Le Mans 24h: Conway leads first hour in #7 Toyota
Toyota held a comfortable one-two after the opening hour of the 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Mike Conway took the start in the polesitting #7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid and maintained the advantage as the field sprinted into the Dunlop Chicane for the first time, ahead of the sister car driven by Sebastien Buemi.
The Briton quickly built a five-second buffer in the early laps, and after the first pitstops the gap between the two cars was out to 10 seconds. After 60 minutes of racing, the gap stood at around 16 seconds.
Leading the privateer LMP1 charge at the one-hour mark was the #3 Rebellion R-13 of Gustavo Menezes, who was 47s down on the lead after fending off an early challenge from the #11 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 of Vitaly Petrov.
A slow stop for Petrov broke up what had been an entertaining fight for the bottom of step of the podium, with the Russian running 12s adrift at the top of the hour. The #17 SMP car runs fifth, another eight seconds down in the hands of Stephane Sarrazin.
Bruno Senna had the #1 Rebellion in fifth until a puncture towards the end of the first hour dropped it down to eighth and last in class behind the #10 DragonSpeed BR1 and the ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01.
LMP2: Signatech grabs early advantage
Signatech Alpine led the LMP2 class, with Nicolas Lapierre jumping up from third to lead after the first round of stops by 17s from Matthieu Vaxiviere’s TDS Racing Oreca.
A slow first stop for the DragonSpeed Oreca, which had run third in Anthony Davidson’s hands, dropped it down the order, promoting Jean-Eric Vergne in the Aurus-branded G-Drive Racing Oreca to third.
Giedo van der Garde had the best of the non-Orecas, the #29 Racing Team Nederland Dallara, up to fourth before a pitstop just before the top of the hour.
GTE: Corvette, Porsche to the fore
Corvette led the opening hour in GTE Pro, as Antonio Garcia moved up from third on the grid to the lead in the early stages in the #63 Corvette.
The Spaniard picked off Harry Tincknell’s Ford early on before passing the polesitting #95 Aston Martin, driven by Nicki Thiim, on the run through Indianapolis and Arnage.
At the end of the hour, Garcia ran just ahead of the Porsches of Michael Christensen – who took over the #92 911 RSR at the first stops from Kevin Estre – and Nick Tandy in the #93.
Oliver Gavin had the sister #64 Corvette up to fourth by the end of the first hour, jumping several positions during the first pitstops before passing the #68 Ford of Dirk Muller and the fading Aston Martin of Thiim.
Gianmaria Bruni ran fifth in the #91 Porsche ahead of Muller’s Ford at the one-hour mark.
GTE Am was led by the Spirit of Race Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella ahead of Matt Campbell’s #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche.
Matteo Cairoli had converted pole into an early lead in the #88 Proton Porsche, but his advantage was squandered when he handed over to Satoshi Hoshino at the first stop and the Japanese driver spun on the Mulsanne Straight.
Third in class was Ben Barker in the Gulf Racing Porsche ahead of the Keating Motorsports Ford GT of Jeroen Bleekemolen.
The Le Mans 24 Hours as it happened
Le Mans 24h: Toyota, Corvette out front after four hours