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24H Le Mans

No. 8 Toyota Out Front After Eight Hours as Night Falls

Toyotas battle for the lead as SMP cars fight for third at Le Mans; Porsche leads Pro

Photo: James Moy/Toyota

The No. 8 Toyota has opened up a lead over its sister car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a Jose Maria Lopez lock-up in hour eight put Kazuki Nakajima ahead.

Toyota’s No. 7 T0S05 Hybrid, which started from pole, had a minute-plus lead over its sister machine in the sixth hour but this was reduced to a trace through a pair of safety car periods.

Nakajima leapfrogged Lopez in the pit cycle during the second of these safety car interventions but the Argentinian got back ahead by drafting past in traffic on the Mulsanne.

Lopez set about increasing his advantage in hour eight but the tables turned at the front when he locked his tires up into Mulsanne corner, allowing Nakajima through.

A further slight off for Lopez at Indianapolis helped extend Nakajima’s advantage, which was pulled back during the next set of pit stops in hour eight as the No. 8 crew applied a new nose cone, before swelling again as one-third distance approached.

The Toyotas, now seven seconds apart, are continuing to circulate a lap ahead of the two SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AERs, which have shaken free from the Rebellion R13 Gibson challenge behind.

A slow three-minute pit stop cost the leading No. 3 Rebellion time and dropped it two laps off the overall leader.

At the close of eight hours, the No. 17 SMP machine was running in third position, seven seconds ahead of Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 11 car.

In LMP2, Jean-Eric Vergne overtook Andre Negrao to swing the balance back in the favor of the No. 26 Oreca-based G-Drive Racing Aurus 01 Gibson.

Signatech had led much of the opening third but Vergne drafted past Negrao and imposed a gap of around 11 seconds after Nicolas Lapierre climbed into the Alpine A470 Gibson.

DragonSpeed was a further 30 seconds down the road in third, while the two Jackie Chan DC Racing Orecas completed the top five.

A quicker seventh-hour pit stop from Porsche enabled the championship-leading No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR to emerge ahead of the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo in the GTE-Pro class battle.

At the eight-hour point, Kevin Estre in the Porsche held a 10-second advantage over Antonio Garcia in the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, which along with the No. 67 Ford GT had worked past the lead Ferrari.

Marcel Fassler has been deemed responsible for the incident that took Corvette’s No. 64 car out of the race earlier.

The Swiss driver collided with Satoshi Hoshino’s Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR in a high-speed accident through the latter part of the Porsche Curves.

Hoshino continued but Fassler was forced to retire the No. 64 Corvette C7.R. He was fined €7000 and had six penalty points taken away.

The Keating Motorsports Ford GT continues to lead the GTE-Am class from the JMW Motorsport Ferrari.


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

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