The eighth hour of this centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans was also closed, with a truly unpredictable finale. After inheriting the lead following Yifei Ye’s crash with privateer Jota at the Porsche Curves before the stroke of the sixth hour, Ferrari appeared to be firmly in the lead, but just minutes before midnight there were no twists.
The momentary return of the rain shortly after 10 pm could have upset the cards on the table again, but the 499P #51 did nothing wrong in that phase, with Alessandro Pier Guidi at the wheel who imposed an unreachable pace for his rivals, reaching about forty seconds ahead of the Peugeot #94 when switching to the rain.
From that moment on, the Italian driver lapped at crazy times, around 4 minutes when the track was still wet, even gaining about ten seconds per lap over his closest rivals. Not surprisingly, around 10.30 pm the Ferrari driver came to have an advantage of over a minute over the competition, a sign that he had the right confidence to make the difference over his rivals.
#94 Peugeot Totalenergies 9X8 by Loic Duval, Gustavo Menezes, Nico Muller
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
Lap after lap the track dried out, enough to make the switch to slicks: the Ferrari #50 was forced to make a long stop in the pits just before the rain arrived to reset the car, thus returning to fourth place , was used by “testers” to check the conditions of the track. Observing the times of his brand-mate, the #51 also switched to dry tyres.
Although the advantage over the Peugeot has diminished, dropping to around 40 seconds, in reality the Italian stabilized the times without taking huge risks, in order to keep a constant gap on Nico Mueller, who in the meantime had taken the wheel of the Peugeot #94 by Loic Duval. Only towards the eighth hour did the Italian push again, imposing a pace 3-4 seconds faster than the Swiss, who then returned to the pits.
After the stop of the Peugeot #94, the Toyota #7 with Kamui Kobayashi at the wheel moved up to second position, albeit almost two minutes behind the leader of the race. A few minutes later the Ferrari #51 and the Toyota #7 returned to the pits, kicking off the sequence of events that changed the face of the race. The Peugeot found itself leading the race by a few tenths after the pit stop of Pier Guidi’s 499P: a few seconds later, to avoid a car that had spun, the Italian locked up the rear axle ending up in the gravel.
This handed the race lead definitively to Muller in the #94 Peugeot 9X8, ahead of the #50 Ferrari of Nicklas Nielsen, who inherited second position after the accident involving Kamui Kobayashi. In fact, a few moments after Pier Guidi went off the track, the Japanese Toyota #7 was also involved in a collision with the JMW Motorsport Ferrari #66 and the Alpine #35 LMP2 car, remaining stuck on the side of the track.
It should be noted that, in the meantime, Porsche suffered its first official withdrawal from the race in the Hypercar class: the #75 car driven by Mathieu Jaminet stopped due to fuel pressure problems and unfortunately was unable to restart.
In LMP2 the Inter Europol Competition #34 keeps the lead ahead of Robert Kubica, at the wheel for the WRT team in the car #41: the two are separated by just 15 seconds, with the Pole slowly catching up. Temporary third place for the AF Corse #80 car ahead of the Duequeine Team car #30.
#63 Prema Racing Oreca 07 – Gibson by Doriane Pin, Daniil Kvyat, Mirko Bortolotti
Photo by: Alexander Trienitz
It should be noted that unfortunately the accident involving the Prema #9, hit on the rear left by another single-seater while it was on the escape route following a long run, was just before the first drops of rain.
In the GTE AM class, Matteo Cairoli’s excellent pace in the mix between rain and dry should be noted: after slipping back, the Italian pushed with a pace unattainable for his rivals, going to take the Porsche 911 of the Iron Dames, which until around 10.45pm they were leading their category. However, the girls are running an excellent race, with a large lead over the third in the standings, the 488 GTE Evo of AF Corse, currently with Davide Rigon at the wheel. Fourth place for Kessel Racing #57 with Huffaker ahead of the Proton Competition Porsche 911.
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