We’re approaching the quarter mark of the Le Mans 24 Hours and the light is already beginning to fade trackside.
Toyota No. 7 is firmly in control, but the team’s tire issues persist. The No. 8 of Brendon Hartley, which had closed in to within a handful of seconds of the leading car after the safety car in Hour 4, has now dropped back and is almost two minutes behind after having to make yet another unscheduled stop to change the right-rear tire as a precaution for a suspected puncture.
There’s no panic or major cause for concern yet, but both cars have had to pit for slow punctures, supposedly caused by debris, yet no other cars in the field are suffering from similar dramas. This may be something to monitor as the race wears on and the track becomes dirtier.
The stop for the No. 8 means that the No. 36 Alpine, which has effectively been running its own race since its spin in the opening laps, is just over a minute behind now, sitting in third.
The best fighting on-track meanwhile, came in the LMP2 class, with the No. 28 JOTA ORECA of Stoffel Vandoorne battling hard for the lead in the class with Wayne Boyd in the No. 23 United Autosports ORECA. The two came together multiple times before Boyd got a break in traffic through the Porsche Curves, giving him a comfortable gap out front, allowing Franco Colapinto in the No. 26 G-Drive Aurus to catch up to Vandoorne and challenge for second.
At the end of the hour, the pit stops occurred and shuffled the order, the G-Drive Aurus taking the lead out of sync.
Racing Team Nederland’s ORECA, which was challenging for the lead early on, is now down to ninth in class, after Bronze-rated Frits Van Eerd climbed in, unable to keep pace with the pros at the head of the field.
In GTE, Corvette, all of a sudden, has made up ground, the C8.R seemingly the car to have in the current conditions. Jordan Taylor led most of the hour until the fifth round of stops, setting fastest laps. The No. 63 (pictured, top) looks very much in the fight now, rising and falling as the AF Corse Ferraris pit out of sync.
Heading into Hour 6 it’s once again an AF Corse 1-2, the No. 51 back out in front, Come Ledogar leading Sam Bird in the No. 52. They, and the No. 92 Porsche in third, are due to fall back behind the Corvette in the hour. The pendulum looks set to swing for hours to come.
GTE Am appears to be setting into a TF vs AF Corse battle, meanwhile, as Dylan Pereira leads in the No. 33 Aston, 39 seconds ahead of Francois Perrodo in the No. 83 Ferrari. The Kessel Racing Ferrari is still in the podium spaces in third.
Further down the order, there’s been trouble for the No. 99 Proton Porsche, which is in the garage with a broken bolt in its suspension which needs drilling out. Down in 59th place, it’s going to be a long race for the team now once the car rejoins the action.
As for the weather, it’s started to rain once again. It’s light at the moment, but there are threatening clouds above.