Our photographer Kurt Bradley is hard at work on the scene at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans—and while he’s busy snapping away, I’m here to share some of his fantastic photographic highlights from the first half of the race and keep y’all updated on what’s happening on track. It’ll be just like you’re there at the Circuit de la Sarthe, too, I promise.
Overall, things are as you’d expect. We’ve got three LMP1s in the top three positions, with two Toyotas on top—no surprises there. The No. 7 with Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez is holding strong in first since they capitalized on the No. 8's 60-second penalty. That means the No. 8 of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima, and (of course) Fernando Alonso is still in second. Five laps down is the first private entry, the Rebellion Racing No. 3.
If you guessed that the overall top 3 is the same as the LMP1 class top 3—you, my friend, would be correct.
Leading the LMP2 class is the G-Drive Racing No. 26 of Roman Rusinov, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Andrea Pizzitola, who have been absolutely dominating this class since the start of the race. Just a lap behind them is the Panis Barthez Competition No. 23. Will Stevens, Timothe Buret, and Julien Canal are piloting that entry and have been running strong and silent for the first twelve hours. But their position isn’t particularly secure. Less than a minute behind them is the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut car of Nicolas Lapierre, Andre Negrão, and Pierre Theriet, looking to snatch a higher step on the podium if the No. 23 makes a slip.
The last competitor in the class, the No. 25 Ligier JS P217 left the track at the Mulsanne Corner, but driver Mark Patterson pulled the car back on track. And DragonSpeed’s No. 31 ORECA 07 ended up beached in a gravel trap until it was placed back on the track.
And that brings us to the GTE Pro class, being led strongly by the pig-pink Porsche GT Team No. 92, commanded by Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, and Michael Christensen, who have been making the best of their position since they lucked out on a good pit stop just before the ByKolles wreck meant their competitors were held at pit exit.
A lap behind them is the No. 91 Porsche GT Team entry piloted Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, and Frederic Makowiecki. They’re aiming to keep it that way, since their nearest competitor, the Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA No. 68 is 43 seconds behind them. The No. 68 is driven by Joey Hand, Sebastien Bourdais, and Dirk Muller.
Unfortunately, the No. 94 Core Autosport Porsche suffered a suspension failure and was forced to retire with suspension failure and the No. 93 is struggling back in 50th place.
Last but not least is the GTE Am class, led by the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing driven by Matt Campbell, Christian Ried, and Julien Andlauer. Over a minute behind them is No. 85 Keating Motorsports. Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating, and Luca Stolz don’t need to be checking their mirrors for their competition. The JMW Motorsport No. 84 entry, piloted by Liam Griffin, Cooper MacNeil, and Jeff Segal is over a lap behind.
These first twelve hours have seen their fair share of bumps and bruises, but nothing too crazy has happened lately.
So far, only five cars have retired, three from accidents (Nos. 17, 98, and 4) and two from electrical problems (Nos. 6, 94).
But as night descends and the sun begins to rise, this race is going to get wild, I can feel it.