The 22nd hour of the race was relatively quiet. The race has settled down now, with the front-runners in each class taking it carefully en route to the end of the race.
The hours where no lead felt safe have passed. Will there be late drama? It’s certainly happened many times before. But right now, there’s a slight lull in atmosphere trackside at the Circuit de la Sarthe before the anticipation of the finish truly begins in the final two hours.
Toyota’s TS050 HYBRIDs are edging towards a dominant win, and have been impressive. The team was never really challenged beyond the start, but that’s to be expected. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez have nevertheless been stars, and run almost-faultlessly. They look set to win this race by more than six laps over the privateers.
GTE Pro, AF Corse is holding on, the No. 51’s lead now more than a minute over the chasing Porsches. The Fords are all together on the timing screens, running from fourth to eighth. It’s been an incredibly consistent run for the quartet of factory GTs in their final ride at Le Mans. Andy Priaulx, driver of the No. 67, was understandably subdued when asked about the team’s performance.
“We’ve struggled for pace from the beginning,” the Guernseyman said. “We were strong in qualifying but everyone else has turned up the wick. Difficult stints, but we’re still in it, top five.”
Signatech Alpine in LMP2 and Keating Motorsports in GTE Am are in the same boat as the other class leaders. It’s all about gap management, and staying out of trouble with the fatigue setting in.
During the hour, the only car to hit trouble was the Inter Europol Ligier in LMP2, the Polish team performing extensive repairs on its Ligier JS P217, including replacing its gearbox. There have been plenty of obstacles to overcome for the ELMS regular, but its mechanics have kept the team in the fight and assuming its Ligier can rejoin the race, will earn a finish in its first start at La Sarthe.