Sep 20, 2020
TOYOTA GAZOO Racing stretched its advantage at the front of the Le Mans 24 Hours field as the race reached its halfway point in darkness at the Circuit de la Sarthe.
World Championship leaders Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López, in the #7 TS050 HYBRID, led the race by a lap after 12 hours, having started from pole position.
The #8 TS050 HYBRID of Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley had briefly led the race at the one-quarter point when the #7 lost time pitting under a safety car, but fell behind in the seventh hour due to a technical issue.
High brake temperatures had necessitated work and minor delays for the #8 at both previous driver changes but, when an LMP2 accident caused a lengthy safety car, the team decided to change the complete duct system on the front right of the car. After 10 minutes in the pits, Kazuki returned to action in third.With all cars driving slowly under the safety car, the #8 lost only a lap and when racing resumed, Kazuki immediately put pressure on the second-placed #1 Rebellion, overtaking soon after to restore a TOYOTA GAZOO Racing one-two.
Meanwhile, José was establishing a clear advantage at the front in the #7 whilst avoiding risks among the traffic, with various incidents creating slow zones around the circuit and a further brief safety car in the eighth hour all complicating that stage of the race.
A relentlessly consistent pace from both cars pulled them comfortably clear of the chasing pack as the contest moved deep into a long night, with race starters Mike and Sébastien returning to their respective cockpits for a second stint.
The half distance point was reached with Kamui leading in the #7 by one lap from Brendon in the #8, and the #1 Rebellion a further lap adrift.
José María López (TS050 HYBRID #7):
“My stint was okay; I’m happy with it. It was a bit up and down with slow zones and safety cars. Also it wasn’t easy with cold tyres behind the safety car but I was comfortable enough in general and the car is working well. At some point car #8 had recovered quite a bit of time on us before they had to stop for repairs but the situation looks okay for us at the moment and we have a decent lead. We will not take any risks because we know that anything can happen.”
Kazuki Nakajima (TS050 HYBRID #8):
“From the early part of the race we had some difficulties and we were struggling with a brake cooling issue. When I was in the car finally we decided to change it under the safety car. We lost one lap but managed to minimise the damage. I just stayed calm and focused on my job because it’s always tricky to drive at night and it wasn’t easy to manage the tyre pressures behind the safety car. It’s tough at the moment to be one lap behind the sister car but we seem to be back at a good pace so we will keep pushing and see what we can do.”
|Le Mans 24 Hours – standings after 12 hours:|
|1st||#7 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||
|2nd||#8 TOYOTA GAZOO Racing||
|3rd||#1 Rebellion (Senna/Nato/Menezes)||
|4th||#3 Rebellion (Dumas/Berthon/Deletraz)||
|5th||#32 United Autosports (Owen/Brundle/van Uitert)||
|6th||#22 United Autosports (Hanson/Albuquerque/di Resta)||
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