2022 24 Hours of Le Mans | 15H - Toyotas pull clear but lead fight still close

Toyota remains on course for a fifth consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory as its two GR010 Hybrid Hypercars continued to build on their momentum out front, even if the fight for victory remains very tight.
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing, 2022 Le Mans
#7 Toyota Gazoo Racing, 2022 Le Mans
© XPB Images

The two Toyota Gazoo Racing entries have controlled the race from the very first corner, holding a sizeable lead for the first six hours of the race before a spin for its erstwhile nearest competitor - the #708 Glickenhaus - multiplied its advantage to two laps by the ninth hour.

With no issues to report as Toyota safely navigated the notorious nightshift, come day break the manufacturer sits pretty with a four lap margin over the third place #709 Glickenhaus entry.

Though Toyota insists it is not managing its pace to ensure it protects a much desired 1-2 finish, the margin between the two cars out front has remained remarkably static throughout the race having swelled to nothing more than 30secs at any point.

While the lead itself has swapped hands on a few occasions, as of the 15th hour mark (7:00 local) it is the #7 car of Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi in front, with the #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley and Ryo Hurakawa still just 16secs behind.

It remains to be seen whether the two cars will be permitted to duke it out for victory in the latter stages - if they aren’t already - or whether Toyota will focus on ensuring a 1-2 at the flag.

With Glickenhaus still on course for a podium, the sister #708 car - which had stayed within 90secs prior to Olivier Pla’s kiss with the barriers and subsequent pit-stop for repairs after a spin at Tetre Rouge - is steadily picking its way back up the overall order. It is seventh out-of-sync with the pit-stops among the LMP2 cars but is on course to get back to fourth.

All five Hypercars are still in the race with the Alpine making slow progress back up the order from earlier technical issues, the French team now up to 19th, 11 laps off the lead.

Running fourth overall and still leading LMP2, the #38 Jota Sport’s trouble-free race continued into the morning, though its advantage has been chipped down by the Prema Orlen car in second.

The Le Mans debutants have pulled clear of an absorbing LMP2 podium fight to make headway on a lead held by Jota since the first hour. The #9 Oreca - steered by Robert Kubica, Louis Deletraz and Lorenzo Colombo - is now circulating within a lap of the leaders, with a gap back now to the #28 Jota in third.

The fourth #31 Team WRT car is also continuing along the comeback trail from a stop-go penalty early in the race, the impact of which has been felt harder by the low attrition rate across the entire field.

Cool Racing rounds out the LMP2 top five, ahead of TDS Racing and Team Penske, which has slipped back from an earlier podium fight. 

Elsewhere, Panis Racing - which had also worked its way into a possible top three finish - has plunged down the order after Nicholas Jamin ran on at Mulsanne, dropping the entry down to 20th. The Ultimate car was also forced to pit for repairs after a wild spin into the barriers at Porsche.

While the race has settled elsewhere, in GTE Pro things have closed up again with the #64 Corvette leading at the turn of the hour, though just seconds split it from the #51 AF Corse and the #92 Porsche in the run up to the latest cycle of pit-stops.

Similarly, the GTE Am lead has been swapping between stops for the two leading contenders with long-time leaders WeatherTech Porsche coming under pressure from the rapidly advancing TF Sport Aston Martin, while the Hardpoint Porsche is also creeping back into contention on the class lead lap in third.

We still have only three official retirements - the #59 Inception Porsche, #77 Spirit of Race Ferrari and the #46 Team Project 1 Porsche, all GTE Am - though the D’station Aston Martin has been stationary for some hours, while the #64 Corvette, #30 Duqueine Oreca LMP2 and #27 CD Sport Ligier LMP2 are running but way behind after lengthy issues.

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