Halfway into the running of the 83rd 24 Hours of Le Mans and Porsche leads Audi as the two rival marques battle neck and neck for victory in the year’s most important motor race. Night has fully descended around Circuit de la Sarthe and the lead prototypes are slashing their way through traffic, lights flashing, drivers fully awake for the long haul till dawn.
F1 hot shoe Nico Hulkenberg handed over the No. 19 Porsche 919 to team mate Nick Tandy at the 9 hour mark, just past midnight local time. Tandy set off like a scalded cat, scything his was through traffic, duelling with Andre Lotterer in the Audi and eking out a lead of a one minute over the No. 9 and No. 8 Audi R18’s. The Toyota’s have fallen back and are between 5 and 15 laps behind. The Nissan GT-R LM Nismo’s have run into expected teething issues and are a non factor in class. Just to finish will be victory enough for Ben Bowlby’s radical new prototype. The No. 13 Rebellion R-One the only Rebellion car still near the front looks more likely to finish the race battling out with the front of the LMP2 crowd.
KCMG continues their impressive run in the new Oreca 05, nipping at the tail end of the P1 class and leading its own by a minute with ex Toyota driver Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel. Thiriet by TDS and the G-Drive Ligier JS P2 are the other contenders in class at the halfway mark.
Aston Martin and Corvette are having the duel of the race. Fernando Rees in the No. 99 Aston Martin has a narrow lead over Tommy Milner in the Corvette C7.R. A small gap behind the No. 91 Manthey Porsche and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 are locked into a tight battle for third place in class.
The only class that isn’t paper thin close at the halfway point is GTE Am. Mathias Lauda, son of F1 legend Niki Lauda leads in the No. 98 Aston Martin over the No. 72 SMP Ferrari 458 and the No. 70 Dempsey Proton Porsche 911 RSR. Lauda took over the lead from veteran sports car racer and team mate Paul Dalla Lana and the team will likely keep it when he hands the car over to Pedro Lamy.