With half of the race now complete, the number of retirees has only risen by two at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Toyota Gazoo Racing continue to lead an unchallenged one-two at the front of the field, but they are not the only team dominating their class.
Stations have remained the same in the Hypercar class, with the #7 Toyota leading the #8 at the front of the grid. During the last six hours, the #7 did take an additional pit stop breaking out of sync with the sister car pitting only seven laps into its stint rather than the usual 12. Toyota has stated that this decision was made to take advantage of the slow zone that was going on, meaning that they lost less time to their competitors than usual during that pit stop. Still holding half a minute lead on the sister car at the end of hour 12, this seems to be a tactic that has currently paid off.
Hour seven brought incident for the then third-placed #36 Alpine Elf Matmut, which ended up beached in the gravel at the Mulsanne Chicane. The spin was easily recovered, but the time lost waiting for the recovery crane meant that the unchallenged third place it had held onto – overall and in class – was lost, returning to the track fourth in class and seventh overall. It took the team until the 11th hour to get back to third in class and overall, really stifling the French team’s chance of taking the overall win on pace alone. However, there is still half a race to go, and anything can happen.
The #708 Scuderia cameron Glickenhaus is carrying the flame for the team, back ahead of the LMP2 field making it fourth in class and overall. Sadly the second #709 continues to struggle, tenth overall fighting with the #28 JOTA for position.
After a hectic hour six, the LMP2 cars seemed to settle down having a fairly incident-free six hours of racing. It was the end of hour eight that saw another retiree from the 89th 24 Hours of Le Mans when Rui Andrade had a big off between the Dunlop Curves and Tetre Rouge, spinning the car into the barriers and destroying the front and rear of the #25 G-Drive Racing. As much as he tried to get the car moving again, the damage was too much to fix without outside help, so the car was forced to retire.
In the shuffled order after hour six, Team WRT has taken advantage of the loss of most of the frontrunners from contention, holding a steady one-two at the front of the class. At the end of hour twelve, #31 is ahead, the car which has lead most of the last six hours, having made up the time on the sister car optimising pit stops. The WRTs hold a five lap lead on third in class #22 Untied Autosports and are in a very strong position at the halfway point.
The #74 Racing Team India Eurasia was given a ten second stop/go penalty for the Sophia Florsch incident that took out the #1 Richard Mille Racing in hour six.
After their big impact with sister #23, the #32 United Autosports has joined the list of retirees with too much damage to be able to continue.
The #63 Corvette Racing has been the meat in a Ferrari sandwich throughout the last six hours of racing, able to keep off the attack from the #52 AF Corse behind whilst trying to close in on the #51 ahead. With around a 20-second buffer between each of the top three cars, the AF Corse of James Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Côme Ledogar continue to lead the way. This three way fight has plenty of longevity left however, and is certainly not over yet.
Towards the end of hour 12, the #79 WeatherTech Racing had a big spin, but was able to continue and get back to the pits for repairs. However, with the medical light going off and the damage fairly severe it has also retired from the race.
The biggest loser in these six hours was GTE Am, with eight retirees.
The seventh hour started with the third Safety Car of the race as the Team Project 1 #56 Porsche had a big impact with the barrier at the Mulsanne Chicane, taking it out and forcing it to need repairs. The hit was so hard that the medical light came on, giving the driver no chance to recover to the pits and be forced to retire. The driver was completely fine and got out of the car, and has gone to have the precautionary medical checks.
Not long after this, then class leader #33 TF Sport was seen performing almost the exact same incident, but it turned out the car had picked up a puncture from the debris on track. It was able to get back to the pits for new tyres, but it lost the Aston Martin its hold on class lead. To keep the incidents coming, the top of the eighth hour saw Roberto Lacorte spin the Cetilar Racing #47 Ferrari at Tetre Rouge and take the car out of the race.
The #55 Spirit of Race, #66 JWM Motorsport and #57 Kessel Racing all had incidents that they appeared to recovered from, but unfortunately all three cars have also retired from the race. After stopping at Tetre Rouge after an incident with the tyre barrier, the #55 had looked like it would continue, getting back to the pits under its own steam. However mechanical issues forced the Ferrari to withdraw from the race. It was the same story for the #66 JWM Motorsport, who had pitted due to a puncture. Sadly, upon returning to the track, the car completed a full electric shut down and after being craned back to the pits was also out of the race. A suspect brake overheating, radiator issue or engine failure took the Kessel Racing out of Le Mans as the car pulled to a stop, smoking at the side of the track.
With suspension damage and a broken right rear axel respectively, the #46 Team Project 1 and #99 Dempsey Proton Racing have both retired from the pits with too much damage to carry on. 12 cars have now retired from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
After the action-packed thirty minutes, the racing settled down, leaving the #83 AF Corse to hold the lead in class. #33 TF Sport managed to recover to second, trailing the #83 by around 1m15s but with a competitive lead over third-placed #80 Iron Lynx. Callum Illot completed his first 24 Hours of Le Mans stint in the #80 with minimal incident to help keep his Ferrari team in podium contention.