Toyotas swap places, disaster for Corvette

Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez led at one-third distance in the #7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid, 1.2s ahead of the #8 sister car of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa.

The #7 car took the lead from #8 when Kobayashi undercut Hirakawa in Hour 6 in the round of pitstops after their opening stints. Kobayashi then had two wild moments at dusk, at the Ford chicane and the renamed Daytona chicane, as he extended a 7s lead.

Oddly, it was Hirakawa who was being reassured towards the end of his stint on the radio – “It’s a long race, let’s stay calm” – as his team boss led the way despite his errors. But their positions were reversed anyway when the #7 lost time with a slow tire stop and got stuck behind a GT because as it rejoined in Conway’s hands, so Buemi took up the lead in #8.

But the lead switched again on the Mulsanne Straight, a charging Conway regaining the top spot just before the conclusion of Hour 7.

Glickenhaus gave distant chase, with the #708 leading #709 until Olivier Pla spun #708 at Tertre Rouge on an out lap – reversing their positions. Pla crabbed the #708 back to the pits for repairs to its left-rear suspension and it dropped outside the top 15 overall.

The other Hypercar, the #36 Alpine A480-Gibson, also suffered a dreadful time. Following the clutch fix in Hour 4, a long second stop ensued an hour later, with the team having to remove the exhaust banks as they switched the ignition coil.

Team boss Philippe Sinault explained: “The first [problem] was the clutch, the electronic box for the clutch, and the second was the coil for the engine, which we had to change. In total we lost 23 minutes… it’s like a nightmare.”

Alpine’s Andre Negrao rejoined 7 laps down, and then suffered a wild trip through the gravel at the Porsche Curves but continued.

In LMP2, the #38 JOTA Oreca 07-Gibson continued to stretch his legs at the head of the field as Roberto Gonzalez continued the good work of teammates Will Stevens and Antonio Felix da Costa. It runs fourth overall.

The chasing Team Penske #5 Oreca suffered an unscheduled stop for attention to its brake ducts and a new nose section after a front-left tire delaminated and damaged parts around it in Hour 6.

The #9 Prema Oreca of Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Lorenzo Colombo remains firmly in the hunt. Another early front runner, the #1 Richard Mille Racing Oreca, suffered a setback in in Hour 5 due to WRC legend Sebastien Ogier earning a one-minute stop/go penalty for an unsafe pit entry penalty and forcing a car off track.

Read Also:

#92 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR LMGTE Pro of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor

Photo by: Marc Fleury

Disaster for Corvette in GTE Pro

Corvette’s grip on the GTE Pro class disintegrated in this spell of the race, firstly when Nick Tandy suffered a brake pressure issue in the #64 Corvette C8.R, causing an unscheduled stop to rectify.

But the bigger blow came when the leading #63 suffered a left-rear suspension failure on the Mulsanne when 17s clear. Antonio Garcia had to drive back painfully slowly, and the car required lengthy repairs.

Rivals Porsche endured a less severe hit earlier when Frederic Makowiecki received a drive-through penalty in the #91 911 RSR-19 for “constant abuse” of track limits. But its untroubled #92 because of Kevin Estre, Michael Christensen and Laurens Vanthoor now holds a sizeable lead over the delayed #91.

There was also drama at Ferrari as its leading #52 AF Corse 488 suffered a front right puncture in Miguel Molina’s hands. That has elevated the #51 sister car of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra up to third in class, behind the Porsches and ahead of the #64 Corvette.

In GTE Am, #79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 of Cooper MacNeil, Julian Andlauer and Thomas Merrill leads #77 Dempsey-Proton version of Christian Ried, Harry Tincknell and Seb Priaulx. The #98 Northwest Aston Martin Vantage of Paul Dalla Lana, Nicki Thiim and David Pittard runs third.

Leave a Comment