Brendon Hartley’s quest for a second Le Mans victory has been scuppered with the #8 Toyota losing two laps on the leading #7 sister car due to a brake change.
Both Toyota’s blitzed the field in the first portion of the race, lapping over three-seconds per lap quicker than their nearest challenger. But a puncture for Sebastian Buemi put the #8 on an alternative pit strategy. As such, both cars shared time leading the race as darkness descended over the La Sarthe circuit.
Two big accidents punctuated the first eight hours, the first for a GTE Am Ferrari which crashed at Porsche Curves. The car piloted by Alex West pitched himself into a spin and shaved the left-hand side of his car along the barrier.
The second accident involved the No. 30 Duqueine ORECA at the first chicane along the Mulsanne straight. Fortunately, the car collected the barrier rear first. The safety car was required twice, firstly to recover the car and the second to allow heavy machinery to repair the damaged barrier.
The dramas then occurred for the #8 when the team were compelled to bring the car into the garage for ten minutes as the resolved a brake cooling trouble. The car dropped a lap on their leading teammate who ambled behind the safety car.
The #1 Rebellion continues to saunter around in third while the lone Bykolles entry became the top categories first retirement with mechanical gremlins. The team already had their race hampered when the rear wing detached through the Esses which dropped them eight laps on the leaders.
It leaves just four LMP1 cars in the race.
United Autosport holds the lead in LMP2 courtesy of a drive-through penalty for Jean-Eric Vergne in the G-Drive Oreca. Despite that, the G-Drive team are well in contention for the lead as differing pit strategies has seen the lead swap hands on several occasions.
GTE Pro has delivered the most entertaining on-track battle with the Aston Martin Vantage of Maxime Martin hunting down and passing the #51 Ferrari. Sprinkles of rain has seemingly upset the momentum of the Ferrari who held a convincing lead after the six-hour mark.
Aston Martin also holds the advantage in GTE Am with the British marque controlling a 1-2 lead.
Fellow Kiwi Tom Blomqvist sits 48th overall in the Hub Auto Ferrari while Australian GT ace Matt Campbell has completed his first stint and currently sits fifth in class – 34th overall – in the Dempsey Proton Porsche 911.