.
3:55 PM, D: The #74 Corvette driven by Richard Westbrook is being hounded for the GTE Pro lead by Darren Turner in the Aston Martin. The AF Corse Ferrari is lurking not far behind. The class battle has come alive. OAK Racing's Ligier is now leading LMP2
3:45 PM, D: If Rick Allen was commentating this race, this is where he would say "green flag back in the air!" The third safety car period of the race is over and they're racing again at Circuit de la Sarthe.
3:39 PM, D: Alexandere Imperatori, the driver of the #47 was not harmed and is out of the car. It looks like a suspension failure may have caused the shunt.
3:34 PM, D: There's been a crash at the Porsche curves! The #47 KCMG Oreca has made contact with the wall, causing heavy front end damage. The third safety car of the race is out. In a seperate incident, the GTE Am leading Aston did a 360 degree spin at the Dunlop chicane and continued. The #2 Audi will lose time due to making its stop as the safety car was deployed.
3:23 PM, D: The #78 Porsche has made it into the lane after its second puncture. The team has wheeled it back in the garage after extinguishing a small fire. Seconds later, the #1 Audi has entered and Marc Gene gets in for Lucas di Grassi. The #13 Rebellion is now officially retired from the race.
3:15 PM, D: The WeatherTech Porsche has copped a tire puncture on the Mulsanne straight, again! Another long crawl to pit lane for the GTE Pro racer.
3:11 PM, D: The #20 Porsche got refired and made it in for its stop. Mark Webber now has control of the 919 as the sun continues to set. It appears Hartley locked up heading into Arnage, causing him to go off.
3:07 PM, D: Hartley has gone down the escape road at Arnage. The Porsche was due in for a stop this lap.
3:00 PM, D: 6 Hour Update
LMP1 - The #7 Toyota is still has a clear advantage overall, but the Audis, running second and third, may be able to make up time by quadruple stinting tires. The #20 Porsche was running second for a fair bit, but now is managing a problem; Mark Webber has yet to take to the track.
LMP2 - It is currently a Liger chassis 1-2 with Oak Racing's 31 car leading by half a minute over the Thiriet by TDS entry.
GTE Pro - Corvette leads but Bruno Senna has moved up to second with a strong stint for Aston Martin, and Giancarlo Fisichella has the AF Corse Ferrari in third. The two factory Porsches are now 4th and 6th.
GTE Am - It's the Aston Martin show in GTE-Am. The #98 leads the #95 and head three Ferraris from SMP Racing, RAM Racing, and AF Corse.
2:51 PM, D: Toyota is unable to do more than a triple stint on tires. The #7 has stopped and Kaz Nakajima is in. Audi may not have the pace, but they could have the tire longevity to help them compete against the Japanese giant.
2:48 PM, D: Audi is able to run four stins on their tires. The #2 has just been in and Benoit Treleyur will remain in the R18.
2:43 PM, D: The #13 Rebellion is not having a great time. It's being worked on in the garage with an engine drama and is in danger of retiring. Its sister car, the #12, has had a flawless run so far.
2:40 PM, D: Jordan Taylor, the mullett man, has overtaken the #92 Porsche to move up to fifth in GTE Pro.
2:33 PM, D: The Newblood Morgan lost control at Arnage, but luckily avoided hitting any other cars and resumed immediately.
2:24 PM, D: Another stop for the 919, and Hartley stays in. Once again, just a fuel only stop.
2:19 PM, D: The GTE Pro leaders have come in for service. Richard Westbrook replaced Tommy Milner in the #74 and Richard Lietz is now behind the #92 Porsche.
2:12 PM, D: Mark Webber says in an interview with Fox Sports that they are "managing something." Exactly what, we don't know yet, but it is affecting the pace of the 919.
2:05 PM, D: The #98 Aston Martin, currently in the hands of Chris Nygaard leads in GTE Am. The #75 Porsche spun and stopped, but has got it going, again.
1:53 PM, D: After battling with Bruno Senna's Vantage, the #92 and #91 Porsches are having a fight of their own for fourth. Bergmeister wins the duel and gains the place, but Holzer is still hot on his tail. In the Porsche LMP1 garage, Mark Webber has put his helmet on.
1:45 PM, D: Two Aston Martins and two Porsches are now having a fierce battle for 3rd-6th in GTE Pro. Bruno Senna has passed both 991s to move up to the last podium position.
1:39 PM, D: According to Mark Webber who was interviewed by Radio Le Mans, a puncture was detected and the stop was a precaution. The #20 has rejoined in third, elevating the #2 Audi to second position.
1:37 PM, D: Suddenly, the #20 Porsche 919 has come in for a change of tires. Hartley stays in the car and more fuel is taken onboard. No explenation as of yet for the early stop.
1:29 PM, D: The current top three in GTE-Pro is composed of three different makes. Tommy Milner leads the class for Corvette. Tony Vilander has the AF Corse Ferrari place in second, and Marco Holzer is in the final podium spot for Porsche. And in LMP2, Alex Brundle has taken the lead as a consequence of the Race Performance Orecoa straight lining the Mulsanne chicane.
1:17 PM, D: More scheduled stops happening, now. Like the #20 Porsche and #1 Audi, the #7 Toyota and #2 Audi take fuel only. This time, Sarrazin has maintained the lead over the 919 of Brendon Hartley.
1:13 PM, D: Alvaro Parente has stopped on track in the RAM Racing Ferrari with smoke coming out of the back of the 512. A slow zone is now in effect at Arnage. Meanwhile, the #14 Porsche is back inside the top ten after its early engine dramas.
1:07 PM, D: The #20 Porsche has come in for service from the lead. Fuel only and the #7 Toyota will regain first, overall. Lucas di Grassi also pitted the #1 Audi for fuel only on the same lap.
1:00 PM, P: Hour 4 Update
The race has finally entered a rhythm as the insanity of hours 2 and 3 have calmed. DannyCatSteve will take over live blog duties here for the next few hours, but before he does, here's what's happening on track:
LMP1, rather surprisingly, is presently lead by the #20 Porsche, which is slightly off-cycle with the #7 Toyota in second. It seems that car has gone to a more conservative strategy than it had originally planned on after the retirement of the #8 Toyota, but it still sits ahead of the #1 Audi in third.
LMP2 had been lead by Race Performance for most of the stint after a spin by KCMG, but was just recently passed by OAK Racing's #34 Ligier. However, that car stopped a few minutes ago, and now the Race Performance Oreca-Judd leads again, ahead of the Signatech Alpine Oreca.
GTE-Pro is now lead by Corvette's #74 car, which leads the #91 and #92 Porsche Manthey factory cars, in that order.
GTE-Am had been lead by Patrick Long in the Dempsey Racing-Proton car since the hour 2 incident that took out the formerly leading #81 AF Corse Ferrari, but Long has since pitted and handed that car over to Patrick Dempsey; The #98 Aston Martin now leads the class, but the Dempsey car still sits in second.
Retirements: 0, 3, 37, 41, 71, 81
12:53 PM, P: A stop by the LMP2 leading #34 OAK Racing car moves Race Performance's Oreca back into the lead in that class.
12:37 PM, P: Milner catches the #91, makes a move into the corner before Indianapolis, and takes the lead in GTE-Pro. Corvette Racing again leads the GTE runners.
12:32 PM, P: In GTE-Pro, the #74 Corvette is finally starting to make up the ground it lost on the two factory Manthey Porsches during the past two safety car periods, and has moved into second in class by passing the #92 Porsche. The car, driven by Milner, now sits just a few seconds behind the class leading #91.
12:30 PM, P: The #7 Toyota pits, and surprisingly, comes out well behind the #20 Porsche! Porsche again leads at Le Mans, and they've actually extended their lead over the last few laps.
12:27 PM, P: Race Performance's lead in LMP2 has been uncontested since they inherited the lead after a spin by KCMG, but the G-Drive OAK Racing car has changed that. Alex Brundle moves his Ligier JS P2 into the LMP2 lead!
12:23 PM, P: Quickly afterward, the #. 41 Zytek LMP2 entry of Greaves Motorsports, damaged in the earlier collision with the Murphy Prototypes Oreca, seems to have joined the #71 as retired, the sixth of the day.
12:21 PM, P: The #71 AF Corse GTE Pro Ferrari is an official retirement, thanks in no small part to its earlier mechanical issues. It becomes the fifth of the race, joining the Nissan ZEOD, the #3 Audi, the #37 SMP Racing Oreca and the #81 AF Corse Ferrari.
12:18 PM, P: Finally, Bernhard pits the #20 Porsche from the overall lead. This will hand the lead back to the #7 Toyota, and may move the Porsche to third in class.
12:10 PM, P: Surprisingly, the #20 Porsche is still leading the race overall, but the #7 Toyota is now only 7 seconds back.
12:08 PM, P: The #33 OAK Racing Team Asia car is in the gravel outside Indianapolis corner and will have to be retrieved by marshals.
12:05 PM, P: A mysterious series of slow laps by the #77 Dempsey Racing-Proton entry have seen that car fall to second in GTE-Am. It had previously lead not only GTE-Am, but both GTE classes, thanks to the driving of Patrick Long.
11:53 AM, P: For the first time since 1999, Porsche leads overall at Le Mans! This has little to do with anything but pit cycles, but it's still something Porsche wants to see. Meanwhile, pressure from a lapping Audi causes the #47 KCMG LMP2 entry to spin in the Porsche curves, while the #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche soon does the same into one of the Mulsanne Chicanes. Both cars are back underway and neither are damaged.
11:48 AM, P: The safety car is in, and with it the race has restarted.
11:38 AM, P: The #8 Toyota, after only 50 minutes in the pits, looks ready to return to the track after this safety car period ends. Believe it or not, retirements for the five LMP1-H cars ahead could still mean an overall win for the damaged TS040.
11:28 AM, P: The safety car is out for a two car wreck involving the LMP2 cars of Murphy Prototypes and Greaves Motorsports. Furthermore, the heavy rain is back on the Mulsanne, while the permanent portion of the track is still completely dry! The rain caused a self-spin by the #62 AF Corse GTE-Am Ferrari, which stopped on track.
11:24 AM, P: The #71 AF Corse Ferrari, entered in GTE-Pro, appears to have a mechanical issue and has been wheeled back into the team's garage.
11:15 AM, P: Already there is an issue on the restart as the #52 RAM Racing GTE-Pro car is beached in the final Ford Chicane.
11:14 AM, P: Back to green after just under 45 minutes of safety car.
11:09 AM, P: After leading the majority of their race in-class, KCMG's Oreca has made a surprising trip into the garage nearly 45 minutes into this safety car period, relinquishing second in class.
11:00 AM, P: HOUR 2 UPDATE:
After two hours, it is clear that the #7 Toyota is the car to beat for the overall win. However, after those same two hours, only three other healthy LMP1-H factory cars remain.
A recent incident during a period of heavy downpour has left the #8 Toyota, #81 Ferrari and #3 Audi damaged, and all but the Toyota retired. Thus, your LMP1-H leader is that #7 Toyota, who leads the #2 Audi, #1 Audi and #20 Porsche under safety car. The #14 Porsche spent 10 laps in the pits with serious mechanical issues, but is still on track.
LMP2 was lead by KCMG for most of the race, but a recent spin has given that lead to Race Performance's Oreca-Judd. The KCMG Oreca still sits in second, while third now belongs to Signatech's Alpine-branded Oreca.
GTE-Pro has been lead by the #73 Corvette and #51 Ferrari all race, with that battle currently favoring the Corvette. A cycle of stops under the safety car has given second and third to the two factory GT Porsches, with #92 leading #91.
GTE-Am was lead from the start of the race by Sam Bird in the #81 Ferrari, but involvement in the incident that brought out this safety car has lead to that car's retirement, and the class is now lead by Patrick Long in the Dempsey Racing-Proton #77. Second in that class is the #53 RAM Racing Ferrari of Johnny Mowlem, while Nic Jonsson sits in third for the #57 Krohn Racing team.
Retirements at hour 2: 0, 3, 37, 81
10:56 AM, P: Le Mans is special for many reasons, not the least of them the way the rain effects the Circuit de la Sarthe. Right now, one third of the circuit is sunny and dry, one third is still damp, and the final third is already being rained lightly on again. Tire strategy is anyone's guess here.
10:52 AM, P: Toyota continues their repairs on the #8 as the sun comes out. Incredibly, the track is already nearly dry, and all those new wet tires may quickly be rendered obsolete as teams return to slicks.
10:48 AM, P: On further review, it appears the Toyota and Audi incident were not the same, despite being related. It seems the Toyota lost control racing the Audi, spinning wildly into the wall, and immediately afterward, the slowing Audi was barreled into by a still-running Sam Bird in his #81 Ferrari. The race continues to run behind the safety car.
10:46 AM, P: Replays show that the #91 Porsche GTE-Pro entry was in the wall right before that collision. It is safe to assume that car was not alone in having an unreported mistake, and many of the sort will shuffle the running order as repairs, both minor and major, continue under the long safety car.
10:41 AM, P: Marco Bonanomi walks away from the #3 Audi, meaning it will be retired. This is the first LMP1-H retirement of the race and the first confirmed retirement of a race contender. However, the #8 Toyota and #14 Porsche will obviously only re-enter contention if the four remaining LMP1-H cars have issues of their own. The #81 Ferrari is also a confirmed retirement, with a completely destroyed nose that cannot be repaired like the infinitely repairable noses of LMP1 cars. They join the #37 SMP Racing Oreca and the #0 Nissan ZEOD as retirements.
10:37 AM, P: Two other cars were involved in the crash, and they were both class leaders: The LMP2 leading KCMG Toyota spun into the tire barriers in the first Mulsanne chicane, causing their separation, then Sam Bird's #81 AF Corse car was lapped three wide by the #3 Audi and #8 Toyota, where one of the three drivers made a mistake and triggered the three car incident. The Toyota has continued on where the Toyota team will try to repair it, but the #3 Audi and #81 Ferrari both look like early retirements.
10:32 AM, P: It's not just an Audi, it's a Toyota! Two factory LMP1 cars and one AF Corse Ferrari (It's always an AF Corse Ferrari...) sit in the fence along the Mulsanne. The Audi and Toyota have not moved from their location in the fence, and may be headed towards retirement. This is a massive turn, and means that each factory LMP1 operation has now had one car suffer a major setback.
10:31 AM, P: The #3 Audi, fastest of the race, wrecks in the rain! Marco Bonanomi's crash has brought out the safety car, and all teams will now pit for wets if they hadn't before.
10:29 AM, P: Sixteen year old Matt McMurry spins in the Dunlop esses, bringing out a local yellow as the rain worsens. The tricky conditions have caught many drivers out as the rain becomes an absolute storm, even the leading #7 Toyota, which goes straight on through the first Mulsanne chicane.
10:26 AM, P: The rain is here! The driving rain has begun on the permanent end of the circuit, but the far end of the track is completely dry! The 8 mile track is now split into two completely different conditions in direct contrast.
10:24 AM, P: The #37 SMP Racing Oreca looks to be the second retirement of the day with an engine issue. The remaining LMP2 cars have completed their cycle of stops, and after completion KCMG still leads in that class over two Ligiers.
10:09 AM, P: Just two seconds separate the top three in GTE-Pro, all of which have now pulled away from Aston Martin's sole entry in the class. First among those at the moment is the #51 Ferrari, which leaped both Corvettes on the most recent cycle of GTE stops.
10:07 AM, P: A pass for second overall and lead Audi concludes as the young Marco Bonanomi, driving the #3 Audi, passes his infinitely more experienced team mate Andre Lotterer in Audi's #2 entry. Both remain ahead of Toyota's #8 car, but out of contact with the leading #7 Toyota.
10:00 AM, P: The #61 GTE-Am AF Corse Ferrari has been beached in the gravel after being spun by a Ligier LMP2 entry, and is being recovered. The #7 Toyota up front is about four seconds a lap quicker than all other LMP1 runners right now, but is also under investigation for unsafe pit release.
9:55 AM, P: The #79 ProSpeed Porsche, only today added to GTE-Pro and the only 997-generation Porsche in that class, has a puncture. Meanwhile, Marco Bonanomi and Alex Wurz split the GTE-Pro leading #73 Corvette in the dirt coming out of a Mulsanne chicane, and Bonanomi gains a position on the exchange! Audis now sit second and third overall!
9:52 AM, P: Toyota's #8 and Audi's #2 and #3 are in an intense fight for second overall, all locked in an IndyCar-like draft. The position has changed hands four times now, and is presently still held by the #2 Audi.
9:50 AM, P: Porsche's #14 returns to the track after a 20 minute stint in the garage. The order up front is Toyota-Audi-Toyota-Audi-Audi-Porsche.
9:44 AM, P: The #0 ZEOD RC has retired without completing a stint, ending the second-ever Garage56 attempt. The car will not complete the first all-electric lap in 24 Hours of Le Mans history and will not better the result of the 2012 Deltawing from which it is inspired. It is the race's first such retirement. GTE stops begin now.
9:41 AM, P: A lead change in GTE-Pro as the #73 Corvette passes the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. The #74 Corvette sits third in that class, while the lone GTE-Pro Aston Martin sits fourth. LMP2 stops have cycled through (With KCMG still leading that class after the cycle), and LMP1 stops continue to do so.
9:33 AM, P: The first major dramas of the race as the #14 Porsche 919, the leading Porsche 919, is limping back to the pits on just electric power! The car's engine is emitting no noise, and German prototype piloted by Neel Jani is being driven back to the pits on that hybrid power alone. The car is wheeled back into the garage, the first such visit by an LMP1-H car today.
9:31 AM, P: The #37 SMP Racing LMP2 car joins its #27 team mate in the team's garage, meaning that both cars in the garage right now are AF Corse-run SMP Racing Orecas. In that class, there has been a change in the lead, as Alexandre Imperatori makes a move for the top position in-class.
9:28 AM, P: The Nissan ZEOD may look to have failed it's goal of the first all-electric lap at Le Mans, but it has made history: The first ever "Slow zone" has been declared for the recovery of the car. The first LMP1 stop of the race, meanwhile, comes a bit early, for the #1 Audi.
9:25 AM, P: Second overall spins! The #8 Toyota has a small moment in a mulsanne chicane and now sits third, behind a now second placed Audi of Andre Lotterer. The Nissan ZEOD, meanwhile, looks like it is being pushed back to the garage, which would mean retirement, though they haven't given up yet. Class leaders remain Sam Bird for AF Corse in GTE-Am, Gimmi Bruni for AF Corse in GTE-Am and Harry Tincknell for Jota Sport in LMP2.
9:23 AM, P: Nissan's ZEOD is already stopped on track in the Porsche curves, while the #27 SMP Racing LMP2 entry is already in the garage being repaired. On track, Marco Bonanomi in the #3 Audi is defending against team mate Tom Kristensen in the #1 quite hard.
9:17 AM, P: Just 5 8.5 mile laps into the race, the leaders have already begun to lap GTE-Am traffic. As LMP1 cars get faster and GTE cars stay the same speed, closing rates get quicker and quicker every year.
9:15 AM, P: Toyota's #8 has passed the #14 Porsche for second overall, and the #2 Audi soon follows! The Toyotas are a full Mulsanne Chicane ahead of the two Volkswagen-affiliated marques already, though, with only 15 minutes of the race complete.
9:09 AM, P: As the third lap of the race begins, it is important that we remember Allan Simonsen, the driver we lost at this point in the race one year ago. He will forever be remembered.
9:06 AM, P: A lead change in LMP2 as Jota Sport's Harry Tincknell passes Thiriet by TDS's Tristan Gommendy for that position. The fight between the #20 Porsche and all three Audis still races, as that 919 continues to dice with Audi pilots Marco Bonanomi, Andre Lotterer and Tom Kristensen.
9:02 AM, P: All five class polesitters still lead early. Meanwhile, Porsche's #20 has just been passed in the final Ford chicane for the 4th position by the #2 Audi, and that position change is immediately followed by Tom Kristensen moving the #1 Audi past the now embattled 919.
9:00 AM, P: Fernando Alonso waves France's Tricolore and the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans has begun! The #7 Toyota has a clean pull into the lead, and a quick pass by the #20 Porsche has moved the order to Toyota-Porsche-Toyota-Porsche-Audi-Audi-Audi in LMP1-H.
8:58 AM (Saturday), P: On-site reporters have begun to report light rain at the Mulsanne kink.
8:54 AM (Saturday), P: Engines have fired, cars have rolled off the grid and the pace lap has begun...
8:45 AM (Saturday), P: While Fox Sports discusses Corvette Racing, it is important to note that the team is this year's only full season IMSA Tudor United Sports Car Championship competitor to make the trip to Le Mans, though Dempsey Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports have both partnered with European teams to enter the race. This is one of many reasons that this year's grid is the first short grid in a good while. What started as a 66-car entry-and-reserve list dwindled to just 55 at weekend's start, and after a particularly rough series of qualifying practices, this year's race will see only 53 starters.
8:37 AM (Saturday), P: This year's grand marshal, and pace car driver, is Allan McNish. This year's honorary starter is Fernando Alonso, initially scheduled as such as part of a rumored Ferrari LMP1 announcement that was supposedly pulled late in the week after the Italian marque thought twice about their decision to go sports car racing, which is still very much on the table.
8:30 AM (Saturday), P: Last night brought late rumors of an even later change in an entry, as last minute #79 ProSpeed Competition entry Sebastien Crubile was not approved to race by the ACO due to not practicing at night for this year's race. As a result, the 911 GT3 RSR he had hoped to drive will be driven by only Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil, the recently broken up pairing behind the final two American Le Mans Series GTC championships. Because their lineup has gone from two amateur rated drivers to just one, however, the car has been moved from GTE-Am into GTE-Pro, where it will be one of only two independent entries.
(Title photo via Rebellion Racing PR)