LM 24, Hour 12: JOTA, Porsche and Toyota in command

Rainier Ehrhardt/Motorsport Images

LM 24, Hour 12: JOTA, Porsche and Toyota in command

Le Mans/WEC

LM 24, Hour 12: JOTA, Porsche and Toyota in command


It’s 4 o’clock in the morning in Le Mans, and we’ve reached half-distance in the 90th running of the Grand Prix d’Endurance.

The first half of the race has been led, overall and in Hypercar class, by the two Toyota Gazoo Racing GR010 Hybrids — as predicted in the formbook. With 12 hours completed, it’s the No. 8 Toyota leading the race, as Sebastien Buemi and Brendon Hartley chase their third victories at Le Mans.

Right now, it’s their new teammate, Ryo Hirakawa, who leads the race by 18s after completing 195 laps of racing. In second is the No. 7 Toyota of defending champions Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez, and driver/team principal Kamui Kobayashi, who is now at the wheel and closing in on the past Super GT premier class champion in front of him.

Glickenhaus Racing has its No.709 SCG 007 LMH running third overall. Ryan Briscoe is at the wheel for teammates Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux. The second Glickenhaus entry, the No. 708 SCG 007 piloted by Romain Dumas, has fought its way back into the overall top 10 after co-driver Olivier Pla had an incident at Tertre Rouge, while remaining fourth in class.

And after multiple mechanical issues, the No.36 Alpine Elf Team A480-Gibson is trying to claw its way back into the overall top 20, but it is nailed to fifth and last in the Hypercar class.

The LMP2 class promised an intense battle yet so far, it has been dominated by the No. 38 JOTA ORECA 07-Gibson driven by Roberto Gonzalez, Antonio Felix da Costa and Will Stevens, which is fourth overall.

Da Costa is currently at the wheel and holds a lead of nearly three minutes; he and Stevens have been doing long-haul stints in the night, which means come daytime, Gonzalez will need to fulfill his drive time in the back half of the race.

The No. 9 Prema Orlen Team ORECA currently runs in second place, now being piloted by second-generation Le Mans driver Louis Deletraz. WRT has its No. 31 ORECA running third, driven by Indonesia’s Sean Gelael, and after pit stops towards the end of the hour, the No. 5 Team Penske ORECA of Felipe Nasr is fourth, the No. 28 JOTA ORECA of Oliver Rasmussen in fifth, and the No. 37 COOL Racing ORECA of Ricky Taylor is sixth.

LMP2 Pro-Am is currently led by Slovakian squad ARC Bratislava, whose No. 44 ORECA is being piloted by young Dutchman Bent Viscaal. It’s running 15th out of all LMP2 cars.

In the GTE Pro class, the works Porsche GT Team is out in front, as it has been since nightfall. The No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor has a lead of over two minutes, ahead of the No. 64 Corvette Racing C8.R of Nick Tandy in second. Estre has just taken over for Vanthoor at the end of this hour.

The No. 91 Porsche of Frederic Makowiecki, with Gianmaria Bruni and Richard Lietz, has been running off-sequence but is still in the mix for an overall podium. They’re currently scored fourth overall between the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in third and the No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari in fifth, followed by the No. 74 Riley Motorsport Ferrari in sixth.

Corvette Racing’s hopes of victory rest solely on the No. 64 car after the No. 63 was compromised by lingering effects from a puncture suffered earlier in the race. The car is more than 20 laps off the class lead.

Porsche customer teams have dominated proceedings in the GTE Am class so far, but the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen has taken the lead at half-distance. Chaves is at the wheel, having overtaken the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche of Cooper MacNeil this past hour.

Behind the No. 79, the No. 99 Hardpoint Motorsports Porsche of Martin Rump is third, followed by the No. 98 Northwest AMR Vantage of Nicki Thiim in fourth, the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche of Harry Tincknell in fifth and the No.56 Team Project 1 Porsche of Ben Barnicoat in sixth.

There have been just three retirements, all within the GTE Am class: The No. 46 Team Project 1 Porsche, the No. 71 Spirit of Race Ferrari, and the No. 777 D’station Racing Vantage — the latter not officially retired, but D’station Racing has declared they will not be able to return to the race.