Almost seven hours into the 2014 Le Mans 24-Hour and night’s drawing in over Circuit de la Sarthe. Following a crazy first quarter, Porsches have run at the front of each category they are competing in, but are now slightly further down the order.
“We struggled at the beginning in the high ambient temperatures,” said 919 pilot, Neel Jani, who was mesmerising through his opening stint in pursuit of the Audis, dicing for position at 200 mph. “We a small problem with a 20p screw coming loose in the fuel pump, which dropped fuel pressure and took us a while to sort out, but now we are back up to speed and trying to get places back.”
Rain played a big part in this afternoon’s racing. Two huge rainstorms brought the safety cars out and Porsche pulled places back by playing it smart. Dempsey Racing in GTE-Am took the lead by staying on slicks. The team now runs down in fourth position, but its best lap is 3:58.4 versus 3:55.7 for the P2 Aston. Beating that ultimate pace could be a big ask.
The RSRs have been battling hard, with Holzer v Bergmeister very close at one stage. Were they holding each other up? Bruno Senna seemed to think so, as he threw the 97 Aston in between them before making quick work of Marco and shooting off into second place, in pursuit of the leading Ferrari. Then again, Senna isn’t carrying a 25-kilo ballast penalty or a smaller intake restrictor.
Porsche 919 Hybrid goes off at Le Mans
As I started to write this, Brendon Hartley’s 919 went off at Arnage. Looked like a lock up, but then he struggled to find reverse in the car. Pushed back on track, he came in the pits for service and driver change to Mark Webber, with quite a lot of animation in the garage.
“I locked up the front,” said Brendon afterwards. “I felt we had a puncture in the stint before, so we changed tyres and got back on it. We had a bit of a balance shift half way through that stint, which we need to look into, but it all seems to be running fine. I feel like I’ve done a good job for my first stint with Porsche on its return to Le Mans.” Having watched the race for six hours solid, I would not disagree.
Still such a long, long way to go. Porsche is P4 and P6 in LMP1 with Webber and Dumas going well. Richard Lietz and Nick Tandy run P5 and P6 in GTE-Pro, but their bast lap times are down on the leading Corvette. Corvette looks like a winner, but another safety car has killed their lead gap. The GTE battle is not a long gap – they will be driving these cars flat out to the finish.