The 24 Hours of Le Mans Live Blog

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.

a close up of a toy car: The Hypercar era has begun at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

© James Moy Photography – Getty Images
The Hypercar era has begun at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

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.

a close up of a toy car on a race track: gettyimages-1234750600

© James Moy Photography – Getty Images

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.

Video: Blaney breaks down late restart at Michigan (NBC Sports)

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.

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Kitty Gochal

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