Six hours into the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid driven by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José Maria López continues to lead its sister car – the #8 shared by Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa – a little less than ten seconds. The #708 Glickenhaus Racing 007 LMH shared by Olivier Pla, Romain Dumas and Pipo Derani is third, just under two minutes behind the leading Hypercar.
At the top of the fourth hour of the race, López lost a lot of time, apparently after crossing the old Ford Chicane. The n°8 driven by Hartley took the lead, widened a gap of a few seconds and even improved the best time of the race to 3’27.906.
Moments later, the #36 Alpine Elf Team A480-Gibson driven by Mathieu Vaxivière received a drive-through for overspeeding in a slow zone. The French car dropped to fifth overall. Less than an hour later, drama struck the #36 Alpine again as the car was driven into its garage due to transmission problems.
“The clutch wasn’t working properly. I couldn’t lock up first gear anymore,” Vaxivière said. Repairs took time and the Alpine dropped to 28th overall, four laps behind the two Toyotas. ‘Alpine returned to the track for a few laps, but eventually the #36 was back in the pits for lengthy repairs.The Alpine returned to the track seven laps behind the lead car.
Five hours after the start of the race, #8 and #7 swapped their positions. “Coach Kamui” Kobayashi in the #7 managed to pass former SUPER GT champion Hirakawa in the #8 and then pulled a gap of nearly ten seconds ahead of his teammate.
In LMP2, it was a 1-2 JOTA, led by the #38 JOTA Oreca 07-Gibson shared by Roberto González, Antonio Felix Da Costa and Will Stevens after six hours of racing. The #28 JOTA Oreca driven by Oliver Rasmussen, Edward Jones and Jonathan Aberdein is second, a full lap behind the sister car, and a few seconds ahead of the #9 Prema Orlen Team Oreca shared by Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Lorenzo Colombo .
The top two places remained unchanged heading into the fourth hour of racing with the #38 JOTA leading the #5 Team Penske Oreca driven by Dane Cameron, Emmanuel Collard and Felipe Nasr. That said, the #5 was threatened by the #1 Richard Mille Racing Team Oreca for second place.
Right behind these two cars, the #32 Team WRT Oreca, the #65 Panis Racing Team Oreca, the #9 Prema Orlen Team Oreca, the #28 JOTA Oreca and the No. 37 of the Cool Racing Team were fighting for fourth position and held on the inside. at ten second intervals.
Five hours into the race, the #5 lost several positions as Team Penske carried out some repairs to the front of its Oreca – but gradually managed to move back into the top three of the class as the race reached its record six hours.
Further down the ranks, more bad luck struck the #10 Vector Sport Oreca as Ryan Cullen headed off to Indianapolis and hit the barriers during the fourth hour of racing. The Briton was able to return to the pits for front bodywork repairs, but lost a lot of time.
CD Sport’s #27 Ligier JSP217-Gibson – the only one of its kind in this field – lost a wheel when driver Christophe Cresp entered the Porsche corners. The car did not hit the guardrails and was able to return to the pits. The #24 Nielsen Racing Oreca driven by Rodrigo Sáles collided with Sarah Bovy in the #85 Iron Dames Ferrari 488 GTE Evo out of the Porsche Curves. Both cars were able to continue their race without apparent damage.
The LMP2 Pro/Am category is now led by the #83 AF Corse Oreca shared by François Perrodo, Nicklas Nielsen and Alessio Rovera.
Corvette Racing leads GTE Pro in the sixth hour. Although the #63 Corvette C8.R in the lead controlled the pace and a healthy gap, second place was under pressure for the #64 car as their 1-2 advantage dwindled and sank, while the Porsche team GT has found a fresher beat. temperatures and looking comfortable on his tires.
A slow runaway to Indianapolis for the struggling Vector Sport LMP2 didn’t work to the advantage of the leading pair of Corvettes. Corvette Racing explained that the cooling effect was causing them to lose time at a critical part of the circuit. Also, their tires were starting to ache in general. This allowed the Porsche pair to close in and overtake the #64 machine, with the #92 and #91 cars running close by until the next stop lap.
After regaining a place, Alexander Sims will miss a braking point in Mulsanne Corner, dropping the #64 car behind the #91 Porsche, before reclaiming the place on the next pit stop lap. The Corvette pit crew was working well and the British driver was on a charge, carrying the #92 Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Laurens Vanthoor and making the pass to regain the 1-2 Corvette, 41 seconds behind Nicky Catsburg in #63, the top four all clocked 3:51. Vanthoor came back though, closing within a second of the #64 car, with straight-line speed not lacking as the pair traded tenths. It was the GTE-Pro battle of this phase of the race.
As one stop after another at the end of the sixth hour and the light began to fade, the four cars changed drivers. Antonio Garcia leads in the #63 Corvette, half a minute ahead of the #92 Porsche of Kevin Estre, chased by Nick Tandy in the #64 Corvette. The #52 AF Corse Ferrari is fourth, but is expected to stop, which will put the #91 Porsche back in fourth.
WeatherTech Racing has a firm grip on the GTE Am race at the end of the six hours, with Cooper MacNeil now taking his turn at the wheel of the #79 Porsche.
The North West AMR has shown solid progress, maintaining a strong pace and staying out of trouble so far. Nicki Thiim hoisted the No.98 Aston Martin Vantage AMR earlier in order and is now back on board, one minute and 12 seconds off the lead. Third place was regained by the #77 Porsche Dempsey Proton, with Harry Tincknell once again on board and overshadowing the Aston Martin in 3:55.
TF Sport’s No.33 Aston Martin is fourth, Marco Sørensen just three seconds behind the Porsche. After a set period, it’s play again.
D’Station Racing’s earlier pace has cooled, with Satoshi Hoshino’s times a little behind his teammates, leaving the #777 Aston Martin behind the fastest of the AF Corse Am cars, but the car is still tenth. AF Corse’s No.54 and No.61 Ferraris have been the best performers for Ferrari, with the Italian brand’s pace in this category so far lagging behind.
Lots of incidents, the most notable of which was Christoph Ulrich being knocked over by the bump entering the fast right-hander in Porsche Curves, spitting the red #21 AF Corse Ferrari into the gravel and littering the track with debris at the left turn at Karting, as the car was joining. In the same part of the course, the Ferrari #85 Iron Dames was tagged in the first left-hand corner of the Porsche corners, Sarah Bovy the innocent part as the Nielsen Racing LMP2 car took an aggressive line, leaving no space for the driver Belgian. A left side impact could have been much worse, Bovy holding the Ferrari well, while the LMP2 is under consideration.
The 62 cars continue to roll after the end of the first quarter.