Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
The Toyota TS030 Hybrid's race debut has come to an end with the retirement of the #7 car from the Le Mans 24 Hours due to engine trouble. The team's challenge for the lead had fizzled out several hours earlier, after contact with the Nissan DeltaWing and a lengthy stay in the garage, but it will now play no further part in the race.
Elsewhere, Anthony Davidson has confirmed on Twitter that he's suffered a broken back as a result of the #8 car's massive crash at Mulsanne corner, bringing the curtain down on a testing few hours for the Japanese team. Per Toyota official statement: Despite no obvious injuries, he was taken to hospital for checks which revealed breaks to his T11 and T12 vertebrae. Those injuries are expected to heal fully in approximately three months and he will remain in hospital until Monday.
“We are disappointed to retire after 11 hours,” said technical director Pascal Vasselon. “We made a conservative start, and then increased our pace to take the lead. But we're already thinking about the next WEC in Silverstone and Le Mans next year.”
Elsewhere in P1, it's still an Audi e-tron quattro 1-2, with the #1 car maintaining an advantage of approximately a full lap over the #2. Both cars have reduced their pace sufficiently to be doing 12-lap stints once more, having gone through a period of heavier fuel consumption and consequent 11-lap stints. Fourth and fifth place continue to be the exclusive property of Rebellion Racing's black and gold Toyota-engine coupes, while the recovering #3 Audi of Dumas, Duval and Gene is now running sixth after its earlier front-end impact.
Harold Primat in the #13 said they wouldn't specifically be trying to keep the Audi behind them. “Even if we push, we might only gain a few seconds, so it's not really worth the risk,” he told us. The two P1 HPDs are running on the same lap, but the JRM car continues to suffer setbacks, with a clutch problem delaying proceedings while Karun Chandhok was in the car.
In P2, Murphy Prototypes lost their lead of the class due to a puncture and rear bodywork damage, while the car that inherited the lead, the #24 OAK Racing Morgan, lost it almost as quickly due to a broken oil pump that put it in the garage for a long time. This has handed the lead of the class – and seventh place in the overall rankings – to Starworks Motorsport's HPD, driven by Enzo Potolicchio,
Tom Kimber-Smith and Ryan Dalziel. The #26 Signatech and #49 Pecom Racing Oreca-Nissans now lie second and third in P2, but fourth to seventh place in the class are all on the same lap, so the final positions in the race's most competitive class are far from settled.
Status Grand Prix lie ninth in P2, just behind fellow Irish team Murphy Prototypes. Dutchman Yelmer Buurman completed a tough quadruple stint shortly after midnight, and said afterwards he was pushing as hard as possible to move back up the order. “The amount of stones and debris was unbelievable, especially towards the end of my stint,” he said. “That puts you off your line, then you pick up even more rubbish.”
Team boss David Kennedy said simply that the team was pushing very hard, but within a margin. “It's still very tight, we could be a couple of hours trying to make up a few seconds on the next car,” he added.