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24H Le Mans

Chasing Toyota Drops Off Lead Lap with Three Hours Left

Slow stop for No. 8 Toyota enables sister car to gain a lap advantage at Le Mans…

Photo: MPS Agency

A slow pit stop resulted in the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid dropping off the lead lap at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, handing its sister car a comfortable lead with three hours to go.

Brendon Hartley spent just under two minutes on pit road early in the 21st hour, which cost the New Zealander half a minute to Jose Maria Lopez in the teammate No. 7 Toyota.

This was enough for Lopez’s car, which is also driven by Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi, to move one lap clear at the head of the field.

The No. 8 Toyota’s longer stop involved a mechanic working with a laptop in the cockpit to diagnose an issue, and followed the car running shorter stints on Sunday morning to manage an inability to use its full tank of fuel.

Toyota’s No. 7 machine also ran a handful of shorter stints in what appeared to be a similar management measure, but was able to recover to its 13-lap standard.

Matthieu Vaxiviere was third in the No. 36 Alpine A480 Gibson with three hours to go, four laps off the lead and one lap behind Hartley.

The Alpine was being closed down by the No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo LMH in the early stages of hour 20, with Franck Mailleux getting to within 20 seconds of Vaxiviere at one stage.

However, the gap went back out after a Full Course Yellow period later in the same hour for debris.

The sixth-placed overall No. 709 Glickenhaus pitted just before three hours to go with Romain Dumas at the wheel.

Team WRT held a one-two in the LMP2 class after 21 hours, with Ferdinand Habsburg in the Belgian team’s No. 31 Oreca 07 Gibson running ahead of Louis Deletraz who made his No. 41 car’s latest pit stop just before the hour mark.

JOTA’s No. 28 Oreca was more than a minute behind in third place, with Panis Racing and Inter Europol Competition circulating in fourth and fifth as they have done for the last four hours.

The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo continued to lead GTE-Pro from Corvette Racing and the two factory Porsche 911 RSR-19s.

Ferrari brought its No. 51 machine into the pits for a brake change after 18 and a half hours, but Come Ledogar retained lead over the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driven by Nicky Catsburg.

This brought the gap down from more than a minute to half a minute, but Catsburg lost some of the time gained during a slow zone period at the first Mulsanne chicane.

With three hours to go, James Calado was leading by 35 seconds from Catsburg who is teamed up with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor.

The two Porsche GT Team cars switched places on track early in the 20th hour when Kevin Estre powered past Frederic Makowiecki into the first corner.

Porsche is still on the fringes of the GTE-Pro battle, with Estre’s co-driver Michael Christensen working to reduce a deficit of almost a lap to the No. 63 Corvette.

In GTE-Am, AF Corse’s No. 83 Ferrari has dominated since late Saturday evening.

TF Sport Aston Martin driver Ben Keating took some time out of Francois Perrodo during a pair of Bronze-driver stints, but the Ferrari remained out front.

Iron Lynx’s Nos. 80 and 60 Ferraris ran third and fourth, ahead of the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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