Le Mans TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at the front with both its GR010 HYBRID Hypercars

Le Mans TOYOTA GAZOO Racing at the front with both its GR010 HYBRID Hypercars

TOYOTA GAZOO Racing moved into the final six hours of the 2022 Le Mans 24 Hours with both its GR010 HYBRID Hypercars at the head of the field.

For nearly 16 hours, just a few seconds separated the two cars at the front as TOYOTA GAZOO Racing fights for a fifth consecutive victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

But a front motor issue for the #7 GR010 HYBRID of 2021 winners Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López dropped them out of the lead and handed Sébastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa, in the #8 GR010 HYBRID, an advantage of almost a complete lap at the end of the 18th hour.

The #8 car had held the early advantage after starting from pole position following Brendon’s spectacular last-minute lap in Hyperpole on Thursday. But the lead changed hands several times in the first 12 hours with neither car taking control as the challenge of Le Mans took its toll on the 62-car field.

Mike’s pace just before the first driver change gave the #7 car an early lead, which was relinquished when José ran slightly off track two hours later having also lost time in an unfortunately-timed slow zone.

Ryo led Le Mans for the first time in his career but was delayed by a GT car in the fifth hour which allowed Kamui to get passed in the #7. But when the race reached half distance, it was the #8 at the front having shown strong pace as well as losing less time that the sister car in slow zones.

Fortunes swung back towards the #7 in hour 14 when another slow zone around the pit stops helped Mike establish a lead of almost half a minute. Car #8 suffered further misfortune with a 15th-hour puncture for Sébastien.

But the pendulum swung on lap 256 when José was forced to stop on the side of the track and perform a system reset. He returned to the pits for a further reset during a 3mins 7secs stop and resumed at normal racing speed in second place, one lap behind the #8.

A slow puncture soon after further hindered José, although the #7 held a comfortable four-lap advantage over the third-placed #709 Glickenhaus. At the end of the 18th hour, Brendon was at the wheel of the #8 at the head of the field, with José still piloting the #7.

Kamui Kobayashi (Driver, car #7):
“My two stints so far went well but it was very busy on the track and the traffic is quite difficult. We don’t want to lose time lapping cars but it was important not to take risks, even though the fight between the two cars was very close. It’s a pity to have the issue, especially because we were leading. These things can happen in a 24-hour race so we just have to focus on the last hours. We are in second and the target is a one-two for TOYOTA GAZOO Racing; we are on target for that. There’s still a lot of racing left; we are in good shape and we will keep pushing.”

Ryo Hirakawa (Driver, car #8):
“I am really enjoying racing the GR010 HYBRID at Le Mans; it is a lot of fun. My first stint was when the sun was going down and it’s quite tricky because at some corners the visibility is not good. Then my second stint was in the dark which is special here. Our car is very competitive and the team has done a great job so far with strategy and pit stops. There are still six hours to go and we need to have a clean run, with no mistakes or issues.”

Le Mans 24 Hours – 18 Hours:
1st #8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing 287 laps
2nd #7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing +4mins 21.258secs
3rd #709 Glickenhaus Racing (Briscoe/Westbrook/Mailleux) +4 laps
4th #38 JOTA (Gonzalez/Da Costa/Stevens) +8 laps
5th #9 Prema Orlen Team (Kubica/Deletraz/Colombo) +9 laps
6th #28 JOTA (Rasmussen/Jones/Aberdein) +9 laps

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