Köln, Germany,

Le Mans 24 Hours: 16 Hours Update


TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at the front at Le Mans

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing is locked in a titanic battle for victory heading into the final eight hours of an exciting centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Last year’s winners Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, exchanged the lead with the #51 Ferrari throughout the night to keep the team’s hopes of a sixth consecutive victory very much alive.

But the team’s challenge is down to only one car after Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, who fought strongly at the front in the first part of the race, suffered heartbreak after eight hours. Their #7 GR010 HYBRID was forced out when it was hit from behind, causing terminal damage.

Both GR010 HYBRIDs had been at the front among the biggest ever Hypercar field at Le Mans. The #8, with Sébastien at the wheel, led the early stages after starting third, with Mike fighting for the podium positions having started fifth in the #7.

An exciting battle saw spectacular wheel-to-wheel racing among the top 10 swap throughout the opening hours. Two rain showers added to the drama and positions changed as frequently as the conditions, with the GR010 HYBRIDs staying in the fight at the front,

The #7 was a close second at the eight-hour mark but their challenge for victory ended moments later at Tertre Rouge. Approaching a slow zone, where a maximum 80km/h speed applies, Kamui was hit from behind by two lapped cars. The heavy impact caused substantial rear damage and the car could not return to the pits. 

That triggered a one-hour safety car period until the race resumed, with Ryo at the wheel of the second-placed #8. He immediately took the lead amid a three-way scrap at the front between the #94 Peugeot and the #50 Ferrari.

An unfortunately-timed full course yellow, which forced Ryo to make an emergency stop for fuel plus a full pit stop soon after, cost the lead. Sébastien fought back from third, moving into at second when the #50 Ferrari needed repairs late in the 10th hour and overtook the Peugeot for the lead soon after.

As half distance approached, the #8 and the #51 Ferrari emerged as the leading contenders. They swapped the lead before Brendon took the wheel and began to establish a small advantage at the front as the sun rose at La Sarthe.

Brendon handed over a 17secs lead to Ryo late in the 15th hour and he came under intense pressure from the Ferrari, not helped by damage to the front splitter due to debris on the track and a right rear puncture. The resulting front end and tyre change allowed the #51 Ferrari to retake the lead. 

As the race entered its 17th hour, Ryo held second, just 13.368secs off the lead after 217 laps of close competition.

Kamui Kobayashi (Team Principal and driver, car #7): “I was in the ‘Next Slow’ zone which is the preparation area ahead of the slow zone. The guy ahead, an LMP2, braked for whatever reason. If I overtake him there, I will get a penalty, so I braked and the cars behind, an LMP2 on the righthand side and a GT car on the left, just crashed into me. I had both tyres punctured on the rear, and the left rear driveshaft was broken, so I had no drive to return. It is frustrating. Still we have one car still in the fight and I will support them because I am a driver but also Team Principal. We will try to do our best. This is a hard Le Mans 24 Hours race.”

Brendon Hartley (Driver, car #8): “It’s great to be battling for the lead but there’s a long way to go. Even though we’ve led a lot of laps, I don’t think we have the ultimate pace. The safety car helped us to get back in the fight earlier and we have had a clean race since then, but we were always looking over our shoulder. It has been an incredible race, with more incidents, more competitors and people pushing harder than I remember before. We are a bit on the back foot in terms of pure pace, but we will try to put together a perfect race and get ahead.”

Le Mans 24 Hours - After 16 Hours

1st#51 Ferrari AF Corse (Pier Guidi/Calado/Giovinazzi)217 laps
2nd#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing+13.368secs
3rd#2 Cadillac Racing (Bamber/Lynn/Westbrook)+2mins 21.307secs
4th#3 Cadillac Racing (Bourdais/Van der Zande/Dixon)+1 lap
5th#6 Porsche Penske (Estre/Lotterer/Vanthoor)+1 lap
6th#93 Peugeot TotalEnergies (Di Resta/Jensen/Vergne)+2 laps


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