Alpine Elf Team encountered a significant setback early into the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the French squad tumbling down the order following a trip to the garage.
Matthieu Vaxiviere was running fifth in the Hypercar class approaching the four-hour mark when he brought the No. 36 Alpine A480 Gibson into the pits with an issue on the electronic clutch unit, the team has confirmed.
After a pit visit lasting 13 and a half minutes, the Frenchman handed the car over to Andre Negrao who came out at the foot of the LMP2 order and four laps off the leading No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid. The Alpine had already fallen off the lead lap on pace.
At the head of the field, there was a lead change after three hours and 40 minutes, around the time when Toyota Gazoo Racing brought its cars in for their fifth pit stops.
Jose Maria Lopez, who had been around 15 seconds ahead of Brendon Hartley before pitting, had a trip through the gravel at the second Mulsanne chicane on his out-lap, which enabled Hartley to emerge in front when he completed his fifth stop one lap later.
It marked the second overall lead change of the race after Mike Conway moved the No. 7 Toyota ahead of pole-sitter Sebastien Buemi in the No. 8 during the first hour.
The No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo ranked third, with Romain Dumas circulating one minute off the leader with just over four hours completed.
Will Stevens continued to control the LMP2 category in the No. 38 JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson, while Thomas Merrill had a notable advantage of more than a minute in GTE-Am aboard the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.
Corvette Racing’s one-two placing in the GTE-Pro class was dismantled in the fourth hour when the Porsche pairing of Michael Christensen and Gianmaria Bruni both found ways past the No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R driven by Tommy Milner.
Bruni then overtook his teammate Christensen up the inside into the first Porsche Curves right-hander, putting the No. 91 Porsche second in class behind the leading No. 63 Corvette.