It would take a cruel stroke of fortune reminiscent of the pre-2018 years to deny the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrid and their drivers an overall victory after the penultimate hour of the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mike Conway, at the wheel of the No. 7, began the hour with a one lap advantage ahead of the No. 8 Toyota currently being driven by three-time overall winner Kazuki Nakajima. With 72 minutes left, Conway vacated the cockpit of the lead Toyota, leaving the last hour of the race in the hands of Kamui Kobayashi, who maintains his lead over his compatriot Nakajima.
In the battle for the last spot on the overall and Hypercar class podium, the No. 36 Alpine Elf Matmut A480-Gibson of Nicolas Lapierre, has a two minute advantage over the No. 708 Glickenhaus Racing 007-LMH of Olivier Pla. The No. 709 Glickenhaus is a further two laps behind, with Richard Westbrook relieving Ryan Briscoe with 83 minutes left.
Team WRT’s pair of ORECA 07-Gibson prototypes lead the way in the LMP2 class, but now, the lead has changed hands due to the No. 31 car’s issues with its failing air jacks. It’s now the No. 41 WRT ORECA, driven by Yifei Ye, which holds the top spot ahead of the No.31 of Robin Frijns.
JOTA Sport’s No. 28 ORECA of Tom Blomqvist is now within 30 seconds of the No. 31 WRT entry, and has a small window of opportunity to try and break up the WRT 1-2. The No. 65 Panis Racing ORECA of Will Stevens is fourth in class.
Renger van der Zande in the No. 34 Inter Europol Competition ORECA was being pursued for fifth place in LMP2 by Paul di Resta in the No. 23 United Autosports ORECA. After their intriguing duel, van der Zande was relieved with 78 minutes left for Alex Brundle.
In the LMP2 Pro-Am subcategory, the No. 21 DragonSpeed ORECA ran itself out of fuel after Ben Hanley missed his cue to pit, but he was able to get the car back to the pits and refuel without conceding the Pro-Am lead.
After another stint for Hanley, Juan Pablo Montoya is now at the wheel of the DragonSpeed car, leading the No. 70 RealTeam Racing ORECA now piloted by 2013 Le Mans winner Loic Duval.
AF Corse is continuing to home in on a sweep of the GTE classes. Its red No. 51 Ferrari 488 (pictured above) is still at the head of the GTE Pro class, in the hands of Alessandro Pier Guidi. The Italian has a margin of roughly 50 seconds to the No. 63 Corvette Racing C8.R of Antonio Garcia.
Porsche’s factory GTE Pro entries, the No. 92 of Kevin Estre and the No. 91 of Fred Makowiecki, are third and fourth in class as before. But the No. 91 Porsche lost its rear bumper after straightlining the Ford Chicane, necessitating a full-course yellow to close out this penultimate hour — and a black and orange “meatball” flag for the No. 91 Porsche.
— 24 Hours of Le Mans (@24hoursoflemans) August 22, 2021
In GTE Am, AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari still leads the way. Alessio Rovera has been relieved for Nicklas Nielsen, who is set to drive the silver and black Ferrari to the finish.
Felipe Fraga has taken over the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin AMR Vantage GTE in second, ahead of the No. 80 Iron Lynx Ferrari of Matteo Cressoni in third.
The No. 84 Association SRT41 ORECA is still on track, in 33rd-place overall. Matthieu Lahaye is at the wheel at the close of the 23rd hour, on track to bringing their Innovative car to the finish as Frederic Sausset did in 2016.