The No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460 Nissan driven by Nicolas Lapierre, Stephane Richelmi and Gustavo Menezes has scored LMP2 class honors in the 84th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
It marks Lapierre’s second LMP2 victory at Le Mans in as many years and came after delivering a faultless run to beat the No. 26 G-Drive Oreca 05 Nissan shared by Rene Rast, Will Stevens and Roman Rusinov by almost a lap.
The G-Drive team were consistently the fastest car on track in the hands of pole-sitter Rast, but lost too much time with a slow puncture and two penalties for refueling with the engine running and speeding in slow zones to challenge in the final reckoning.
Having led sporadically during the early stages as the pitstops cycled through, Signatech hit the front and stayed there in the early hours of the morning.
An impressive quadruple stint from Silver-rated American Menezes was enough for Lapierre to emerge ahead of Toyota protégé Ryo Hirakawa in the No. 46 TDS Racing by Thiriet Oreca 05 Nissan.
Thereafter, they managed to consolidate the lead as their rivals fell by the wayside.
Defending winners KCMG factored into the fight until Tsugio Matsuda struck an errant piece of debris during the night, which caused the car to shut down.
The Japanese made it back to the pits before Richard Bradley suffered a recurrence of the issue and had to retire the car.
Roberto Merhi’s well-timed switch to intermediates meant the Spaniard occupied the early lead on his and Manor’s first appearance at Le Mans, before Matt Rao dropped back first with a spin, then a slow puncture and rising oil temperatures.
After a lengthy spell in the pits, Merhi set the fastest lap of the race before the car was retired for good when Rao crashed at the Porsche Curves.
Further potential winners crashed out within minutes of each other on Sunday morning.
Nelson Panciatici’s No. 35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine suffered a suspected brake failure at the first chicane and was shortly joined on the sidelines by Pierre Thiriet after losing control of the No. 46 at Mulsanne Corner.
Amid all the dramas, Signatech was allowed to go take the flag impinged, the team even taking advantage of a safety car to complete a routine brake change.
G-Drive Racing’s Gibson 015S ran consistently through the night in the hands of Giedo van der Garde Jake Dennis and Simon Dolan, and would likely have finished third until Dolan was hit by a GTE Aston Martin in the early hours of the morning.
Instead, it was the No. 37 SMP Racing BR01 Nissan that took third after Vitaly Petrov, Viktor Shaitar and Kiril Ladygin prevailed in battle over the No. 42 Strakka Racing Gibson of Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis.
RESULTS: 24 Hours of Le Mans (Provisional)