24 Hours of Le Mans at Halfway Point: Alonso Chases Down Leading No. 7 Toyota
The No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, and Jose Maria Lopez leads with 12 hours to go.
In the first half of this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota has displayed the performance that many expected with the two TS050 Hybrid entries battling for first throughout.
A Turn 1 crash upon race start saw the No. 1 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson damage its front end, adding drama early on in the day-long epic. The Toyotas stood unphased at the front of the field and began to create a gap that would grow to a full lap for the No. 8 car by the fourth hour.
The Gazoo Racing squad upheld its lead into the night when the privateer LMP1 entries began to face troubles. Attrition sat in and teams including the No. 17 SMP BR1 of Matevos Issakyan suffered at the hands of la Sarthe. Issakyan slid off the track at the entrance of the Porsche Curves and heavily damaged his right rear, calling his crew for advice on the best way to get the car back to the pits.
SMP Racing was then plagued yet again with engine failure, leaving just one entry for the team—the No. 11 BR1—in the race. Even then, the remaining car had trouble early on and was running 50 laps back during the ninth hour upon the No. 17's retirement.
Resultingly, only four LMP1 cars ran ahead of the LMP2 field: Both Toyotas and two Rebellions. Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 Toyota was penalized for speeding in a slow zone and had to perform a 60-second stop-and-go penalty, surrendering the lead to its sister entry.
Porsche Battles for GTE-Pro Lead
The No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR dressed in Rothmans livery started from pole in the GTE-Pro class and held steady pace in the first half of the 24-hour race. Only being challenged by its stablemate, the No. 92 'Pink Pig' Porsche, the team was understandably pleased with its performance early on. A third Porsche, run by CORE Autosports, was feeling racy and stayed within the top three as well.
Holding in tight behind the Stuttgart manufacturer was Chip Ganassi Racing's slew of Ford GT entries. The Nos. 66 and 68 cars flip-flopped with the latter claiming third while breaking up the Porsche 1-2-3, leaving the other factory-backed Fords behind to dual with the Corvettes, BMWs, and Aston Martins.
Troubles continued for BMW and Aston, both fielding first-time entries in this year's Le Mans contest.
Near the 10th hour, the lead switched and the No. 92 Porsche 'Pink Pig' built a one-lap gap on the No. 91 Rothmans car for first. In conclusion, the driver lineup of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre, and Laurens Vanthoor sit in prime position at the halfway point and continue to build their lead.