With just four hours to go at Le Mans, a 1-2 finish for Toyota looks ever more likely; the No. 7 continuing the lead the field with Jose Maria Lopez.
Both GR010s are nursing fuel problems, but continue to run at a strong pace. With a margin of 18 minutes to the nearest challenger, it’s going to take major drama to deny the Japanese marque its first Hypercar-era Le Mans victory.
But the fight for third is becoming more interesting as the race-end closes in. Alpine is third with Matthieu Vaxiviere at the wheel, but the A480 isn’t as good on fuel mileage as the No. 708 Glickenhaus that is 2m31s behind with Pipo Derani pushing hard. The No. 708 has done just 23 stops, the Alpine 26, and this advantage looks set to come into play at the end of the race. Will we see a grandstand finish for the final podium spot? The fans trackside will certainly be hoping so.
In LMP2, the only incident of the hour was the demise of the Risi Competition ORECA, which pulled into the pits with a suspected engine failure, smoke bellowing out of the side exhausts.
“I’d just jumped in the car, everything was OK, was on a lap then suddenly lost power in Sector 3,” Oliver Jarvis said after bringing the car into the pits. “I had a sensor warning on the dash. The cameras picked it up and they advised me to come in.
“We’ve had a few issues; a rear bodywork section that dislodged and wouldn’t come off. We then had an oil leak. An eventful 19 hours. Generally when you see smoke like that, it’s terminal. I’m gutted for the guys, they’ve worked so hard for months now.”
We now wait to find out if the fan-favorite American team has been forced to retire from its first LMP2 start at Le Mans.
As for the lead battles in GTE Pro and Am, things have stabilized, but it feels as though further excitement is still to come. No. 51 AF Corse driver James Calado is pushing hard to hold off Nicky Catsburg’s No. 63 Corvette at the head of the Pro class. The C8.R is 41s back, though it lost a chance to make up real ground with fresh tires early in the hour due to slow zones. However, it feels as if that battle is far from over. The American manufacturer will be throwing everything at this one to claim a win for the C8.R in its first Le Mans start – how will AF Corse respond?
Behind, the Porsche inter-team battle for third has calmed down too, with the No. 92 of Kevin Estre back ahead of the No. 91 of Gianmaria Bruni, the gap back up to 18 seconds after a sequence at the top of the hour where the pair ran nose-to-tail.
GTE Am on the other hand, is a much closer fight right now. AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari is hanging on, Francois Perrodo doing everything he can to fend off fellow Bronze driver Ben Keating. Dylan Pereira, Keating’s teammate at TF Sport, has been superb in his first Le Mans start and set up a thrilling finale during his most recent stint, reducing the gap by 30 or so seconds.
“We are pushing as hard as we can,” he told WEC TV after handing the No. 33 over to Keating. “We don’t have to do a brake change with the Aston, so we are hoping to make up time in the pits and be there in the end for the fight for the win.”
Keating is currently reeling in the No. 83, the gap down from 19s when his stint began, to 13s by the end of the hour. The two contenders are on very different fuel strategies though, pitting multiple laps apart. It will be interesting to see how that shakes out in the final hour or two.