Toyota/Michelin tastes Le Mans glory at last!
Toyota will be partying hard tonight after winning the famous Le Mans 24 Hours for the first time since its debut attempt at the world famous race in 1985. T...
The two Michelin-equipped Toyota TS050-Hybrids are running smoothly at the top of the order at Le Mans after 17 hours, with the N°8 car of Alonso/Buemi/Nakajima currently in front. The Japanese team has been running a quadruple stint strategy since the start. Porsche GT Team/Michelin’s N°92 and N°91 911 RSRs continue to set the pace in LM GTE Pro, and the German make leads the Am class, too. The N°26 G-Drive Oreca07 continues to stand out as the car to beat in LMP2.
Since our last interim report at 9pm Saturday, the situation at the top of the different classes has been relatively stable.
Indeed, the two Toyotas have figured at the top of the order throughout the night, with interest during the hours of darkness focusing notably on the attempt of the N°8 car to make up the two-minute deficit it suddenly found itself with as darkness started to sweep over the circuit.
The N°7 effectively emerged in front at around 9:30pm Saturday when its sister machine lost a chunk of time in a slow zone situation. The latter then fell further back when Buemi was forced to serve a one-minute stop-and-go penalty for speeding during a slow zone procedure.
When Alonso replaced the Swiss driver a little later, the gap between the two prototypes exceeded two minutes, but that clearly didn’t demoralise the Spaniard. Despite never having raced at Le Mans in the dark before, the ex-F1 champ produced an assertive quadruple stint that saw him bring the gap down to around 45 seconds. Nakajima then completed the job and, by 6:30am, the N°8 car was back in front.
And that is how it stands at the 17-hour mark, with the two prototypes split by 30 seconds.
The TS050 Hybrids are under no immediate threat, since their closest chaser – which is now the N°3 Rebellion following the overnight disappearance of the N°17 SMP Racing prototype (accident) – is 10 laps back. The N°1 Rebellion is fourth.
Fifth overall is the best-placed LMP2 prototype which is the N°26 G-Drive Racing car. Second in this class is the N°23 Panis Barthez Compétition Ligier/Michelin which has valiantly shrugged off pressure from the third-placed N°36 Alpine. The Alpine did hold second spot for a while following a great effort by Nicolas Lapierre during the night but it has since fallen almost two minutes back.
The two Porsche GT Team 911 RSRs have been going well and are clear at the top in LM GTE Pro. The N°92 car found itself with a nice little cushion earlier when the N°91 sister car was caught up in the wrong ‘train’ as the Safety Car was deployed for the first time on Saturday evening. The N°68 and N°69 Fords follow in third and fourth positions and haven’t allowed the German cars to ease up, while the N°63 Corvette is up to fifth thanks to the consistent work of its three drivers.
The Am class is also topped by Porsche/Michelin, and more specifically by the N°77 Dempsey-Proton car which is currently being chased by a pair of Ferraris.