After a relatively incident-free six hours, the drama ratcheted up as night fell around the Circuit de la Sarthe amid a flurry of issues for a handful of the highest-profile competitors.
The most significant of these was a fast spin for the #708 Glickenhaus of Olivier Pla, Romain Dumas and Pipo Derani, which had been keeping itself in the mix by staying out of trouble and on the lead lap to the front-running Toyotas.
However, its hopes of hauling itself back into contention was scuppered by a spin for Pla on an out-lap at Tetre Rouge. While he managed to prevent a more serious collision with the barriers, a glancing blow meant a slow crawl back to the pits for repairs. Despite the quick turnaround by mechanics, it is now seven laps off the lead in 17th overall.
Together with Alpine’s ongoing technical issues - that now leave it nine laps off the front at the bottom end of the top twenty - it means only the #709 Glickenhaus is within realistic range of denying Toyota any victory, albeit still two laps down itself.
To its credit, Toyota has proven impenetrable out front with the two cars still circulating together and occasionally swapping the lead through the pit-stop cycle. At the top of the hour, the #8 GR010 Hybrid of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hirakawa is in front, leading the #7 car of Jose Maria Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi.
Glickenhaus’ disappointment, however, was overshadowed by fellow Americans Corvette Racing, which saw both of its cars hit issues within minutes of each other to put itself on the back foot in the GTE Pro class it had been dominating.
The #63 car had led from the start and was well clear of the pack when it suffered a suspension failure. While it was able to get back to the pits, it was subjected to lengthy repairs in the garage that sent it to the bottom of the classification, 15 laps down on the top GT.
That lead now belongs to #92 Porsche of Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor, the trio helped further by the #64 Corvette also losing time with a puncture.
Elsewhere, the LMP2 remained relatively drama-free as the #38 Jota Sport continued to command proceedings, the British team having now risen to fourth in the overall classification courtesy of Glickenhaus’ issues.
The swing of momentum in the fight for the remaining podium positions continues a lap further back with the #65 Panis Racing entry now in second place at the ninth hour mark, followed by the #9 Prema Orlen, #31 Team WRT and #5 Team Penske cars.
Much like Jota, WeatherTech Racing remain in a sizeable lead in the GTE Am class a lap clear of the Northwest Aston Martin and Dempsey-Proton Porsche.
Oscar nominated actor Michael Fassbender, meanwhile, endured an eventful couple of hours in the Proton Competition Porsche after first being shoved off into the barriers by fellow GTE Am contender Vincent Abril. The Irishman got going again, only to spin at the Dunlop chicane, putting the team 12 laps off the GTE Am lead.
Meanwhile, the first retirements of the race were confirmed with the #46 Team Project 1 Porsche forced out with technical issues, followed later by the D’station Aston Martin.