The #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, José María López and Kamui Kobayashi leads the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday morning with just over six hours of the race remaining. The #7 car’s lead over the #8 sister car of Fernando Alonso, Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima is around one-and-a-half minutes.
The pair of works LMP1s have swapped the leader at the head of the field throughout the race, with numerous safety-car periods also creating artificial gaps or negating leads that had been established during green-flag running.
There has also been an extremely interesting battle for the final spot on the Le Mans podium. SMP Racing did hold the upper hand with its #17 and #11 BR01s in third and fourth respectively. However, Russian driver Egor Orudzhev had a major incident at the Porsche Curves at the 12-hour mark, which resulted in the car’s retirement.
This handed the advantage back to the #3 Rebellion Racing R13 of Thomas Laurent, Nathanael Berthon and Gustavo Menezes, which caught back up to the #11 SMP Racing machine during the night following delays due to a serious shunt on the Mulsanne Straight.
However, early on Sunday morning the #3 Rebellion was handed a three-minute stop-and-hold penalty due to a breach of tyre regulations. It then exited the pits just behind the #11 SMP Racing car of Petrov/Vandoorne/Aleshin, kicking off an on-track battle for the final spot on the podium. Pushing to catch the #11 car, Menezes then span at the Porsche Curves and beached its Rebellion R13 Gibson in the gravel trap and lost around two laps on the SMP Racing car.
GTE Pro disrupted by safety cars
In GTE Pro, there is currently a four-way fight for the class lead between the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488, the #63 Corvette Racing C7.R and the #93 and #91 Porsche 911 RSRs. The class battle had been much tighter earlier on Saturday evening, with just 30 seconds covering the top 10 for much of the race. However, a series of safety cars overnight split up the field and – with cars so evenly matched -whittled down the list of potential winners to a handful of cars.
The championship-leading #92 Porsche 911 RSR had held a commanding lead in the class, assisted by some lucky safety car deployment, but a problem with the car’s exhaust during the night cost the team 21 minutes in the pits and saw any chance of victory disappear.
A slow puncture for the #51 AF Corse Ferrari has thrown the Calado/Pier Guidi/Serra machine off sync in terms of pit stops. As a result, it continues to share the lead with the #63 Corvette of Rockenfeller/Magnussen/Garcia, which itself has had a trouble-free run so far.
G-Drive Racing dominating LMP2
The #26 G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson has established a one-lap lead at the head of the LMP2 field at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after some consistently quick lappery during the night. It had been battling with the #36 Signatech Alpine car, but an unfortunate safety-car deployment cost the French team dearly.
In third position is the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca, a further minute behind the Signatech Alpine. The #31 DragonSpeed Oreca had been running in a solid third position, but Pastor Maldonado span off at Tertre Rouge and made significant contact with the barriers causing the US-entered team to retire the car.
GTE Am still led by Keating Motorsport
The GTE Am continues to be led by the #85 Keating Motorsport car of Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga. The Ford GT has led the class since early on Saturday evening, however bronze-rated drive Ben Keating had only completed around three of a minimum of six hours behind the wheel by Sunday morning.
In second position is the #56 Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR, which is also on course to secure the championship. Third is the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488.
Images © WEC-Magazin (Walter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk)