Efficient pit work from the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing crew put Kamui Kobayashi out front in time for the halfway point of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The two Toyota TS050 Hybrids have been exchanging positions throughout the FIA World Endurance Championship season finale, but it was the No. 7 leading after 12 hours.
Kobayashi’s co-driver Mike Conway was just behind Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 sister car for most of the twelfth hour after the field was bunched by a safety car at the end of Hour 9.
This intervention was caused by an accident for the hitherto third-placed SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER which crashed at the Porsche Curves.
Conway chased Buemi throughout the next stint but couldn’t quite find a way past, however a faster service from the No. 7 crew brought Kobayashi out half a second ahead, despite the No. 8 team keeping Buemi behind the wheel for a quintuple stint.
A sixth safety car of the weekend, triggered by the ARC Bratislava Ligier LMP2 car going off at Indianapolis, bunched Buemi onto Kobayashi’s tail but the Japanese driver eked out a gap just after the restart and into the second half of the race.
In third was the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson with Nathanael Berthon at the wheel, ahead of the lone remaining SMP BR1 of Stoffel Vandoorne, both two laps off the pace.
The GTE-Pro class was led at halfway by the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor, who had a 30-second advantage over the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo wiped out by the most recent safety car.
Three of the four Porsche 911 RSRs worked their way into the top five during the opening stages of night running, while the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs placed fifth through eighth.
The No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R has also been a mainstay in the top ten.
LMP2 has been dominated so far by the G-Drive Racing Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson, while Keating Motorsports has controlled much of the GTE-Am race with its privately-run Ford GT.