Following Toyota’s drama just before sunrise, Audi’s lead just prior to the Le Mans 16-hour mark had stabilized with the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro up front by three laps, now driven by Marcel Fassler.
But just before that two-thirds distance, Audi had drama of its own when Fassler pitted and the engine and nose covers came off.
The fleet of Audi mechanics surveyed the issue and sent it back into pit lane, planning to resume. Unfortunately it did not happen and the turbo was due to be changed.
Audi’s No. 2 still led at the 16-hour mark but only for the time being. It should promote the sister No. 1, which had taken second place, to the overall lead.
The No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid is in striking distance too, despite struggling for consistent pace and continuing to run anywhere from two to three seconds per lap off the Audis.
For the No. 7 Toyota, the official reason for retirement was an electrical issue related to a wiring loom. The remaining Toyota, the No. 8 Toyota TS040 Hybrid driven by Anthony Davidson, has been cranking out laps in the 3:26 and 3:27 range, roughly one to two seconds a lap quicker than the Audis.
In LMP2, the same three cars that have run in the top three most of the race continue in the podium positions. That includes the pair of Ligier JS P2 Nissans, the No. 35 from OAK Racing up front with Alex Brundle and the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing car driven by Ludovic Badey in third.
Sandwiched in-between the two is the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan, currently driven by Nelson Panciatici. Brundle leads Panciatici by one lap. The fourth-placed No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd is poised to capture a podium position if any of the top three have issues.
GTE-Pro sees the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia still up front, the car now driven by Toni Vilander after taking over from Gianmaria Bruni. That car is still yet to do a brake change after the No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage, which runs second, has already done so.
Porsche Team Manthey holds third with the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR. Unfortunately for Corvette Racing, it will take a bit of attrition in the final eight hours to take a podium position.
The No. 74 Corvette C7.R pitted in the 16th hour with an alternator issue, replaced the belt, and lost three laps. That dropped it back behind the sister No. 73 for fourth place.
In GTE-Am, David Heinemeier Hansson and Nicki Thiim have kept the No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage up front before handing off to Kristian Poulsen. Behind the No. 95, there’s been any of four cars in contention for second place, three laps behind the leaders.
That quartet includes the No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia, which runs second despite an incident in the 15th hour where it incurred some left rear quarter panel damage at the Porsche Curves. Others in podium contention include the No. 88 Proton Porsche 911 RSR, No. 90 8Star Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia (which had a puncture but survived it), and No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia.
Nakajima’s Toyota has been the only retirement in this stint. Elsewhere, the No. 52 Ram Racing Ferrari F458 Italia’s troubled race has continued with another unscheduled garage visit, this one reported to be gearbox-related.