There are just four hours to go in the 90th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, and GTE Pro continues to provide drama at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
The Safety Car period for the WRT incident in Hour 19 ended at the very start of the hour and created a nose-to-tail battle for the lead between Alessandro Pier Guidi in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari and Fred Makowiecki in the No. 91 Porsche.
The pair fought hard through traffic; Pier Guidi defending from the hard-charging Frenchman all the way to the next round of pit stops. It was then that a gamble in strategy was taken by the Italian team. The AF Corse 488 would just take fuel, while Porsche opted to change drivers — Makowiecki making way for Gianmaria Bruni — and take four tires. This gave the No. 51 track position, but it would be short lived.
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All the breathing room evaporated when Pier Guidi suffered a slow puncture and required an unscheduled stop which cost the No. 51 the lead. This saw the No. 91 Porsche take control of the race with a 39-second advantage. It may yet grow, as the No. 51 is under investigation for gaining an advantage when Pier Guidi skipped the chicane at the Dunlop Bridge.
Meanwhile, in LMP2, a battle may well emerge for the lead in the coming hours, as the No. 38 JOTA ORECA lost a considerable amount of time under safety car conditions — getting held in pit lane. This reduced the crew’s lead from over a lap to just half a lap and brings the PREMA ORECA back into play.
The only other notable incident in the hour was the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA stopping on track with Phil Hanson at the wheel. After a full power cycle, Hanson was able to rejoin the race having lost significant time.
LMH and GTE Am remain quiet. The No. 8 Toyota and No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin are both working on maintaining their healthy class leads.
HOUR 20 STANDINGS