The factory Audi R18 e-tron Quattro #1 seemed to be continuing its serene march to inevitable glory as the race clock passed the 12 hour mark, with Marcel Fassler seemingly cleared to press as hard as he liked within reason despite the absence of any serious competition; the #2 Audi in the hands of Allan McNish was taking a more cautious line two minutes back in second place, a Plan B for the team in case of any problems for the lead car
Just such a moment came 90 minutes later when the #1 car ran off onto the grass in the Porsche Curves while Fassler was continuing to push hard. The car spun around and hit the rear against the barrier.
The Audi team waited in pit lane looking on on consternation for Fassler to bring the car back into the pits. However, it appeared that the #1 Audi was not seriously damaged and did not require any immediate attention, allowing Andre Lotterer to slip in and take over driving duties; McNish briefly took the lead in the meantime but then was in himself for a routine fuel-only stop, putting him back out on track just a few seconds behind the #1 but with a pit stop in hand.
McNish duly took the lead when Lotterer used that pit stop joker under the second safety car of the race half an hour later, triggered by the #75 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 RSR GTE-Am car shortly before 5am CET (4am BST) after it spun into a backwards impact with the barrier in the Porsche curves, leaving debris on the track and Abdulaziz Alfaisal's car in need of retrieval. Marshals took the safety car opportunity to do a general housekeeping around the circuit.
Behind the Audi leadership drama, the #4 Audi R18 ultra with Oliver Jarvis on driving duty was guarding the rear in third; and after the #3 car's earlier antics, Romain Dumas was back on driving duties once more and determined to push for all he was worth to overhaul the two Lotus-branded Rebellion Racing cars that had got ahead of him. The #13 Lola B12/60 Coupe of Jerome Bleekemolen was quickly dispensed with, but the remaining #12 currently stewarded by Neel Jani was still three laps ahead and was going to take several more hours of concerted effort to catch if Audi was going to make it a perfect 1-2-3-4.
Thomas Kimber-Smith continued to lead the LMP2 class at the mid-point in the Starworks HPD ARX 03B-Honda, while the GTE-Pro category was now headed by two Ferrari 458 Italia cars continuing to impress with their fuel economy: Toni Vilander was piloting the #51 AF Corse and Jaime Melo was back behind the wheel of the #59 Luxury Racing. In the GTE-Am class, Raymond Narac headed the field in the #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 RSR ahead of Pedro Lamy's #50 Labre Corvette.
With the race reaching its midway point in the middle of the night, tiredness and mechanical gremlins were starting to make themselves felt throughout the remaining entries in the Le Mans 24 Hours race.
The GTE-Pro Corvette cars seemed to be having a particularly rough time of it, with Oliver Gavin's #74 Corvette Racing entry continuing to have an escalating series of problems after its earlier loss of a rear wheel leading to a 40 minute pit stop for a halfshaft replacement to address a drivetrain/high speed oscillation, and its sister #73 car in the hands of Jan Magnussen needing a 25 minute pit stop of its own. The GTE-Am #61 AF Corse-Waltrip car was also being backed into the garage with smoke being seen coming from the rear of the car, while the #77 Felbermayr Porsche stopped at the second chicane shortly afterwards.
In the LMP2 class, the #38 Jota Zytek Z11SN-Nissan spun off at Dunlop at the exit of the Esses, seemingly without electrical power for its headlights even before becoming beached in the gravel. Simon Dolan was still able to resume once it was hauled out and head for the pits, but it presaged the Greaves #42 Zytek also going off into the gravel half an hour later, this time in the Mulsanne Corner, while in the hands of its non-Brundle family member driver Lucas Ordonez. The #23 Oreca also ran off at Mulsanne, this time running right into the tyre wall that had earlier taken quite a hit from the Anthony Davidson/Piergiuseppe Perazzini incident during the daytime.
The #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca also spun at the Ford chicane when Brendon Hartley spun broadside across pit lane entry after seemingly suffering from serious rear suspension failure, the car proving a headache for the marshals to remove without recourse to a safety car.
#75 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 RSR Accident
#48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03-Nissan Accident
#58 Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia Accident damage
#24 OAK Racing Morgan-Judd Oil pump
#7 Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 HYBRID Engine
#80 Flying Lizard Porsche 997 RSR Accident damage
#29 Gulf Racing Middle East Lola-Nissan Accident
#8 Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 HYBRID Accident
#0 Highcroft Racing DeltaWing Nissan Accident
#81 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia Accident
#99 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 Accident damage
#16 Pescarolo Team Pescarolo-Judd Power steering
#29 Gulf Racing Middle East Lola-Nissan Accident