Toyota Gazoo leads rain-neutralized night at 24 Hours of Le Mans

Toyota Gazoo leads rain-neutralized night at Le Mans

The No.8 Toyota Gazoo GR010 Hybrid leads the 2024 24 Hours of Le Mans after a dramatic night at the Circuit de la Sarthe following a constant heavy downpour.

After a protracted Safety car period that neutralized the race for more than four hours due to severe rain, the #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing hypercar driven by Ryo Hirakawa, Brendon Hartley, and Sébastien Buemi, is currently leading the 24 Hours of Le Mans after 17 hours.

The night saw several safety car periods interrupt normal running; the first one lasted over an hour so as to fix a barrier. Unfortunately, a four-hour safety car followed in the wee hours of the morning, and racing didn’t resume until 8:15 a.m. local time.

This comes after Ferrari enjoyed a one-two before sunset but the Italian manufacturer’s pace proved to be disappointing due to the rainy conditions that persisted throughout the night.

A slight drizzle prompted a flurry of strategy calls, with the leaders deciding between fitting inters or remaining on slicks.

Robert Kubica’s #83 Ferrari 499P secured the lead amid the changing conditions, and it would hold on to the top spot for the next five hours. But during the eighth hour, Kubica collided with Dries Vanthoor’s #15 BMW Hypercar as he was attempting to overtake, sending the Belgian driver’s car hard into the barriers and out of the race.

The incident called for lengthy Armco repairs, which took more than 90 minutes forcing the race to neutralize. Kubica and his teammates also paid a price for the crash as the #83 Ferrari was handed a 30-second stop/go penalty, which knocked the yellow car down the order.

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In the meantime, the understated Toyota Gazoo Racing team advanced to the leading edge of the field thanks to their #8 GR010 Hybrid, closely followed by Porsche’s #6 963.

With seven hours left, an unprecedented total of eleven Hypercars were running on the same lap as a result of the chaotic conditions. Porsche Penske’s #6 car, driven by Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre, and André Lotterer, was running second, just 1.2 seconds behind the lead.

Next in line was the #7 Toyota driven by Nyck de Vries, Jose Maria Lopez, and Kamui Kobayashi in third ahead of the leading Ferrari 499P, driven by Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco, and Miguel Molina.

Rain continued pouring down long into the night, and early into the morning as the downpour prompted another neutralization, which continued as night gave way to dawn.

After the longest Safety Car stoppage in the 24 Hours of Le Mans history, the rain stopped just after 8:00 am, allowing race control to resume the race.

Normal racing resumed at 9:00 am, although the track conditions remained to be still very dangerous with lots of wet sections that required drivers to be extremely alert and cautious.

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