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24H Le Mans

Toyota’s Wurz Leads After First Hour in Le Mans

Wurz leads in No. 7 Toyota at Le Mans race one…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

The polesitting No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid leads after the first hour of the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans, driven by Alexander Wurz, who started the race.

From the start, as Fernando Alonso waved the French tricolor flag to begin the race, Toyota streaked away early with the pair of entries driven by Wurz ahead of Nicolas Lapierre in the sister No. 8.

Andre Lotterer was a man on a charge in the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, as he climbed from sixth to third within the first 15 minutes. The sister No. 3 and 1 Audis ran in tow, with the pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids falling back a bit. Lotterer’s pass of Neel Jani in the No. 14 Porsche for third occurred at the first turn on Lap 4.

Lapierre had a spin in the No. 8, and shortly thereafter that triggered the first “slow zone” of the race from the first chicane to the second one on the Mulsanne.

By Lap 12, all of the LMP1 cars in both the LMP1-H and LMP1-L designations, had made their first pit stops. Wurz and Lotterer had a hairy moment in pit lane as Wurz exited just ahead of Lotterer’s path, before the German made it into the Audi pits. The No. 7 car was then placed under investigation by Race Control for a potential unsafe release.

Neel Jani also made it into the Porsche pits, but at a much slower pace with a fuel pressure issue forcing him to the garage. He was stopped for nine minutes but resumed in the No. 14.

Harry Tincknell took the LMP2 class lead off the start in the No. 38 Jota Sport Zytek Z11SN Nissan, getting ahead of polesitter Tristan Gommendy in the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan. Following the first round of pit stops, Alexandre Imperatori had moved into the lead in the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan by the end of the first hour, after gaining six positions from his seventh place grid position.

AF Corse led in GTE-Pro for most of the first hour with the polesitting No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Gianmaria Bruni, although the No. 73 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R got ahead briefly with Jan Magnussen getting around Bruni on the run down to Indianapolis. The Corvettes pitted a bit earlier than the Ferraris but ran second and third at the end of the hour, with the lead No. 97 Aston Martin Vantage in fourth.

AF Corse’s No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia led GTE-Am for the majority of the first hour as well with polesitter Sam Bird, but lost the lead on the pit stop cycle. It promoted Seth Neiman in the No. 66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia to the lead ahead of the defending champion team in GTE-Am, Imsa Performance Matmut, and the No. 76 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by David Hallyday.

Of note, Matt McMurry took over from Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 42 Caterham Racing Zytek Z11SN Nissan to become the youngest starter in Le Mans history, aged 16.

The No. 79 ProSpeed Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had a left rear puncture exiting Mulsanne Corner, and Jeroen Bleekemolen limped the car back to the pits. That car has just Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil this race.

We’ve also had the first retirement of the race, when the experimental Nissan ZEOD RC stopped on track after the Arnage corner with a loss of drive and a suspected gearbox issue. Wolfgang Reip was behind the wheel of that car when the mechanical issue struck.

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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