Leading #2 Audi Into Garage With Eight Hours Left at Le Mans
At 7 a.m. local time, the race-leading #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro pulled into the pits where the crew began replacing the turbocharger on the 4-liter V6 diesel.
The #2, driven by Marcel Fässler, pulled into pit lane with the car exhibiting some unhealthy readings on the telemetry. Fässler got out, Benoît Tréluyer got in, then the crew dragged the car to the garage and immediately took off the bodywork, but couldn’t agree on exactly what to fix.
At first the mechanics decided to tighten up all the turbocharger fittings and send the car back out, but the car wouldn’t restart, so the crew had to drag the car back into the garage. Once the engineers decided to do major surgery, the garage calmed down and everyone started working with typical Audi efficiency.
The #2 Audi sat in the garage while first the #1 Audi driven by Marc Gené and then the #20 Porsche of Mark Webber caught up and passed the stricken Audi, dropping it to third. it took a total of 23.5 minutes to fix the #2 R18, which cost the car its three-lap lead.
The running order as the #2 prepared to rejoin the race on lap 254 was The #1 Audi in first, the #20 Porsche second, and the #2 Audi in third, two laps down, followed by the #8 Toyota driven by Anthony Davidson in fourth, eight laps behind the leader and six behind the rebuilt Audi
Just seconds after the #2 Audi rejoined the race, a safety car was summoned to respond to barrier damage done by the #72 GTE-Am SMP Ferrari at the Porsche Curves. The #72 driven by Victor Shaitar lost control entering the corners, slamming the right-side barrier and shooting across the track to smack the barrier on the left.
The impact was sufficient to damage the guardrail; the race organizers decided to use the chance to clear gravel off the track at the same and make other minor track repairs.
Had the safety car been summoned while the Audi was in the pits, the 32 would have lost much less ground. Unfortunately, the organizers didn’t understand the extent of the damage until the #72 Ferrari was moved.
The #74 Corvette, which had led the GTE-Pro class earlier in the race but had lost laps with mechanical issues, took advantage to head back to the garage to do more repairs on its transaxle.
The #51 AF Corse Ferrari driven by Giancarlo Fisichella also took advantage of the safety car to pit to change its brakes.
Fisichella had been involved in a fierce battle for the lead in GTE-Pro earlier in the race, but had led with some safety since both the #97 Aston and #74 Corvette pitted to change brakes. The AF Corse Ferrari didn’t quite get out in time to preserve its lead; Stefan Mucke in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8 took back the GTE-Pro lead when the race went green
On lap 258, the first green-flag lap, the Oak Racing Ligier-HPD driven by Mark Shulzhitskiy led in LMP2, and Kristian Poulsen in the #95 Aston Martin Vantage led GTE-Am.