Toyota TS050 Hybrid #7 held a comfortable one-lap lead over its sister car (#8) as the 24 Hours of Le Mans reached half distance. But drama struck after a further 10 minutes when Kamui Kobayashi brought the car in and it was wheeled into the garage. Its advantage vanished as the Toyota techs went to work replacing the turbo on the car. It resumed 4-laps adrift from the lead and in fourth place.
Behind the Toyotas the Rebellion Racing R13s in numeric order pursue the leader(s). A brief delay for a change of engine cover and basic checks is all that slows the Rebels. Behind them, the challenge of the venerable #4 ByKolles CLM faded away, and eventually it once again collapsed in the hands of Bruno Spengler exiting at the entry to the Forest Esses. That may well be the last we see of the old charger.
The #8 Toyota had been delayed by persistent issues with brake cooling which also required a trip into the garage for a deep clean which cost Kazuki Nakajima about nine minutes and briefly second place to Rebellion Racing’s Norman Nato. Fortunately this was completed under safety car conditions during a hectic period of several incidents including a heavy accident for Tristan Gommendy’s #30 Duqueine Engineering Oreca which went off on braking for the entry to the first Mulsanne chicane.
Drama also struck for the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing’s Oreca as attempts to resolve an electrical issue on-track resulted in the car’s exclusion due to receipt of outside assistance.
The LMP2 category turned into a battle between G-Drive Racing #26, United Autosports #22 & #32 and Jota Sport #38. G-Drive led for about three hours from hour six to nine, but was also stymied in its performance by an electrical issue. The inter-team struggle between the #32 and #22 of United Autosports has been clean with young American Will Owen #32 fending off advances from Paul Di Resta #22. There was also an intriguing change of rear bodywork for the #32 which cost time but delivered a lower downforce faster straight-line configuration. We look forward to see how this plays out.
In GTE-Pro, unfortunately the Porsche RSR-19 challenge has faded away with significant issues for the #92 of Christensen/Estre/Vanthoor dropping well behind. The battling between the AF Corse Ferraris (#51 & #71) and the Aston Martins (#95 & #97) has been delightful to see and finely balanced. Both teams appear to have bagged sand better than their German competitors…
The two Aston Martin Vantages in LM GTE-Am (#90 & #98) appear to be the class of the category and are currently most closely pursued by the #83 AF Corse Ferrari of Perrodo/Collard/Neilsen, #77 Dempsey Proton Racing Porsche of Campbell/Reid/Pera plus the #56 Mentos Porsche RSR of Perfetti/Ten Voorde /Cairoli.
The racing continues…