Toyota Gazoo Racing led Free Practice 3 for the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans, but it wasn’t without difficulty as the No. 8 Toyota GR010 HYBRID of Sebastien Buemi, Brendon Hartley, and Ryo Hirakawa ran into a hybrid drivetrain issue in the middle of the three-hour session.
Hirakawa was in the middle of his first stint of the session when his car came to a halt at Indianapolis corner. He was able to get the car going again and bring the car back to the pits, where the hybrid issue was diagnosed. The No. 8 Toyota returned to the track after 30 minutes of repairs, but there are worries that the GR010 HYBRID’s drivetrain reliability could be a factor in the outcome of the race — as it was when the Buemi/Hartley/Hirakawa crew were knocked out of the most recent 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.
In contrast, the No. 7 Toyota GR010 HYBRID of defending champions Mike Conway, Jose Maria Lopez and Kamui Kobayashi was able to complete a relatively trouble-free session, completing 38 laps. Driver and team principal Kobayashi recorded the best time of the session at 3m26.796s in his first stint in the car, a half-second improvement on his fastest time from qualifying. Hartley was second quickest in the No. 8 Toyota, with a 3m27.115s.
The Toyotas clearly have the speed, but is reliability an Achilles heel? Motorsport Images
The pair of Glickenhaus Racing SCG 007 LMHs were third and fourth, led by the No. 708 of Olivier Pla, Romain Dumas and Pipo Derani, ahead of the No. 709 of Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook and Franck Mailleux. After receiving a Balance of Performance adjustment to give them an additional nine horsepower, the No. 36 Alpine Elf Team A480 Gibson of Andre Negrao, Nicolas Lapierre, and Matthieu Vaxiviere was fifth fastest. Vaxiviere’s top time of 3m29.259s was faster than their Qualifying Practice time.
Three significant incidents marred the running in the LMP2 class. In the first hour, the No. 30 Duquiene Engineering ORECA 07-Gibson of Reshad de Gerus went off and crashed into the tire barrier at Indianapolis corner, damaging the right-front quarter panel of the car. A Slow Zone was declared to clear the car, which did not return for the remainder of the session.
With 75 minutes left, the No. 13 TDS Racing x Vaillante ORECA of Philippe Cimadomo and the No. 31 WRT ORECA of Sean Gelael sideswiped one another at the Karting Esses, which pitched Cimadomo head-on into the tire barriers at high speed. Cimadomo was able to climb out of the No. 13 ORECA under his own power, despite the heavy impact which destroyed the front end of his car. But the session was red-flagged for 20 minutes to repair the barriers.
Half an hour after Cimadomo’s incident, the No. 39 Graff Racing ORECA of Sebastien Page clipped the gravel at the exit of Indianapolis corner, and spun head-on into the barriers, tearing apart the front and rear bodywork. Page was unhurt after his accident, which only necessitated a Slow Zone to clear away the damaged vehicle and repair the barriers.
When the session settled down, United Autosport USA had a 1-2 in class. It was the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA of Philip Hanson, Filipe Albuquerque and Will Owen that was quickest, courtesy of Albuquerque’s best lap of 3m30.964s. The No. 23 of Alex Lynn, Oliver Jarvis and Josh Pierson was less than a tenth of a second behind, as Lynn set a 3m31.025s. And the aforementioned No. 31 WRT ORECA of Gelael, Robin Frijns, and Rene Rast finished third, with Frijns’ best lap coming in just 0.005s behind Lynn’s best in the No. 23.
The No. 45 Algarve Pro Racing ORECA, completely rebuilt around a brand-new monocoque, was able to complete 24 laps as it returned to track just 24 hours after their primary car was written off.
Corvette Racing and Porsche GT Team alternated the top places in LMGTE Pro, led by the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R of Tommy Milner, Nick Tandy and Alexander Sims. Tandy set a best lap of 3m52.307 in the first hour, which stood as the top time.
Just behind them was the No. 91 Porsche 911 RSR of Gianmaria Bruni, Richard Lietz, and Frederic Makowiecki in second, the No. 63 Corvette of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg in third, and the No. 92 Michael Christensen, Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in fourth. The two AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos remained fifth and sixth – while the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ferrari only completed seven laps.
In LMGTE Am, the No. 46 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Matteo Cairoli, Mikkel Pedersen and Nicolas Leutwiler was the sixth-fastest GTE car overall and the top of the Pro-Am category. Pedersen’s class-leading time was a 3m54.386.
Second quickest was the No. 33 TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Ben Keating, Henrique Chaves and Marco Sorensen, followed by the No. 99 Hardpoint Motorsport Porsche of Andrew Haryanto, Alessio Picariello and Martin Rump.
There were only a few notable incidents to report in GTE Am: D’station Racing’s owner/driver Satoshi Hoshino went off in the Porsche Curves halfway into the session, and a Slow Zone was declared to retrieve his stranded No. 777 Aston Martin out of the gravel.
Then with two minutes left in the session, Alexander West in the No. 59 Inception Racing Ferrari lost control entering Motul (Ford) Chicane, and broadsided the tire barrier to bring an end to the session, West also was uninjured.
UP NEXT: Hyperpole Qualifying begins at 8:00 p.m. local time.