Sebastien Buemi led away from pole and began to bridge a gap to teammate Lopez while Stephane Sarrazin took control of the non-hybrid LMP1 class in the number 17 BR Engineering BR1 AER. Gustavo soon began chase in the number. 3 Rebellion R-13 Gibson.
Rebellion’s sister car would be confined to the pits for over ten minutes the a gearbox actuator issue and would have their work cut out recovering their race from the back of the field.
The number 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson of Will Stevens led the way in LMP2, however the sister Mighty number 38 would enter the pits for considerable time with a wiring loom issue.
This allowed Nicolas Lapierre to pass Ho-Pin Tung and put the Signatech Alpine A470 Gibson into 2nd.
Ford led GTE Pro after the first round of pit stops, with Andy Priaulx heading the BMW M8 GTEs of Bruno Spengler. Spengler’s teammate Augusto Farfus had previously closed down pole-setter Kevin Estre in the number 92 Porsche, who was relegated to third after handing the reigns over to Michael Christensen.
Egidio Perfetti’s Team Project 1 Porsche was engaged in an arm-wrestle with Mathias Lauda in the number 98 Aston Martin during the early stages of GTE Am.
A Full Course Yellow period followed close to the halfway mark when Egor Orudzhev put the number 17 SMP entry into the barriers. This dramatically reduced the advantage that Any Priaulx had built up in GTE Pro and likewise that of Kazuki Nakajima’s advantage over teammate Mike Conway.
Conway was now two seconds adrift of Nakajima for the lead but lapping around a second quicker whilst navigating traffic. Meanwhile the third-placed number 3 Rebellion Racing R-13 Gibson of Nathanael Berthon was three laps down on the leading Toyotas.
With just over three hours remaining, the number 1 Rebellion spun after experiencing a down-change issue and would later collect the barriers after negotiating traffic – ultimately being requested to push it back to the garage. This car alongside the number 10 DragonSpeed entry would be listed as retirements in the next hour.
However, more drama was to take place when the TF Sport Aston Martin was caught by a fast-closing Jose Maria Lopez unawares in the number 7 Toyota. Lopez tagged the Aston and damaged his engine cover in the process.
The resulting damage lost the number 7 Toyota over two laps in the pits and possibly any change of victory.
With half an hour left on the clock, light rain forced a wet track to be declared, but it would be a full fifteen minutes before teams began changing to wets. Wary of handing SMP Racing a free pass, Toyota also made the change to both TS050’s.
Loic Duval would halt momentum however, by throwing his TDS entry into the barriers with nine minutes left on the clock. From there the number eight Toyota would cruise to victory ahead of their sister car and the number 11 SMP with Brendon Hartley at the wheel.
“It was like ice even on the straight”, said Nakaijima after the race. “We weren’t taking any risks”.
Jackie Chan DC Racing would take the spoils in LMP2 ahead of Signatech Alpine and the number 31 DragonSpeed entry driven by Anthony Davidson, while LMGTE Pro fell to the number 92 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni. The number 81 BMW MTEK of Nicky Catsburg and number 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx took the final podium positions.
Matt Campbell did the business in LMGTE Am for Dempsey-Proton, followed by Giancarlo Fisichella in the Spirit of race Ferrari and the Team Project 1 Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister.
Images: Adrenal Media
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