Porsche continues to close on a 19th overall victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after extending its advantage over the field to 12 laps with six hours remaining at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
With its LMP1 hybrid rivals falling by the wayside through the night, the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid crew has been focusing on managing its pace and ensuring the car gets home in one piece, with Nick Tandy behind the wheel entering the final quarter of the race.
Slow zones and yellow flags for various incidents have stunted the No. 2 Porsche’s fightback, leaving Earl Bamber P10 still with five laps to make up in the final six hours if the German marque is to secure a one-two finish.
Jackie Chan DC Racing continues to run second overall and lead LMP2 with the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson, upping its pace in a bid to extend its advantage over Vaillante Rebellion Racing behind.
Rebellion suffered a setback with its No. 13 Oreca after it would not refire following a pit stop, forcing the team to wheel the car back into the garage so the issue could be resolved. It was completed quickly enough to keep David Heinemeier-Hansson second in class, with Signatech Alpine sitting third with the No. 35 Oreca.
The biggest twist in Hour 18 came in GTE-Pro as Aston Martin Racing saw its stranglehold on proceedings be broken following a crash for Richie Stanaway in the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.
Struggling on cold tires after a pit stop, Stanaway locked up and ran straight on at the Mulsanne Hairpin, thudding into the barrier and causing damage to the front of the car.
Stanaway was able to get the car back to the pits where the Aston Martin Racing crew completed a quick repair, sending Nicki Thiim out after a driver swap.
Despite the repairs, Thiim began to slow just a couple of laps into the fresh stint, forcing the team to take the car back into the garage.
The crash handed the lead of GTE-Pro to Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor in the No. 63 Corvette C7.R, only for the American to come in soon after assuming the lead for a scheduled stop, cycling the advantage through to Frederic Makowiecki in the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR.
Makowiecki made his most recent stop just before the turn of the hour, emerging third in class behind Jonny Adam in the No. 97 Aston Martin and Taylor, the trio separated by just 2.5 seconds with six hours to go.
By contrast to its senior class, GTE-Am continues to be far more straightforward as JMW Motorsport continues to lead by over three minutes with the No. 84 Ferrari 488 GTE. Duncan Cameron sits second in the No. 55 Spirit of Race Ferrari, while Bill Sweedler runs third in the No. 65 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, despite two punctures which dropped it back from the lead battle.