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24H Le Mans

Bernhard Leads after First Hour at Le Mans

Bernhard leads entirety of first hour at Le Mans…

Photo: John Dagys

Photo: John Dagys

Timo Bernhard has led the entirety of the opening hour for the 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, in the red No. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid, although the race just went under its first safety car right at the one-hour mark for an incident involving three cars at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

Jonny Kane, in the No. 42 Strakka Racing Dome S103 Nissan, appeared to collect Patrick Pilet, in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR going into the chicane, while the No. 13 Rebellion R-One AER of Alexandre Imperatori was also collected and sent into the gravel trap.

Pilet’s car exited the chicane with a fire, but the Frenchman was able to pull off driver’s right and escape under his own power. Imperatori’s car was craned out of the gravel and resumed, and Kane returned the Dome Strakka to the pits.

From the start, Bernhard took the lead from polesitter Neel Jani just before the first chicane on the opening lap, and maintained roughly a two-second gap over the second of three Porsche 919 Hybrids from until the first round of pit stops.

The three Audi R18 e-tron quattros got ahead of the third Porsche, with Loic Duval up to third at the end of the opening lap and the other cars following suit shortly thereafter.

The No. 9 Audi was the first of the front-runners to stop, just more than 30 minutes into the race, with the No. 8 Audi and No. 19 Porsche following suit shortly thereafter at the 35-minute mark.

The leaders pitted even later, with the No. 7 Audi and No. 18 Porsche in at the 38-minute mark, and Bernhard’s leading No. 17 Porsche in at the 41-minute mark, along with the second of the Toyota TS040 Hybrids, the No. 1 driven by Sebastien Buemi.

Bernhard emerged just ahead of Jani on course, by 1.1 seconds, after the first round of pit stops. At the end of the hour, the top six cars from

After being dropped to the rear of the LMP2 grid, one of the debuting Nissan GT-R LM NISMOs carved its way up to as high as 15th overall, while the No. 23 Nissan GT-R LM NISMO was delayed starting by more than 20 minutes due to clutch issues.

Tristan Gommendy took over the lead in LMP2 following the first round of pit stops in the No. 46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05 Nissan.

Polesitter Richard Bradley led from the start in the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 05 Nissan, Sam Bird charged up to second, just behind, in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan, and then Gommendy made it by Bird for second on the outside heading into Mulsanne corner just before the half-hour mark.

GTE-Pro witnessed three different leaders, with Gianmaria Bruni in the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia and a pair of Aston Martin Vantage V8s, driven by Richie Stanaway and Nicki Thiim, all having their shot up front. Thiim passed Stanaway for the lead in the first 20 minutes and held it until the end of the first hour.

Pedro Lamy led GTE-Am in another Aston Martin Vantage V8, with several GTE-Pro cars in-between Lamy and the second-placed driver, before making an early pit stop. Andrea Bertolini inherited the lead in the No. 72 SMP Racing Ferrari F458 Italia at that point.

Also of note, the No. 50 Larbre Competition Corvette C7.R made the grid after repair work from its morning warmup accident, the No. 67 Team AAI Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was issued a five-minute stop and go penalty for use of a third engine, the No. 29 Pegasus Racing Morgan Nissan was issued a black and orange flag and wheeled into the garage in the first half hour, and the No. 21 Nissan came back to the pits with its left-side driver door open.


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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