The mano a mano between the two Japanese Hypercars punctuated the lead of a race despite the setbacks of Alpine and rookie Michael Fassbender.
Not surprisingly, there has been Toyota and the others since the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans this Saturday (4 p.m.). The two Japanese single-seaters continued to take turns all night at the head of the race, with a large lead over all the competition and a slight advantage for the N.7 on Sunday at sunrise. The N.8, which had achieved a hat-trick between 2018 and 2020, had started on pole, but the N.7, which had ended its legendary misfortune by winning last year, largely stands up to it.
Often wheel to wheel, the two cars have several times snatched first place thanks to a misbehavior by one or a better negotiated pit stop by the other. Sunday around 6:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. GMT), the N.7, driven by Mike Conway, was less than 30 seconds ahead of the N.8, with Sébastien Buemi at the wheel. The latter, a leading time after midnight, had encouraged his team to slow down his teammate, whose “the aggressiveness was not tenable over the length», before finally giving up his place… and the lead.
The two cars have therefore so far followed the instructions set out on Friday by the team director, Pascal Vasselon: “Good race pace, no strategic errors and no reliability issues.After a calm night marked by three retirements due to mechanical problems, 59 cars were still officially in the race to run until 4 p.m., in weather that promised to be glorious.
Alpine not in the game
Behind the Toyotas, the Glickenhaus N.709 is three laps behind, while its sister car, the N.708, victim of a spin after a corner badly negotiated by Olivier Pla in the evening, was 8 laps down despite a nice ascent in the night. The American team, present on the Sarthe circuit for only the second year, remained however the main competitor of the Japanese manufacturer. Last hypercar engaged, before the return of several renowned teams to the premier category next year for the centenary, the Alpine N.36 could not fight.
After being overtaken by the two Glickenhaus early in the race, the French car had to stop at the garage shortly before 8 p.m. to fix a clutch problem. Leaving after 13 long minutes of repairs, she suffered other damage and ended up in the gravel. In the early morning, the Alpine was 11 laps behind and was in 20th place overall.
Barring major incidents among the hypercars, the French manufacturer risked losing the lead in the World Endurance Championship standings, which it held before the race. At the lower level, the Oreca N.38 of the Jota team had been leading the dance in LMP2 since Saturday afternoon, with a lap ahead of the Oreca N.9 of Prema Orlen.
Fassbender in the gravel
In LGMTE Pro, the Porsche N.92 took advantage of the setbacks of the Corvettes to take the lead. Long in the lead, the Corvette N.63 lost a lot of time in the evening after a puncture which damaged the car, forced to return painfully to its pit, where repairs took more than an hour. In LGTME Am, TF Sport’s Aston Martin N.33 took the lead in LGTME Am, at the expense of WeatherTech’s Porsche N.73, in the lead until the middle of the night.
As for the celebrities involved, the Oreca N.1 of eight-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier, who is racing for the first time at Le Mans this year, was 11th in its LMP2 category. He was preceded by the Oreca N.23 (9th), on which the American Josh Pierson became at 16 years and 3 months the youngest driver in the history of the race.
On the other hand, actor Michael Fassbender, the interpreter of Magneto in the X-Men, found himself twice in the gravel around midnight and his Porsche N.93 (LMGTE Am) was in 55th position overall. “He still has hours to ride, he will need to breathe, relax and then regain confidence, invited to the microphoneEurosport his friend Patrick Dempsey, boss of Proton-Dempsey Racing and experienced driver at Le Mans (4 participations). Everything that happened is not his fault. He will get there.»
The few women entered were not very lucky either, since the Ferrari N.85 of the women’s crew Iron Dames (LMGTE Am) punctured in the first laps and the Oreca N.47 of Sophia Floersch (Algarve Pro Racing/LMP2) spun in the gravel from the start. Starting from the depths of the classification, the Iron Dames were 47th overall and 11th in their category, while the Oreca N.47, still leading in its category, was in 30th place overall.
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