Le Mans 24 Hours: Slow zone breaks up Toyota duel at half distance

Toyota continued to dominate at the halfway mark of the Le Mans 24 Hours, as the pulsating duel between its cars was split up by circumstance.

Le Mans 24 Hours: Slow zone breaks up Toyota duel at half distance

The #8 GR010 HYBRID of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa led the #7 car of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez by 20 seconds after 12 hours.

At the start of the ninth hour, Buemi retook the lead from Conway and suggested to his team that the Japanese cars back off the pace with their nearest challenger two laps adrift.

But his crew was awarded a buffer when Conway handed over to Lopez at the end of the hour and the luckless Argentinian hit a slow zone on his out lap. Hartley, who took over from Buemi, completely avoided this and thus pulled out a 27s lead that allowed him to save his tyres. In the following three hours, the gap remained relatively static at around 20s, with Hirakawa heading Kobayashi at half distance.

The #709 Glickenhaus 007 LMH of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux continues to run in third, two laps behind the Toyotas, with its only delay caused by a brief visit to the garage due to a sensor issue.

The sister #708 crept back into the top 10 overall following Olivier Pla’s earlier shunt exiting Tetre Rouge, although it had a brief scare when it required an engine electronics recycle in the pits.

The #36 Alpine A480-Gibson is still outside the top 20 after its myriad early mechanical woes.

In LMP2, a phenomenal drive from Robin Frijns brought the penalised #31 WRT ORECA-Gibson 07 back into the frame after its first-corner misadventure by Rene Rast that fired United’s Will Owen into the gravel.

However, the #38 Jota ORECA continued its Toyota-style dominance out front, with Will Stevens, Antonio Felix da Costa and Roberto Gonzalez in command. It continues to run fourth overall.

#38 Jota Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 of Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa, William Stevens

#38 Jota Oreca 07 - Gibson LMP2 of Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa, William Stevens

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

The #9 Prema Orlen ORECA of Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Lorenzo Colombo is its closest consistent challenger, especially after Deletraz passed and pulled away from WRT’s Sean Gelael.

Another wild fight in the early hours was between Panis Racing’s Julien Canal and Team Penske’s Felipe Nasr for fourth, which was settled in the Brazilian's favour after a lengthy side-by-side duel.

The #92 factory Porsche 911 RSR-19 of Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor continued to lead the GTE Pro class in the wake of Corvette Racing’s earlier travails. Christensen even found time to spin at Mulsanne Corner, and the car holds a healthy lead over its #91 sister car.

Alexander Sims drove a blinder in the recovering #64 Corvette C8.R he shares with Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner after its earlier brake issues – although he was one of several drivers penalised 5s for going too quickly in a slow zone.

The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488s of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra remains in touch with the frontrunners too.

In GTE Am, #79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 of Cooper MacNeil, Julian Andlauer and Thomas Merrill was toppled from its longtime lead just before the halfway mark when MacNeil lost over a minute on his car's 170th lap.

That allowed the #33 TF Sport Aston of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen to hit the front for the first time in the race, with the #99 Hardpoint Porsche of Andrew Haryanto, Alessio Picariello and Martin Rump and #98 Northwest Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and David Pittard also within 90 seconds of the leader at the 12-hour mark.

Actor Michael Fassbender's difficult Le Mans debut went from bad to worse when the Irishman's Proton Porsche, repaired after a hit from Vincent Abril at Indianapolis sent him into the tyres, spun into the gravel at the Dunlop Chicane.

shares
comments
Alpine rues "incredibly frustrating" Le Mans gremlins
Previous article

Alpine rues "incredibly frustrating" Le Mans gremlins

Next article

Le Mans 24 Hours: Lead change after drama for #7 Toyota

Le Mans 24 Hours: Lead change after drama for #7 Toyota
How Formula E's double-duty drivers influenced their Le Mans teams' fortunes Plus

How Formula E's double-duty drivers influenced their Le Mans teams' fortunes

Eight Formula E drivers made the 7,000-mile sprint from the streets of Jakarta to the fabled Circuit de la Sarthe and every one had a story to share at this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Despite a range of triumphs and disappointments, each driver doubling up on the day job played a key role in their teams' fortunes

Le Mans
Jun 14, 2022
Le Mans 2022: The team by team guide Plus

Le Mans 2022: The team by team guide

The 90th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours is here. Here's Autosport's run down of the full field and who to look out for in each class

Le Mans
Jun 11, 2022
The great Le Mans garagistes that challenged factory might Plus

The great Le Mans garagistes that challenged factory might

Glickenhaus is the latest in a line of small-time constructors to take on the big names. Here are some of the finest in the history of the Le Mans 24 Hours

Le Mans
Jun 9, 2022
When the moribund GTE Pro class stole the show at Le Mans Plus

When the moribund GTE Pro class stole the show at Le Mans

The GTE class faces a time of transition, with Ferrari and Porsche both committing resources to Hypercar programmes for next year's World Endurance Championship and GT3 cars confirmed to take over from 2024. But at its pomp in the recent past, the GTE Pro class pitched manufacturers and top drivers into the tightest of duels

Le Mans
Jun 9, 2022
How an Italian junior formula giant is readying for its Le Mans future Plus

How an Italian junior formula giant is readying for its Le Mans future

Prema remains a colossus in single-seaters, but the serial Formula 2 and Formula 3 title-winning squad has joined forces with top GT squad Iron Lynx for an attack on sportscars in the World Endurance Championship and European Le Mans Series. Ahead of its debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours, its sights are firmly fixed on LMP2 glory – and a future in Hypercars next year...

Le Mans
Jun 8, 2022
Why a fifth Toyota win at Le Mans is far from a certainty in 2022 Plus

Why a fifth Toyota win at Le Mans is far from a certainty in 2022

Toyota is the clear favourite for its fifth Le Mans 24 Hours success in a row, but not as much as it was in 2021. Although its opposition is unchanged, the credentials of Glickenhaus and Alpine have now been proven, while Balance of Performance tweaks have also served to level the playing field. Here's what we can expect at the Circuit de la Sarthe for the 90th edition of the endurance classic

Le Mans
Jun 8, 2022
The British rookies targeting a good first impression at Le Mans Plus

The British rookies targeting a good first impression at Le Mans

Three young Britons will make their first starts in the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend in the highly-competitive 23-car GTE Am field. But how did they get here? Autosport hears their stories.

Le Mans
Jun 7, 2022
Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022 Plus

Why Peugeot couldn't afford to take a Le Mans gamble in 2022

Ahead of the much-anticipated arrival of its new 9X8 Hypercar, Peugeot revealed that it would not be entering this year's Le Mans 24 Hours with its incoming machinery. Although development restrictions for homologated cars are partially responsible, the French marque can draw on its own lessons from its history in sportscars

WEC
Feb 28, 2022