Porsche continues 24H Le Mans dominance; LMP2s move in for podium
Porsche maintained its comfortable position out front at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Nick Tandy taking the #1 919 Hybrid into the final quarter of the race.
Following Toyota's double retirement under the cover of darkness, Tandy surged into a 12-lap lead with no immediate LMP1 hybrid opposition remaining.
With the next-closest LMP1 - the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid which lost time through an early hybrid issue - a further four laps behind the fight for LMP2 class honours took on new meaning as the possibility of an overall podium emerged.
Thomas Laurent was second overall at the close of the 18th hour, having recovered the Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA 07-Gibson from an early spin.
Laurent caught and passed the leading #13 Vaillante Rebellion ORECA through a localised 'slow zone', and went on to build a healthy lead to David Heinemeier Hansson.
The Rebellion lost time during the dawn hours when the car failed to get going after a routine stop, but the team executed a quick turnaround to stay on the overall podium, in front of Nelson Panciatici in the #35 Signatech Alpine.
In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin Racing led at the 18-hour mark, although the British manufacturer's challenge had been split for the second time when the #95 Vantage went off at Arnage and collected a puncture.
Richie Stanaway's mistake dropped that car off the lead lap in class, after it had recovered through the night following an earlier puncture in the first six hours.
That left the #97 Aston Martin to lead the category, with Jonny Adam two seconds ahead of Jordan Taylor in the #63 Corvette C7.R.
Close behind Taylor was the sole surviving new-spec Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki, which now flies the flag alone for the manufacturer's GTE effort after Michael Christensen crashed the sister car at the Ford chicane.
Ferraris ran 1-2-3 in GTE-Am with six hours to go, as JMW Motorsport continued to extend its lead inherited during the night.
With six hours to go, Dries Vanthoor had a two lap cushion to Duncan Cameron in the #55 Spirit of Race car, with Bill Sweedler third for the US-based Scuderia Corsa outfit.