Hour 21 saw things begin to heat up in LMP1. After a few hours of relative calm, three of the four contenders met each other on-track, making for a thrilling sequence.
The gap between the two Rebellions continues to shrink during each stint between stops, with the No. 3 now ahead of the No. 1 on the road for most of every hour. In terms of drivers, Romain Dumas is in the No. 3 and Gustavo Menezes is aboard the No. 1.
As the two met each other on track during the 21st hour, both drivers were instructed by the team on the pit wall to hold station, but the struggling No. 7 Toyota (which has floor damage and is not fully up to speed) was right behind, caught Menezes and began to put pressure on.
Radio exchanges saw Menezes ordered by his engineer to hold back from Dumas, but the American quite rightly pointed out that it was hard to keep a two-second gap to the sister car with Kamui Kobayashi in the No. 7 on his rear bumper.
Kobayashi took advantage of this situation and promptly found a way to squeeze past the No. 3, then the No. 1, which relieved the pressure briefly before Dumas had to pit and hand over second place to Menezes.
It’s clear that Rebellion are trying to be cautious now, and secure two spots on the overall podium in what is the team’s final Le Mans. The engineers on the pit wall are worried that the brakes will not last until the end of the race if the drivers carry on pushing.
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The only other key moves during the hour came in GTE Am. TF Sport’s lead is safe, though Salih Yoluc, who was thought to have finished his mandatory driving time, is back in for surely one final stint?
It’s behind the leading Aston that the positions are changing. The No. 83 Ferrari, having sat second for much of the second half of this race to this point, is now down to fourth. Francois Perrodo during what looks to be his final stint in the race was unable to fend off the charge of Ricardo Pera in the No. 77 Dempsey Proton Porsche and Matteo Cairoli in the No. 56 Project 1 911.
After the most recent round of stops, the order is now as follows: Pera is up to second, just 3.2 seconds ahead of Larry Ten Voorde who is back in the No. 56 after Cairoli’s efforts. Nicklass Nielsen has taken over from Perrodo and is a further 13 seconds down the road. It could be a real door-banger to the end between these three!
The other two classes remained relatively static during the hour. The gap between the No. 97 Aston Martin and No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari is just over a minute now, the margin fluctuating at each stops as tyre and driver changes cause an ebb and flow.
It’s still the No. 22 United ORECA leading LMP2 meanwhile. Antonio Felix Da Costs continues to try and keep the leading car honest and bring the gap down. The margin is currently just over 90 seconds.