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Toyota’s Nakajima Resumes on Top in Le Mans Hour Six

Toyota back on top at Le Mans 6-hour mark…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

At the one-quarter mark of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, Toyota has reassumed the lead with the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid.

After Alexander Wurz started, Stephane Sarrazin took over for the second stint and polesitter Kazuki Nakajima slotted in just before the six-hour mark.

Nakajima’s lead over the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro is 46.702 seconds, and the No. 7 car has completed 88 laps of the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

The No. 2 Audi of Benoit Treluyer and the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Brendon Hartley hung within a minute and a half of the Toyota through the pit stop sequences.

Hartley fell back after his Porsche suffered a puncture in the fifth hour, which required an unscheduled pit stop. Mark Webber was due to take over next, for his first Le Mans race action since 1999.

The star of the middle stint in LMP1 was Marc Lieb, in the sister No. 14 Porsche 919 Hybrid. Lieb climbed from as far back as 51st overall (the car lost nine minutes due to a fuel pressure issue) up to sixth place overall, within one lap of the fifth-placed No. 12 Rebellion R-One Toyota, the LMP1-L subclass leader. Lieb ran the middle stint after Neel Jani started, and Romain Dumas was third in the rotation.

LMP2 featured a neck-and-neck battle between the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan driven by Alex Brundle and the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd driven by the team’s Silver driver Michel Frey. Frey hung tough although Brundle made it past on a couple of occasions.

These two, plus the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A450 Nissan of Paul-Loup Chatin, all pitted within a few minutes of each other. Mark Shulzhitskiy took over the No. 35, Jon Lancaster the No. 34 and Oliver Webb the No. 36.

In the latest pit stop sequence, the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan ascended to second, the car now driven by Pierre Thiriet.

GTE-Pro saw the No. 74 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia clear of an outstanding four-car battle for third between the two factory Porsche 911 RSRs and a GTE-Pro and GTE-Am Aston Martin Vantage.

At the six-hour mark, the No. 74 (Richard Westbrook driving) led over the No. 97 Aston Martin and No. 51 Ferrari.

In GTE-Am, Aston’s pair of Vantages there ascended to the class lead after the Dempsey Racing-Proton Porsche 911 RSR pitted and Patrick Long handed off the No. 77 to Patrick Dempsey. Long put in a three-hour and 37-minute first stint in the car.

While Dempsey ran consistent times, Aston’s quicker Silver-rated drivers Christoffer Nygaard and David Heinemeier Hansson ascended to first and second in class in the Nos. 98 and 95, respectively. SMP Racing’s No. 72 Ferrari F458 Italia runs third; the Dempsey-Proton No. 77 is now sixth with Joe Foster behind the wheel.

No additional cars have been retired beyond the six already out at this point.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno) is Sportscar365's North American Editor, focusing on coverage of the IMSA-sanctioned championships as well as Pirelli World Challenge. DiZinno also contributes to and other motorsports outlets. Contact Tony

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