Check back regularly for more race updates every few hours.
No, you don't need to stay up for the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans, but if you want to catch any of the action, Autoblog friend Reilly Brennan has a handy guide. And to keep you up to speed on the latest race events, we'll be posting live from Le Mans with regular race reports.
Hour 1: Five laps in, Audi breaks up the three Porsches at the front, with the #19 919 Hybrid, driven by Nico Hulkenburg, passed by all three R18s. Hulkenburg eventually took back fifth position only to fall back again after the first pit stop. Meanwhile, clutch trouble kept the #23 Nissan GTR-LM in the pits until 15 minutes into the race. The other two Nissans were forced to start at the back of the grid after failing to the meet the 110 percent qualifying speed regulation.
At the end of the first hour, just 7.5 seconds separated the first six cars. Then the factory team #92 Porsche GTE car caught fire, with the the #13 Rebellion P1 car taking frontal damage in the ensuing carnage. With the safety car out, the field is once again bunched up.
Hour 2: The slugfest between Audi and Porsche continues, with neither side backing off. Halfway through the second hour the #7 R18 passes both leading Porsches for the top position. After another round of pits stops Porsche regains the lead until lap 30, when the Audi overtake once again and quickly pulls out a three-second gap. Nico Hulkenburg passes the other two Audis to join his Porsche teammates. At the beginning of the third hour it's Audi #7, Porsche #17, #18, and #19, followed by Audi #8 and #9. 33 seconds separates this group, with Toyota a minute back from the front car.
Hour 3: On track the action refuses to stop. Although it's early, Audi is looking strong with the overall lead in the #7. What's more is that the Audis run four stints per set of tires, while the Porsche cars have to change rubber every third stop. But after a quick refueling, the lead R18 gets a tire puncture and comes back in 3 laps later, allowing Porsche to take over the top two spots. Then as the hour closes out a yellow flag causes traffic to bunch up and the #8 Audi gets stuck with nowhere to slow down. Driver Loic Duval dives for the side of the road but hits the guard rail and careens across the track, damaging the front and rear bodywork. The rest of the car is still intact, though, and once in the pits Audi replaces the entire front and rear of that in only three minutes.
In the GTE Pro class Aston Martin leads, followed by Ferrari and Corvette. At our outpost in the Nissan hospitality suite it's already clear that some of the guests lack deodorant, and we have 21 hours to go.
Hour 4: Most of the hour is spent under caution while the barrier is repaired from the Audi crash. Then the #88 Porsche 911 RSR catches on fire and sprays oil on the track, extending the yellow flag. While the front of the race settles down for a while, the top four GTE Pro cars run nose-to-tail, lead by the Corvette. P1 class sit with the #17 Porsche in the lead, followed by #9 and #7 Audis in second and third.
Hour 6: Early in the fifth hour the #9 Audi, driven by Filipe Albuquerque, closes the gap to the lead #17 Porsche to under four tenths of a second until a pit stop. The #21 Nissan, running the vintage livery, goes in and out of the garage several times with gearbox trouble.
Later in hour six, Anthony Davidson, running fifth in the #1 Toyota, pushes too hard and damages the front of his car, effectively crushing any chance Toyota had at a podium position. As the sun sets, lap times drop below 3:19 in the cooler air. Porsche continues to lead with the #17 car, followed by the #7 and #9 Audis with a spread of only 10 seconds.
Hour 9: More than a third into the race and the top four cars are all still on the lead lap, which means any of the two Audi R18s or Porsche 919 Hybrids could take the overall win. What's more, a crash by the #36 Signatech Alpine LMP2 car brings out the safety car and bunches the front group up to and 11 second span. After the restart, the #7 maintains the lead and Nico Hulkenburg overtakes Mark Webber, moving the #19 919 Hybrid in front of the #17. In GTE Pro the Corvette continues to lead. The #47 Oreca car is in front of the P2 class, while Aston Martin leads the GTE Am division.
At the 9 hour, 25 minute mark, the #17 gets a one-minute stop and go penalty for passing under yellow, giving Audi the advantage going into the overnight hours. Check back in a few hours for the pre-dawn update.
Hour 15: It's morning in Le Mans. Through the night the #19 Porsche took the lead and stretched it out over the #7 Audi, with just 16 miles of distance separating the first four cars. There's still nine hours of racing to go, and with the threat of rain looming and potential tire shortages for Porsche things could still be interesting. The #47 Oreca continues to lead P2, the Corvette C7.R is in the front of GTE Pro, and the #98 Aston Martin leads GTE Am. The #21 Nissan GTR-LM has retired.
Hour 16: And then there were three. Proof that anything can still happen in this race, the #7 Audi lost rear bodywork and the ensuing repairs took a full seven minutes in the garage, effectively ending that car's chances and dropping down to fifth place. Around 7:45 AM, the #96 Aston Martin spun and hit the barrier, bringing out the safety car. With the field bunched up into three groups, the lead Porsche is just behind the second place Audi - in other words nearly a lap ahead.
In the GTE Pro class, Corvette and Ferrari continue to trade first place. That particular race will come down to pit cadence.
Hour 17: The Le Mans safety car is not like what you see in NASCAR or Formula 1 in that a pit stop under yellow can hurt more than it helps. That's because the pit lane exit closes when any group of cars pass by. Your competitors are going slow, but you could lose more time waiting to get back on track.
Two key examples of this are the lead #19 Porsche, up a lap, which pulls in to the garage for a quick change of the rear body shell and wing along with a driver change, coming back out without losing the lead. The time did allow the second and third place cars to get back on the lead lap. On the other end of fate in GTE Pro class is the #64 Chevrolet, which had to come in for a rear brake change and lost the lead to the #51 Ferrari.
As the safety car comes in, Mark Weber in the #17 919 Hybrid passes the #9 Audi for a Porsche 1-2 with just under seven hours to go. Weber will give up the position with a pending pit stop.
Hour 18: Tommy Milner in the Corvette beats Ferrari in a pit stop race, but on track the 458 Italia hangs on the C7.R's tail about a second behind. The front of the race remains Porsche-Audi-Porsche, with the #19 running steady in the lead.
At the end of the hour the leading P2 car, #5 KCMG Oreca, inexplicably runs past the Arnage corner, only to take the track again and preserve its lead. Meanwhile, the Corvette pulls out an eight-second lead over the Ferrari in GTE Pro.
Hour 19: We're waiting for the other shoe to drop, but so far the race lacks any last-minute drama. Porsche continues to hold the top two spots, with the third-place Audi two laps off the lead.
Hour 20: Light rain hits parts of the track, but no cars switch to wet tires and it passes without event. The race for GTE Pro heats up with Gianmaria Bruni taking the lead in the #51 Ferrari and opening up a 25-second lead on Jordan Taylor in the #64 Corvette.
Hour 21: Audi rotates positions three through five as #9 makes a brief garage stop due to intermittent problems with its hybrid system. #7, currently driven by Andre Lotterer, assumes third place. The #8 goes into the garage for a short repair to the body and drops a spot, until the #9 is back in the garage for more repairs, which allows the #18 Porsche to assume fifth.
The Corvette narrows the gap down to six seconds behind the Ferrari after another round of pit stops. In third place in GTE Pro, the #71 Ferrari pulls into the garage with major trouble, opening up third place to the #95 Aston Martin.
The #9 Audi is down to seventh, behind the #2 Toyota.
Hour 22: Just under two hours to go and the #51 Ferrari is in the garage with apparent gearbox trouble. Corvette racing takes the GTE Pro lead with Oliver Gavin behind the wheel. After more than half an hour in the pits, the Ferrari gives up second in class to the #71 458 Italia. Patrick Dempey's 911 is running third in the GTE Amateur class with Patrick Long behind the wheel.
Nico Hulkenburg jumps into the number 19 and will finish the race, assuming no incidents in the final hour.
Hour 22: We're in the final stretch. The #23 Nissan has just retired, unable to carry on with a broken gearbox. Porsche still holds a one lap lead over another Porsche in P1. KCMG is a lap up in P2, Corvette has consolidated a 4-lap lead in GTE Pro, and Aston Martin Racing leads GTE Amateur by 2 laps.
Final stop for the #19 Porsche as light rain starts. The leading GTE Am Aston Martin has just crashed out of the race.
Er, make that the second-to-last stop. Hulkenburg comes in for a splash of fuel with 15 minutes to go as rain starts falling on the Mulsanne straight.