With a quarter of the 2021 Le Mans 24 Hours to run the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 HYBRID’s chances of winning are only increasing.
Kamui Kobayashi has climbed in for another stint and is now a full lap ahead of the No. 8, which continues to suffer minor hiccups. The car, Toyota tells RACER, has to stop more frequently as it cannot complete a full stint due to a fuel glitch, and it also has a vibration problem.
Sebastien Buemi has been nursing the issues’ This was evident two laps after the car’s 24th stop of the race – 45 minutes into the hour – when he had to slow to a crawl down the Mulsanne Straight to change various settings on the car. While the No.8 was crawling, the No. 7 went past and put a full lap on it for the first time in the race. It simply isn’t the No. 8’s day. Both the Alpine and Glickenhaus crews will be keeping tabs on this situation closely as they push for podium places towards the end of the race.
It must be pointed out at this point that for all five Le Mans Hypercar entries to get to the three-quarter mark with no major mechanical problems is mighty impressive. Toyota’s GR010s and Glickenhaus’ 007s are new to 24-hour racing, and Alpine’s grandfathered A480 isn’t known for being bulletproof.
The only other on-track drama in the hour was Sam Bird suffering a right-front puncture on the exit of Mulsanne Corner in the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari, destroying the right-front corner. It was a long crawl back to the pits, but Bird made it before the turn of the hour. It’s all hands on deck in the AF Corse pit box to get the car back out to claim fifth in class.
“Everything was fine, but when it’s not your day, it’s not your day,” Bird said. “We’ve had a difficult Le Mans on this side of the garage. We’ll have to give it a go next year. This puncture has ripped the car apart – it’s not going to be a quick fix.”
Luckily for AF Corse, the gap to the next car in the class is over 20 laps, as the No. 64 Corvette, in sixth was pushed back into the garage yet again for more work during the hour. It’s been a horrid race for Corvette’s ‘Silver Machine’. Following its clutch problem in the middle of the night, the team tells RACER the issue is now with the alternator.
LMP2 and GTE Am meanwhile, were almost completely static in the hour,:no dramas, no major battles, WRT is still firmly in control of the former, AF Corse up front in the latter. With six hours to go though, there’s almost certainly more thrills and spills to come.