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No. 8 Toyota Three Minutes Clear with Four Hours to Go

Hirakawa out front for Toyota heading into final stages; lead changes in GTE-Pro…

Photo: MPS Agency

The No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid driven by Ryo Hirakawa held a near three-minute lead over the sister No. 7 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi with four hours to go at Le Mans.

An earlier electric motor reset for the No. 7 car enabled the trouble-free No. 8 machine to stretch its legs at the head of the field leading up to midday on Sunday.

A safety car period occurred during the 19th hour, caused by an accident for LMP2 pole-sitter Robin Frijns at the exit of Indianapolis, however this combined with a subsequent slow zone did little to impact the approximate three-minute margin.

Franck Mailleux continued Glickenhaus Racing’s quest for a Le Mans outright podium with its No. 709 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo, which sat four laps off the top Toyota in third place.

With four hours to go, the No. 709 Glickenhaus of Romain Dumas was seventh overall, behind the top three LMP2 cars. The beleaguered Alpine was down in 26th.

LMP2 front-runner JOTA pitted during the safety car and despite losing some time at pit exit, maintained its clear category lead with the No. 38 Oreca 07 Gibson.

After 20 hours of racing, Antonio Felix da Costa led from Prema driver Lorenzo Colombo by just over two minutes.

The battle for the remaining podium places in LMP2 has been slightly tighter, with Oliver Rasmussen around 48 seconds behind Colombo in the No. 28 JOTA Oreca.

The safety car bunched up the GTE-Pro lead battle, with Frederic Makowiecki’s No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR-19 coming onto the tail of Alessandro Pier Guidi’s leading No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Makowiecki put the pressure on defending class winner Pier Guidi until the pair came into the pits simultaneously after 19 and a half hours.

Ferrari opted to keep Pier Guidi behind the wheel, whereas Porsche carried out a full service including a driver change to Gianmaria Bruni.

That set the Porsche around 14 seconds behind the Ferrari, but it was soon thrust into the lead when Pier Guidi pitted unexpectedly with a right-rear puncture.

At the 20-hour mark, Bruni led Pier Guidi by 40 seconds, with Antonio Fuoco a further three minutes back in fourth aboard the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari.

Ben Keating led GTE-Am in the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE, the Texan running 1-minute 45s ahead of Aboslute Racing Porsche driver Martin Rump.

WeatherTech Racing sat third with its No. 79 Porsche and had Gold-rated driver Julien Andlauer strapped in with four hours to go, with the target of making up ground.

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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