Hour 24:00 - Toyota has taken their fourth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans win, the first for their new GR010 and the first-ever win for a Le Mans Hypercar. The No. 31 Team WRT car survives the failure of the team car in LMP2. AF Corse's No. 51 Ferrari and No. 83 Ferrari win GTE-Pro and GTE-Am, respectively.
Hour 23:59 - The No. 41 has lost the lead in LMP2. The No. 31 WRT entry seems destined to take the win instead.
Hour 23:57 - One to go.
The No. 41 WRT LMP2 car stops on track from the lead in class. A catastrophe for a dominant car.
Hour 23:50 - The two Toyotas are being pitted together to set up a photo finish. No. 7 will lead No. 8 at the line in the photo, just as it has on track throughout the race.
Hour 23:28 - The No. 7 Toyota completes what will be that car's final scheduled stop of the race. Kamui Kobayashi stays in the car.
Toyota's GR010 is 32 minutes from glory.
Hour 23:00 - That plan lasted all of one trip past the pit lane. The No. 91 GTE-Pro Porsche has been handed a black flag and will be forced to repair its missing rear bumper housing. With a 13 lap lead on fifth, that car should still finish fourth in class.
Hour 22:55 - The No. 91 Porsche running in fourth in GTE-Pro, still barely within reach of the leaders in that class, has just lost its entire rear bumper panel after driver Frederic Makowiecki lost brake pressure through the Ford chicanes. The entire panel was ripped off when the car went over a hill just off the track surface, spewing debris throughout the track and leaving Makowiecki with an incredible 935-like open-body 911.
That car has just driven by the pit lane, so it looks like the plan is for the No. 91 to simply finish the race without rear downforce.
Hour 22:49 - Kamui Kobayashi, the pole-sitter in the No. 7 Toyota GR010, has been given the final stint in that car. If the overall leader wins the race, Toyota's best qualifier will be the one driving.
Hour 22:08 - The two Team WRT cars, the top two in LMP2, are inching toward finding each other on track. The gap is six seconds, in favor of the leading No. 31, with just under 2 hours left to race.
Hour 20:58 - Time is beginning to really tick down, but GTE-Pro is still in play. AF Corse's lead over the remaining Corvette is still just over 30 seconds with 3 hours of racing left to run.
Hour 20:22 - The No. 388 Ferrari has shred debris down the Mulsanne starting at the second chicane, leaving a particularly awkward slow zone on the middle of the track. It is the most interesting thing happening on track right now, as is often the case in hour 21 of a not-particularly-competitive 24 hour classic.
Hour 19:23 - The gap for third in LMH and overall is growing pretty quickly, now up to 20 seconds after about half an hour on track. Alpine will need to build a whole extra pit delta worth of time to really be comfortable with that fuel mileage situation, but at this rate they might be able to do that by the end of the hour.
Hour 19:02 - The No. 92 Porsche has just moved past the other factory Porsche to take third in GTE-Pro. That car needs to make up three minutes on the track if it wants to fight either the Corvette in second or the Ferrari nearly a lap up the road in the class lead.
Hour 18:54 - The No. 36 Alpine is now ahead of the No. 708 Glickenhaus car on track directly after a pit stop. This is notable because the Glickenhaus car is likely to steal a stint off the Alpine in the next few hours with its superior fuel mileage, making this the relevant gap for the end of the race.
That fight is for the final spot on both the LMH and overall podiums. Both cars are still four laps behind the leading Toyotas.
There was also a slow zone to recover the No. 388 Ferrari. That Rinaldi Racing car is running a distant 14th in GTE-Am and is not a car I knew existed at all until that recovery.
Hour 18:36 - The gap in GTLM is about 30 seconds. Ferrari No. 51 has been in the stronger position almost the entire race, but not strong enough to shake the No. 63 Corvette.
The Porsches are only a lap back, too.
Hour 18:23 - Despite starting with that full power cycle, Toyota No. 8 just completed a full 13 lap stint. A great sign after their issues earlier in the day.
Hour 18:15 - Porsche No. 91, the car running fourth and last of the serious contenders in GTE-Pro, has just bounced off the wall in the Porsche curves in what can be described as the hardest you can brush a barrier without actually crashing. That entry is about 20 seconds behind the No. 92 Porsche in third, itself about a lap behind the GTE-Pro leader.
Hour 18:02 - The No. 8 Toyota has now been out on the track for 30 consecutive minutes, which could indicate their fueling issues have at least improved. The car is running competitive lap times, too.
But the damage is done. the gap between the top two Toyotas is up to 3 minutes.
Hour 17:54 - The No. 52 Ferrari's tire is absolutely shredding the right-front corner of that car, spreading debris throughout the final third of the track. This could be a long clean-up in slow zones throughout that section.
Hour 17:47 - The problems may be much more serious for the No. 8 Toyota. After running 13 lap stints all day, its last five stints went just 9, 7, 5, 4, and 3 laps. It seems like some sort of fuel pick-up issue, so the reset was likely an attempt to figure this out on the fly. That car has a massive lead on third overall, but with more than six hours left it becomes a fairly significant issue to keep an eye on.
Ferrari No. 52 has a massive right-front puncture and has a third of a lap of limping home to do before repairs can begin. That car is now well out of contention in GTE-Pro, but the incident could make that long day much worse.
Hour 17:43 - A long, long calm is broken by troubles for Toyota. The No. 8 GR010 has slowed and stopped on track on the run-up to Indianapolis and Arnage.
One more full reset later, the car is back going. A very strange and worrying moment, but these things seem to signal new electronic issues just as often as they resolve themselves on their own.
Hour 16:54 - Have you gotten tired of passes between the No. 28 and No. 65 LMP2 entries being the only action on track? Well, too bad! The No. 28 JOTA car has once again moved into third in LMP2.
Hour 16:31 - And just like that, the No. 72 has run off track at the Dunlop curves. That car has been running near the back of the field in GTE-Pro since its start from pole ended with a disastrous bit of contact with an LMP2 on the opening lap.
Hour 16:26 - If you're wondering why updates have become more sparse, it is because very little has happened in the last few hours of this race. The contenders have long since been clear in all four classes, including three classes where the battles are effectively already decided in favor of one team unless something significantly changes over the final eight hours. The best battle for position on track remains for third in LMP2, a spot that has traded hands a few times in the past hour and is now a battle between Tom Blomqvist in the No. 28 JOTA car and Will Stevens in the No. 65 Panis Racing entry.
The dry and fully-lit track has created far fewer opportunities for mistakes, too. Apart from one disastrous semi-wet lap that saw nearly eight cars involved in different wrecks across the track at once early in the race, the LMP2 and GTE-Am fields that have created so many problems over the past few years have been relatively stable. Even in an era where GTE-Pro and the top prototype class have been relatively uncompetitive more often than not, this is a fairly quiet race.
Hour 16:00 - A spotless dawn has quickly turned into a foggy morning. Your lead lap runners with sixteen hours down and eight to go:
LMH - Toyota No. 7, Toyota No. 8
LMP2 - Team WRT No. 31, Team WRT No. 41
GTE-Pro - Ferrari No. 51, Corvette No. 63, Porsche No. 92
GTE-Am - Ferrari No. 83
Eleven cars are either retired or assumed to be retired: 1, 56, 98, 99, 32, 47, 25, 55, 66, 57, 46, 79.
Hour 15:22 - Remember the No. 28 Joest LMP2 car? That former class leader is back up to third, moving past the No. 65 Panis Racing car. Sean Gelael has that car about a lap behind the two Team WRT cars, the leaders in class.
Hour 15:12 - The No. 7 Toyota, the overall leader, has a small little off at Tetre Rouge on replay and a slow stop a lap later. Driver Jose Maria Lopez comes out with the lead anyway.
Notably, this is the fourth straight stint in the car for Lopez. At least the right-rear tire has been changed on that car, but the actual result of that stop is unclear. With Lopez rapidly coming up on the 4 hour limit for a stint in the car, it would be safe to assume that Toyota would have done a driver change if they had changed all four tires.
Of course, all of them are Orecas because LMP2 is effectively a spec Oreca class and has been for years.
Hour 15:00 - The sun is properly out. Just as at sunset, the No. 51 Ferrari and No. 7 Toyota look to be in an excellent position to win the race. The LMP2 field, however, has seen some serious shake-ups that have left only four cars from three teams in contention for an effectively spec Oreca class that saw 25 entries at the beginning of the week.
Hour 14:38 - A sight for sore eyes as the sun rises, but the late start only amplifies what is always true about this race: The sunrise is deceptive. More than nine hours remain, and surviving the night is nowhere near enough to guarantee a finish.
Hour 14:14 - We have entered the point in the race where Eurosport is speculating that the car in second overall is breaking because its lap times are down a second while leading the next car by 3 laps over the course of 8.5 miles at 6 AM local time. Toyota, for their part, stop the No. 8 for a very normal tire and driver change.
That stop does include a front bodywork panel swap to go back to the daytime downforce setup, though.
Hour 14:07 - The No. 52 AF Corse Ferrari is now three laps off the leader in GTE-Pro. Whatever this issue is, it has been catastrophic for that team's very strong hopes to compete for the win in class.
Hour 13:52 - Ferrari No. 52 is in the garage with an issue of some sort. That car had been running third in GTE-Pro.
Hour 13:45 - The issue for the No. 22 LMP2 car is an alternator and it is still very much in the garage. That is the third United Autosport car to claw up into the top three in class and the third United Autosport car to fall out of that position catastrophically.
Hour 13:15 - The No. 22 United Autosport car is in the garage with an issue of some sort. That was a real contender for the win in LMP2, giving the two Team WRT cars even more breathing room at the front of the battle in that class.
Hour 13:12 - The No. 7 is back to the overall lead. That car remains in a great position in the battle against its teammate.
Hour 13:00 - The battle between the Toyotas is finally nose to tail on track. The No. 8 GR010 leads on the road after the No. 7 made a driver change on its most recent stop.
Hour 12:51 - The No. 49 has crashed for the second time in ten minutes. This one was a much harder hit, the result of an unbalanced car snapping out into the wall in the Dunlop curves, but driver Jan Magnussen was able to keep rolling again with major suspension damage. As a direct result, Magnussen is on one of the longest and most difficult limp home drives in auto racing.
Hour 12:42 - The High Class Racing No. 49 is in the wall after hard contact in a braking zone with the No. 26 G-Drive LMP2 entry. Both cars can limp back to the pits on their own, so no slow zone and no safety car.
Hour 12:31 - The No. 7 Toyota, the overall leader, has stopped on track after driver Kamui Kobayashi locked up under braking into Indianapolis. The car resumes without issue and still leads, but it's a disconcerting sign for a car that has otherwise been bulletproof through the first half of the day.
Hour 12:12 - The No. 64 Corvette is behind the wall again. Last time, this was a bodywork repair done at the same time as an early brake change. Now, the work is on the right-rear corner and there is no additional brake change to take advantage of. Without some serious attrition among the leaders, it seems unlikely that car will pop back into contention.
Hour 12:10 - Lead change in LMP2, where the No. 41 Team WRT car has passed the No. 31 Team WRT entry.
Hour 12:00 - Halfway there. The race is firmly in Toyota's hands overall, while Team WRT and AF Corse have two of the top three cars in LMP2 and GTE-Pro, respectively.
Hour 11:29 - The order has not changed in LMP2 for quite some time, but to update those gaps: The No. 31 Team WRT car leads the No. 41 Team WRT car by 8 seconds, with both over a minute ahead of the No. 22 United Autosport car and two minutes ahead of the No. 65 Panis Racing car. The No. 28 Jota car, a previous class leader, is one lap behind the leaders.
Hour 11:14 - The battle for third overall has firmly tilted toward the No. 36 Alpine. Just under two hours after the position change, that car is nearly a minute ahead of the No. 708 Glickenhaus entry. Both remain more than 3 laps behind the leader.
Hour 10:51 - A replay of the No. 79's crash earlier in the hour:
Hour 10:37 - After doing their scheduled driver change, the No. 7 Toyota's lead is back down to the 4 seconds it was floating around before both Toyotas made their previous stops.
Hour 10:30 - The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari has moved back past the No. 63 Corvette to take the GTE-Pro lead. This seems to be a three-horse race, but the two factory Porsches are still within reach.
Hour 10:28 - Cooper MacNeil has crashed the No. 79 Porsche hard under braking in the Ford chicanes. That Porsche, twice an IMSA winner over Corvette Racing this season, is running in GTE-Pro and had been on the lead lap throughout the race.
Hour 10:19 - Toyota No. 8 reports a refueling issue on the radio after recording an unusually short 11-lap stint. That will be something to follow as the race goes on.
Hour 10:08 - Notably, the No. 63 Corvette is now ahead of the No. 51 Ferrari on track. The Ferrari has about 30 minutes more fuel, which amounts to just over half a stint.
Hour 9:50 - The No. 57 Kessel Racing Ferrari has become the latest GTE-Am entry to stop on track in the past few hours. This one is stopped from fifth in class and has brought out a slow zone at Tetre Rouge.
Hour 9:45 - Toyota Gazoo Racing tells Eurosport that the No. 7's early stop was done solely to take advantage of the Slow Zone over the pit lane. This is true, but it is also very clear that only the No. 7 has shortened its stints to take advantage of slowed areas around the track. The No. 8 is clearly on a different plan, or at least was until the two equalized.
Hour 9:38 - By diving into the pit lane while the area is under a slow zone to recover the No. 66 Ferrari yet again, the No. 7 Toyota's stops out of sync have finally put it back in sync with the No. 8 Toyota. There is no clear reason whatsoever why that is actually happening, but Toyota seems to want those two cars back on the same strategy and together on track after the No. 8 was booted off in the first corner of the race. This strategy call ensures that the Toyotas are effectively equal for the race from here on out, with the No. 7 leading the No. 8 by 43 seconds.
The only other major thing to keep an eye on is the tires. The No. 8 just finished a triple stint on tires and completed a driver change, while the No. 7 is on stint three with Mike Conway, likely the last before that car's next change.
Hour 9:25 - Nicolas Lapierre has the No. 36 Alpine back past the No. 708 SCG 007. Olivier Pla briefly gets right back past in the second Mulsanne chicane, but over-runs his line and gives the spot right back on corner exit.
Pla stays with Lapierre for a third of a lap, but the Alpine gets away in the Porsche curves. That may not be the last battle we see for position between those two cars, but the Alpine certainly seems to be the quicker of the two now.
Hour 9:16 - The Alpine and the No. 708 Glickenhaus entry have found each other on track. The Alpine has been about two seconds faster throughout the race, but has lost significant time after spinning in one of the Mulsanne chicanes.
That battle is for third in LMH, but fourth overall. The No. 31 LMP2 car is still ahead of both Hypercars.
Hour 9:12 - The Ferrari was, apparently, recovered off camera. It was the No. 66 JMW Motorsports Ferrari, currently running 14th in GTE-Am.
Hour 9:05 - The limited footage of the No. 29 being recovered seem to show relatively little damage, but it seemingly spun in one of the fastest curves on the first half of the track. Replay from a static camera shows both it and a Ferrari spinning into gravel in the far distance after light contact. The Ferrari did not need to be recovered, so it was not identified.
Hour 9:01 - The No. 29 Racing Team Nederland LMP2 car is stopped in the wall in the Dunlop Curve. That car was running well early before being caught up in the early flash rainstorm that seemed to target all of the top cars in LMP2 out of spite.
Some parts of the track are not covered by cameras during overnight hours. Unfortunately, this section appears to be one, so it is unclear what actually happened. Eurosport is helping the confusion by talking about the time over a radio replay.
Hour 8:45 - The No. 8 Toyota, the one that has been running second throughout the race, has now run the fastest lap of anyone by over a second. Their best time of 3:27.6 is well ahead of the best No. 7 Toyota time, a 3:28.7, which is easily clear of the next-best time in the entire field, the Alpine's 3:29.9. The Toyotas have the clear pace advantage they were widely expected to have at just about every point in the lead-up to this race.
Hour 8:21 - Back to green.
Hour 8:17, Safety Car #4 - Notably, the No. 8 Toyota is actually leading the race right now after being just one safety car behind the No. 7 when it pitted under this safety car period. It is about 35 minutes of fuel behind the No. 7, so expect that to change again pretty quickly.
Hour 8:10, Safety Car #4 - Your cars on the lead lap after 8 hours, in each class:
LMH - Toyota No. 7, Toyota No. 8
LMP2 - Team WRT No. 31, Team WRT No. 41, United Autosport No. 22, Panis Racing No. 65
GTE-Pro - Ferrari No. 51, Corvette No. 63, Ferrari No. 52, Porsche No. 91, Porsche No. 92
GTE-Am - Ferrari No. 83, Aston Martin No. 33, Ferrari No. 80, Ferrari No. 57, Ferrari No. 54
Only the No. 1 Richard Mille Racing LMP2 car has officially retired, but a few other recently-crashed cars should be added to that list soon.
Hour 8:01, Safety Car #4 - The No. 25 G-Drive Racing LMP2 car has spun at high speeds in the Dunlop curves, seemingly ending that car's shot at competing for anything. Driver Rui Andrade appears unhurt after a hard hit. The safety car is out to recover the car.
Hour 7:36 - Another quick full course yellow for no clear reason. Someone is doing some work to clean up the track somewhere.
Hour 7:34 - The No. 74 LMP2 car has been awarded a ten second time penalty applied to their next stop for causing a collision with the No. 1 car. This penalty was very well-earned; you'll remember that this car simply hit a stalled car in the middle of the road under safety car.
Hour 7:16 - The Alpine is back out on track after a long pit stop, but it will seemingly avoid a trip behind the wall.
With the lead Glickenhaus car a lap behind the Alpine before the incident, Toyota's overall lead is now over two laps.
Hour 7:12 - The No. 36 Alpine, the lone Hypercar entry anywhere near within reach of the Toyotas, is beached in the first Mulsanne chicane. It can be recovered and should lose about 2 minutes of running on track.
The No. 708 Glickenhaus entry is clear into third overall and in class. The Alpine is back running, long before the No. 709 car could pass it for fourth from one further lap down.
Hour 7:08 - The battle for the GTE-Pro lead, between the No. 51 Ferrari and No. 63 Corvette, is back within a second on track. The Ferrari has just taken the lead back from the Corvette.
Hour 6:59 - The No. 47 Cetilar Racing GTE-Am Ferrari has crashed in Tetre Rouge after going off at a decently high speed. A slow zone has been declared for the car that has pulled to the side of the track. That entry was running sixth in GTE-Am.
Hour 6:50 - The damage to the No. 64 Corvette rolling off the grid came from the No. 51 Ferrari. Yes, the car currently running second behind the class leader in GTE-Pro.
Hour 6:48 - Back to green.
Hour 6:43, Safety Car #3 - The No. 64 Corvette is behind the wall to repair some minor damage suffered rolling off the grid. The car's brake change is also being done early while that repair is being done, so do not be surprised to see it back among the leaders when they get to those changes in about 12 hours.
Hour 6:42, Safety Car #3 - Notably, the leading Toyota is now both a full lap ahead of the No. 36 Alpine and on an equal strategy. Unless Alpine discovers serious pace overnight, Toyota will only lose this race if they make a mistake or suffer a misfortune.
Hour 6:23, Safety Car #3 - The No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin and No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche have both separately crashed into the tire wall in the first Mulsanne chicane with what appear to be unrelated mechanical issues, bringing out an odd safety car. The Porsche spun on its own on corner entry, while the Aston Martin seemed to have a mechanical issue under braking. The No. 33 was running second in GTE-Am.
Hour 6:14 - Another lead change in LMP2. This time, the No. 41 Team WRT car is through to the class lead after Louis Deletraz made his move on the Mulsanne.
Hour 6:12 - The No. 22 United Autosport LMP2 entry was fighting for the class lead, but two quick trips off track have the car back down to fourth in class. The Team Panis No. 65 still holds that lead.
Hour 6:10 - The No. 83 GTE-Am Ferrari, the class leader, spins after light contact in Indianapolis. It resumes with a narrow class lead.
Hour 6:02 - The No. 47 Ferrari is nearly beached in the gravel at one of the Mulsanne chicanes, but rolls on without incident. That car was previously running in the top five in GTE-Am.
Hour 5:58 - The field was under full course yellow (a virtual safety car in Formula 1 parlance) for about 90 seconds for some reason. No idea why, the world feed simply did not clarify this.
The No. 28 has been given a separate drive-through penalty for violating restart procedure. Both of Jota's cars have now suffered significant setbacks from the LMP2 class lead.
Hour 5:51 - The No. 28 JOTA LMP2 car, the net leader before this most recent cycle of stops, has been given a stop-and-go penalty for an improper blend into the pit lane over an hour ago. That should promote the No. 65 Panis Racing car to the class lead.
Hour 5:39 - Back to green.
Hour 5:18, Safety Car #2 - LMP2, a 25-car class, is down to just four cars on the lead lap.
The light rains, the source of at least some of that chaos, seem to have dried. The sun is almost completely set, though; the restart will almost certainly be in true night conditions.
Hour 5:10, Safety Car #2 -Things have just gotten very interesting: As night falls, rain has begun to fall on the far side of the track. The No. 29 Racing Team Nederland LMP2 entry is buried in the gravel at the Porsche curves. The two United Autosport cars crashed into each other in the Porsche Curves, the No. 1 Richard Mille Racing LMP2 car pulled back up across the track under yellow after spinning in contact with an unidentified G-Drive Racing LMP2 car and was hit on the side by the No. 74 Racing Team India Eurasia LMP2 car hit her while she was recovering. It is nothing less than a disastrous stretch of three minutes for the LMP2 class.
The No. 23, one of the two United Autosport cars involved in the crash, was the class leader in LMP2. The No. 28 JOTA Sport car has inherited the class lead.
If you missed all of this, that would be because Eurosport was showing a pre-recorded film about riding in a blimp.
Hour 5:07 - The No. 38 LMP2 car, the one that was buried in the gravel from the lead just a couple hours ago, was spotted by Eurosport cameras in the garage for repairs. It is unclear what happened to that car, but that should take the fastest car in the ultra-competitive class well out of contention.
Proton Competition's No. 99 GTE-Am Porsche is in the garage, too.
Hour 5:05 - Ferrari No. 52, the AF Corse car running second in GTE-Pro, makes contact with the No. 71 GTE-Am entry and spins at the final Ford chicane. That car has lost a minute of running, but does not seem to have any serious visible damage.
Hour 5:01 - The No. 24 LMP2 car, the entry that runs in IMSA as a PR1/Mathiasen car, is stuck in the gravel at Arnage. A fairly sizable slow zone has been declared. It looks like the result of a low speed impact and a quick recovery, so no need for a safety car.
Hour 4:29 - The LMP2 battle, between the No. 23 United Autosport car and No. 28 JOTA Sport car, is down to a second. The United Autosport car leads with Wayne Boyd driving, but Stoffel Vandoorne is holding close in the JOTA car.
Hour 4:21 - The fuel stint gap between the Toyotas is now nine laps, meaning the No. 8 is almost an entire stint ahead of the No. 7. This is rendered almost entirely irrelevant by the No. 7 being more than a full stop worth of time ahead of the No. 8, but once that normalizes it will leave the two on effectively equal ground.
The difference is a result of the No. 7 running two much shorter stints in hours 2 and 3. Notably, the No. 7 has yet to run any of the 13-lap stints that both the No. 8 Toyota and the Alpine entry have run on more than one occasion.
Hour 3:48 - The No. 44 LMP2 car is stopped in the pit entrance, bringing out a slow zone at the end of the Porsche Curves. This, of course, led the Eurosport commentators to declare that one of the cars in the slow zone was running slow on track despite the lights indicating the slow zone visible on camera.
Hour 3:43 - After the stops for the leading LMP2 cars under safety car, the top five in LMP2 are back together on track with the No. 28 JOTA car leading. The No. 38 JOTA car, the one that led most of the day before getting stuck in the gravel an hour ago, is about two laps behind the leaders.
Hour 3:40 - Back to green. Expect the Hypercar leaders behind each safety car to quickly get ahead of their respective fields and get to work on the only stretches of clean track they will see until the next safety car.
Hour 3:23, Safety Car #1 - In an incredible stroke of chance, all three LMH leaders have made their stops and as a direct result are on different safety cars. They will all start 2 minutes from one another on track.
The No. 26 G-Drive and No. 29 Racing Team Nederland LMP2 cars will start together behind the same safety car, but the No. 41 Team WRT entry will be behind their own safety car in third. All three are a stop behind the No. 28 JOTA entry in fourth.
In GTE-Pro, the entire class but the No. 91 Porsche, No. 64 Corvette, and No. 72 Porsche are behind the same safety car. Ferrari No. 52 still leads Ferrari No. 51. The No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin is alone behind their own safety car as the leader in GTE-Am.
Hour 3:16, Safety Car #1 - The No. 98 GTE-Am Aston Martin is deep in the wall at Indianapolis and the first safety car of the race is out. Oddly, that is the inside wall; driver Marcos Gomes spun in the famous high-speed unnamed corner before Indianapolis. The GTE-Am car is halfway into the tire barriers and seriously damaged. Their race is likely closer to over than not.
The first safety car of the day also means the first safety car procedure of the day. In the coming minutes, it will be important to follow which of the class leaders are behind which cars and which battles have been divided by their placement.
Hour 3:01 - Something worth following as light rains continue to sprout up and the field seems committed to dry tires: The No. 7 Toyota is now ahead of the No. 8 Toyota even after taking its additional stop. Somehow, the No. 8 is now about half a stint of fuel ahead of the No. 7 but has again lost significant time to it through the various slow zones and traffic pockets. Both are still well ahead of the Alpine, which is miles ahead of both the LMP2 leader and the fastest of the Glickenhaus cars.
Of course, the ACO does not actually have a timing and scoring solution available to the public that lists stint times or laps since pit in real time, so the specifics of that gap are going to have to wait for the next time the No. 7 pits and your local blogger can track those numbers by hand. From a rough estimate, the No. 8 seems about five laps of fuel ahead of the No. 7. The Alpine seems to be on the same schedule as the No.8 car.
Hour 2:19 - The No. 38 JOTA car has been recovered, but Anthony Davidson has lost a lap on the LMP2 field in the process. The fastest car in that class will need to make up something like five minutes of time on track if they want to contend for a win.
Hour 2:21 - The No. 38 JOTA LMP2 entry, the only car that has been leading LMP2 and by far the fastest entry in that class all weekend, is beached deep in the gravel in the Dunlop curves. That car has no damage, but he will need crushing minutes to be extricated. A disaster for the LMP2 favorites.
Team WRT's No. 41 car now leads in LMP2.
Hour 2:28 - The rain is back already, at least at some parts of the track.
This is going to be an issue in the hypercar class. Toyota No. 8 and the Alpine are both ahead of the No. 7 on fuel, but a stop for rain tires will erase that gap carefully built over the race's first two hours.
At this point, no team has so much as laid out their wet tires.
Hour 2:09 - Toyota No. 8, currently leading overall before its next stop because it is a third of a stint ahead of the No. 7 on fuel, has its second incident of the day at the Dunlop chicane. This time, it was contact with the No. 39 LMP2 car. The Toyota continues on without significant damage, but hitting cars this early in the race is always a problem.
Hour 2:05 - Another lead change in GTE-Pro, this time between the two AF Corse Ferraris. Only for another lead change between the two to render it irrelevant.
Ferrari No. 51 still leads Ferrari No. 52, about ten seconds ahead of the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche and No. 63 Corvette
Hour 1:55 - Notably, the overall lead is down to just 41 seconds. At the pace this gap has closed, the leading Toyota GR010s should be back together on track in about an hour and a half.
Hour 1:34 - Just before the day's second set of stops, the No. 38 LMP2 car is back down to fifth overall. The LMP2 field will need significantly larger issues for the Hypercar contenders if any of those entries hope to win overall.
Hour 1:23 - Ferrari No. 52 is back into the GTE-Pro lead after making a move into the first Mulsanne chicane. The No. 79 Porsche sits in wait in third, meaning each manufacturer in GTE-Pro has a car in this battle.
Hour 1:17 - Toyota No. 8 is back up to second overall. Already.
The gap between the two is now under 1 minute, meaning they are likely on the same safety car. An exceptional recovery for the No. 8 and a dominant showing for Toyota after such a disastrous start. With the Alpine and the Glickenhaus entries both suffering on track early, the GR010s are as much faster than the field as they need to be.
Hour 1:07 -Corvette No. 64 is back into the GTE-Pro lead, a spot that should change hands pretty regularly throughout the day. The balance of performance changes made in that class before the race were made far too late in the weekend, but they seem to have kept the three car group fairly balanced.
Hour 1:00 - The No. 709 Glickenhaus car has spun in the Ford chicanes, the second off of the race for that car. That car is down to 14th overall, fifth in class.
Hour 0:58 - The No. 25 G-Drive LMP2 car is buried in the sand outside the Dunlop curves, bringing out the second slow zone of the race.
Toyota No. 8 is up to third, second in LMH, after its disastrous open lap. The LMP2 leader still sits second overall, remains on the overall lead lap, and would still be captured by the same safety car if a full course yellow were thrown.
Hour 0:55 - All those who have stopped are now on dry or intermediate compounds for the upcoming stint. The drying track is still pretty sketchy in some places, a bigger issue here as multi-class racing forces drivers off the optimum racing line regularly.
Hour 0:42 - The No. 38 JOTA LMP2 car, the leader in that class, is up to second overall as pit stops begin and teams switch to dry tires.
Ferrari No. 51 has taken the GTE-Pro lead from Ferrari No. 52.
Hour 0:36 - The closest battle on track is for the GTE-Pro lead, something that will be no surprise to long-time Le Mans viewers. AF Corse's No. 52 Ferrari leads their No. 51 after an unexpected early lead for Corvette.
In LMH, the gap from the No. 7 Toyota to the two Glickenhaus cars is now up to 40 seconds. Of those two, the leading No. 708 has been handed a ten second penalty for causing the collision at the beginning of the race. Additionally, that car will need a front clip change to repair the broken headlight.
The Alpine is a minute behind the overall leader. The second Toyota is a minute and a half behind the team car.
Hour 0:27 - Toyota No. 8, for those keeping score at home, has not gone behind the wall or lost a lap. It is, however, pinned in the middle of the GTE-Am field by traffic and will lose a very significant chunk of time on this opening stint. This race uses its now-signature three tiered safety car rule, so that gap will not disappear if another full course yellow is thrown.
Toyota No. 7 leads by an absurd 20 seconds.
Hour 0:20 - The No. 36 Alpine, by far the biggest threat to Toyota's GR010s, has snapped into a spin at Indianapolis on lap 3. A truly catastrophic start for Hypercar only gets worse, but no visible damage for the single-car Alpine entry.
The No. 708 SCG 007 is lapping the track with only one headlight. The No. 709 has already been off track, as has the No. 8 Toyota. That means our overall leader, the No. 7 Toyota, is the only car in Hypercar to stay on track for three straight laps.
Hour 0:17 - The No. 8 Toyota is in the runoff area at Arnage with a GTE car. The No. 709 Glickenhaus car, the one that is not damaged, has also already gone off track. A catastrophic opening lap for the LMH class.
Hour 0:16 - The No. 48 IDEC Sport LMP2 car is beached in the sand outside the second Mulsanne chicane.
Meanwhile, in GTE-Pro, Corvette Racing now runs 1-2 after the No. 72 spun from pole.
Hour 0:15 - Toyota No. 8 is pulled over to the side of the road for a full reset and may be headed for the garage already. An unmitigated disaster for one of the two factory cars in this race.
Hour 0:14 - The race is green. The pole-sitting No. 7 Toyota GR010 is through to the overall lead after the rolling start, while the No. 8 Toyota has spun after contact with the No. 708 Glickenhaus car. The SCG has more damage than the Toyota.
The No. 72, the pole sitter in GTE-Pro, has also spun in the rain. Another LMP2 car has, too.
Hour 0:08 - Hope you're enjoying the 24 Hours of Le Mans so far!
Another formation lap has been added. The race will begin on lap 3, about 15 minutes in. If it makes you feel any better, the honorary starters are all awkwardly watching this happen with us and seem to be enjoying it about as much as we are.
Hour 0:01 - Well, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has begun. The starter's flag was waved at the completion of the first formation lap, starting the most famous clock in racing early. The actual racing part of the race will get underway when the pace car gets back to the start/finish line.
Notably, this will have a further effect on the fuel numbers for the cars completing their first stint. We will not get a real sense of fuel mileage, expected to be a major strength for Toyota's GR010s over the non-hybrid Hypercars, until the end of the second stint.
Hour 0:00 - The No. 20 High Class Racing LMP2 car is slow to start after someone left the movable jack stands on the rear during the pre-race grid. An inauspicious start for the most important race in an LMP2 team's season. EuroSport says the car was put up on a jack for a re-start after stalling on the grid.
The ACO has added another formation lap to the race, which should put us on pace to start about eight minutes later than scheduled.
Hour 0:00 - Two months after its scheduled debut, the Hypercar era is here at Le Mans.
Thanks in no small part to Aston Martin abandoning its Valkyrie racing program well before its scheduled 2021 debut, the LMH class does not look nearly as interesting as it will in 2022 or 2023. Toyota's two GR010s are the lone true factory entries in the class, a pedigree they backed up by qualifying first and second in single car qualifying times over a second ahead of the other three entries in the class. Those cars, one LMP1 car built for Rebellion but now homologated as an Alpine A480 Hypercar and two brand new SCG 007s produced by Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus, were about as close to the Toyotas as they could hope to be and will hope to keep pressure on those cars throughout the 24 hour race as this new set of cars puts reliability to the test for the first time.
In LMP2, 2020 Formula E champion Antonio Felix da Costa put the No. 38 JOTA entry on pole for the class with the most entries on the grid. This entire class has an ace up its sleeve: LMH cars are much slower than LMP1 cars, but LMP2 cars are about as quick as they were last year. In hyperpole qualifying, that gap was about four seconds. Add in expected reliability issues for first-year cars and, suddenly, the ultra-competitive second class has a small window where, if enough mechanical issues can hit the top contenders, the winner of this class could be fighting for something much more serious than a win in what has effectively become a spec Oreca series.
GTE-Pro is at a weaker point in its history. With Aston Martin out of the category, the grid in what was once the most competitive class on the grid is down to just three manufacturers. Two in-weekend balance of performance adjustments have seen the Ferraris slowed and the Corvettes lightened, but it was the privately-owned No. 72 Porsche of Hub Auto Racing driver Dries Vanthoor that took the pole for Porsche in Single-car qualifying. The Porsche and Ferrari are in what seems like their hundredth 24 hour race, but, after COVID travel restrictions held them out of the race last year, this is the first-ever Le Mans for Corvette's C8.R that has been so dominant in IMSA competition.
Porsche can claim similar success in GTE-Am, where the No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Racing entry leads a 1-2-3 for the company's fire-breathing 911 GT3 RSR-19.
Heavy rains blanket the Circuit de la Sarthe. It may not be the most competitive 24 hour grid in recent memory, but the race will not be easy for anyone.