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.