Le Mans 24h: Toyotas a lap clear after four hours
Toyota kept a tight grip on the Le Mans 24 Hours at the four-hour mark, with Fernando Alonso’s #8 TS050 Hybrid enjoying a spell in the lead of the race.
Two-time Formula 1 champion Alonso had been steadily closing the gap to his teammate Jose Maria Lopez in his first stint. Early in his second stint the Spaniard made use of a run coming out of Arnage to sweep into the lead in the run up to Porsche Curves.
Lopez soon pitted the #7 car with a rear-left puncture, dropping him back by a minute. The Argentine managed to get that time back due to a safety car caused by the #38 DC Racing LMP2 car of Gabriel Aubry, whose exploding left-front tyre shed bodywork onto the race track.
Under the safety car the #3 Rebellion R-13 lost its third place by being held up in the pits. The #17 SMP took over the position, with Egor Orudzhev already being a lap down on the leading Toyota.
The second Rebellion, the #1 car, was a further lap behind along with the #10 DragonSpeed BR1, while the ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01-Nissan was three laps off the lead in seventh in class.
Manor's pair of Ginetta G60-P1-LTs circulated four and five laps down respectively, while the #11 BR1 remained stuck in the garage with an apparent engine sensor problem.
LMP2: G-Drive way out front
In LMP2, the #26 G-Drive Oreca held a comfortable lead as Andrea Pizzitola took over from Jean-Eric Vergne, leading by nearly a minute-and-a-half.
At the four-hour mark Julien Canal was second in the leading #23 Ligier of Panis-Barthez Competition, though it had yet to make a sixth pitstop. Pierre Thiriet's #36 Signatech Alpine was third.
Things went from bad to worse for the #47 Villorba Corse Dallara, with Felipe Nasr getting beached in the gravel in the fourth hour, while the #31 DragonSpeed Oreca shed a wheel exiting Arnage at the start of the second hour, dropping several laps as a result.
GTE: Safety car shakes up order
The GTE Pro battle heated up as Laurens Vanthoor made a daring pass in the #92 Porsche 911 RSR on the #91 sister car of Fred Makowiecki. The lead change came after the #68 Ford GT of Sebastien Bourdais had caught up to the two Manthey-run Porsches.
However, the timing of the safety car completely changed the complexion of the race.
Vanthoor had pitted just before the safety car, relinquishing the wheel of the #92 to Kevin Estre, while the #91 Porsche and the #68 Ford were held at the pit exit.
That moved up the #69 Ford of Scott Dixon and the #81 BMW M8 of Nick Catsburg to second and third respectively. Catsburg quickly moved ahead of Ganassi’s IndyCar star to take second.
Sauber F1 reserve Antonio Giovinazzi was fourth in the first of the AF Corse Ferraris, followed by Harry Tincknell in the second of the Fords, the #67.
Their cars having been battling for the lead only moments prior, Joey Hand (#68 Ford) and Richard Lietz (#91 Porsche) dropped to eighth and ninth in class, while the #66 Ford, #82 BMW and #93 Porsches also lost ground getting stuck in the pits.
In GTE Am, Julien Andlauer and then Matt Campbell built up a commanding one-minute lead in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche. Matt Griffin was second in the #84 JMW Ferrari ahead of Jorg Bergmeister in the #56 Team Project 1 Porsche.
Le Mans 24h: Toyota leads opening hour after wild first lap
Alonso: Toyota has Le Mans “under control” despite scares