Porsche triumphs after epic duel with Cadillac

It was Porsche’s 19th overall win here – it has four more as an engine supplier – and Penske’s first triumph here since 1969.

The race boiled down to a straight duel between the #31 Cadillac V-Series.R – run by reigning series champions Action Express Racing – of Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken and Tom Blomqvist and the #7 factory Porsche 963 of Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden and Felipe Nasr.

Blomqvist, who was on warmer tires after pitting three laps earlier, passed Nasr for the lead with 72 minutes remaining in a three-wide move around a GTD Ferrari.

Nasr then reported a “massive vibration” over the radio, and he fell back by 3.7s before Blomqvist suffered a major moment at the International Horseshoe cost him 1.3s – which proved how hard the leaders were pushing as the race entered its final hour.

Blomqvist then caught the #6 Penske Porsche of Mathieu Jaminet, which was running fourth, to put it a lap down that allowed Nasr to catch up again.

But just as their duel was heating up again, a fire aboard the GTD class #12 Lexus RC F at pit out led to a restart with just over 30 minutes remaining. Nasr jumped ahead of Blomqvist in the final pitstops, as he needed less fuel – and the Porsche’s bugbear of slow tire warm-up was negated by a handful of laps behind the safety car.

Nasr pulled away at the final green, swerving to break to tow to Blomqvist, to keep the lead. Blomqvist hovered within a second of Nasr, appearing to wait for his chance in traffic to strike.

With 20 minutes to go, Blomqvist increased the pressure as they got into the GTD stragglers but Nasr held his nerve. The gap was half a second with five minutes to go, with Nasr visibly on the ragged edge at Turn 1 especially, but the backmarkers fell kindly for him on the last lap.

The winning margin was 2.112s.

#7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

#7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963: Dane Cameron, Felipe Nasr, Matt Campbell, Josef Newgarden

Behind them, the #40 Acura ARX-06 took up the reins for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti when the #10 sister car suffered an electrical issue as darkness descended on Saturday evening, after leading the opening hour, that required some rewiring.

Louis Deletraz, who shared with Jordan Taylor, Colton Herta and Jenson Button, hit Jaminet at the first corner of the restart, but was squeezed at the apex so got away with it and claimed third.

The #6 Porsche – which had led for a while on Sunday morning – bounced back from multiple penalties for failing to adhere to its powertrain parameters caused by a software issue. Kevin Estre then suffered a time-consuming off at the International Horseshoe on his out lap with four hours remaining, which happened just after a nose change.

BMW’s challenge faltered on Sunday morning, as both of its cars were struck by gremlins just when it was emerging as a serious contender for a podium finish.

The #24 M Hybrid V8 stopped at the exit of Turn 3 just before the 14-hour mark with a power steering issue and needed a flatbed to recover it back to the garage (after a failed attempt at towing it), where it was joined by the #25 sister car at the end of Hour 15 due to gearbox problems.

The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac that ran strongly for the first half of the race fell out of the race at end of Hour 14 with powertrain problems that caused Renger van der Zande to park up at Turn 1.

The car had got back up to fourth place at that point, but its problems began when Sebastien Bourdais went off having struck some debris that punctured a tire just before half distance.

#18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2-Gibson: Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, Christian Rasmussen

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

#18 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2-Gibson: Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, Christian Rasmussen

Era Motorsport triumphs after wild LMP2 battles

The secondary prototype class produced some of the best racing and most messy moments of the entire race.

Five cars were in the hunt for victory: Era Motorsport, Crowdstrike by APR, Inter Europol by PR1 Mathiasen, Riley and Tower Motorsports.

Era’s Christian Rasmussen put in some stellar stints in the closing stages, chased by Malthe Jakobsen (Crowdstrike – who punted a BMW GTP into a spin after the final restart but escaped a penalty), Tom Dillmann (Europol), Felipe Fraga (Riley) and Scott McLaughlin (Tower) in the closing shootout.

Fraga took third in the closing stages, as Rasmussen pulled well clear to seal an emphatic victory from Jakobsen. Dillmann finished fourth, winning a battle with McLaughlin.

United Autosport’s #2 car was very strong early on but lost a lap around the halfway point.

Expected frontrunner Steven Thomas (TDS Racing) suffered a massive head-on crash into the SAFER barrier at the exit of the Bus Stop (aka: Le Mans) Chicane and was the first official retirement of the race after 58 laps.

The #33 Sean Creech Motorsports Ligier – the only non-ORECA in the class – was responsible for four cautions before its retirement after 510 laps.

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3: Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3: Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado

Risi Ferrari wins GTD  

The GTD classes provided a revolving cast of frontrunners throughout the 24 hours, with the Pro category turning into a straight fight between the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 of Daniel Serra, Davide Rigon, Alessandro Pier Guidi and James Calado and the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, Neil Verhagen and Sheldon van der Linde.

Sellers reported a long brake pedal with two hours remaining, so the team replaced the rotors and calipers. But the right-front rotor didn’t seat into the hub properly, and van der Linde returned to the pits with the wheel almost coming adrift.

The car returned to the track three laps down, handing second in GTD Pro to the pole-winning AO Racing Porsche 911 of Laurin Heinrich, Seb Priaulx and Michael Christensen.

Beyond that trio, everyone else suffered all kinds of major problems.

One of the first casualties of the race was the GTD Pro Lexus, which had to undergo lengthy radiator repairs after striking a wayward LMP2 car while leading in Mike Conway’s hands in the opening hour.

The Pfaff Motorsports McLaren suffered a litany of issues, which began with a front-right upright problem while leading at the start of Hour 4.

The Corvettes ran strongly until the #3 (fire) and #4 hit trouble and joined it in the garage for some time.

Ford’s new Mustang also featured near the front at times but fell away with mechanical problems that included a rear decklid issue, while the #65 Multimatic car required a new rear wing with three hours to go.

In the pro-am category, the #57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 emerged as the dominant force during the night-time hours, in the hands of Russell Ward, Philip Ellis, Indy Dontje and Daniel Morad – and the latter brought it home.

Lexus lost a likely second placed finish when Parker Thompson’s car suffered a plenum fire in its engine with just 50 minutes to go.

Miguel Molina took the fight to Morad in the closing laps in his #21 AF Corse Ferrari 296 he shared with Simon Mann, Francois Heriau and Kei Cozzolino but had to settle for second by 3s.

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