There’s just five hours left to run at Le Mans and key storylines are beginning to emerge in the Hypercar and GTE Pro classes with the end of the race now in sight.
Up front, Toyota’s lead remains comfortable, the No. 7 and No. 8 five laps clear of the chasing Alpine. However, vibration and fueling issues continue to dent the team’s confidence. The No. 8 has been managing problems for hours now, and No. 7 now has fuel glitches of its own. The inability to complete a full stint with either car now will be a cause for concern. It remains to be seen whether or not things will get any worse for the leading cars.
GTE Pro, meanwhile, is hotting up. The gap between the leading pair closed to just 47 seconds after the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Come Ledogar had to undergo a brake change at its 18th stop. The pit work was rapid, and the car only lost a minute in the pits, but it allowed Nicky Catsburg in the No. 63 Corvette to get within striking distance and the American crew is putting the pressure on.
Behind, the battle for third is also on. Fred Makowiecki spent the entire hour in the No. 91 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR 19 reeling in his teammate Neel Jani in the No. 92. He took 19 seconds out of the Swiss before the No. 92’s 19th stop, then made the move through traffic on newly-installed Kevin Estre once the battle resumed after the pit cycle. As the 20th hour began, the battle raged on, Mako and Estre nose-to-tail for the final podium spot, Estre with brand new rubber and looking pacy.
LMP2 and GTE Am are still rather quiet as we head into the final hours. WRT’s 1-2 formation run at the head of LMP2 perhaps the most impressive team performance of anyone to this point.
JOTA team boss Sam Hignett was full of praise when asked about the chances of his No. 28 ORECA which sits third.
“The No. 28 is doing really well,” he told WEC TV. “It hasn’t been easy, the guys have driven brilliantly. We’re just hoping to be there for a podium. I’m not surprised with WRT, they’ve executed a perfect race, the drivers have made no mistakes. It’s what you expect from a team of that caliber.”
AF Corse’s No. 83, meanwhile, continues to dominate GTE Am in a similar fashion to WRT’s ORECAs in LMP2. However, TF Sport’s No. 33 Aston that sits in second and within 20 seconds. Dylan Pereira is reeling in Francois Perrodo by a handful of seconds each lap – watch for this battle to come alive in the next hour.