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24H Le Mans

Buemi Leads Toyota 1-2 After Opening Hour at Le Mans

Buemi heads up a Toyota 1-2 after Hour One at Le Mans…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Sebastien Buemi leads the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing after one hour of racing, fighting back from a poor start to take the lead after the opening round of pit stops in LMP1.

Starting in the No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, Buemi slipped behind Porsche’s Neel Jani on the run down to the first corner, leaving teammate Mike Conway exposed at the front in the No. 7 Toyota.

Conway managed to pull clear through the first stint, opening up a three second lead over Jani in the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid at one point, with Buemi sitting just behind.

Buemi was the first of the leading drivers to stop, coming in at the end of Lap 12 for a top up of fuel before pushing hard after coming out of the pit lane.

Conway and Jani came in for their first stop one lap later, both taking fuel. Buemi initially split the pair, but was able to close up on the leader when Conway made a mistake at the first chicane.

The two Toyotas went side-by-side through the Dunlop Curves, with Buemi eventually getting a slipsteam and managing to make a pass for the lead on the run to Indianapolis.

With the first hour complete, Buemi sat 1.5 seconds clear of Conway at the front, with Jani a further three seconds back. Timo Bernhard ran fourth in the No. 2 Porsche, while the No. 9 Toyota was a distant fifth after suffering damage on the first lap when Nicolas Lapierre struck debris from the No. 4 ByKolles Enso CLM P1/01 – Nismo.

Oliver Webb had initially passed Lapierre before his front splitter came loose, requiring a spell in the pits to change the front bodywork.

LMP2 saw Vaillante Rebellion Racing take advantage of a slow stop for the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07 Gibson to vault into the lead. A starter issue on the stop dropped Oliver Jarvis into the pack, leaving Bruno Senna to run nine seconds clear at the front of class.

CEFC Manor TRS Racing drivers Vitaly Petrov and Jean-Eric Vergne both made strong starts to the race, running second and third in class, while Jarvis was able to battle his way back up to P4 by the end of the first hour.

Defending event winners Signatech-Alpine are two laps down after Gustavo Menezes ran wide at Mulsanne Corner on lap four and had to be recovered from the gravel trap. 

Aston Martin Racing made a strong start to the race in GTE-Pro as Nicki Thiim and Darren Turner ran one-two in the Aston Martin Vantage GTEs. Thiim was able to pull out a four-second lead over Turner, who acted as the cork in the bottle for GTE-Pro as the pack closed up.

Alessandro Pier Guidi sat third in class for AF Corse in the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE ahead of Kevin Estre and Stefan Muecke for Porsche GT Team and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing respectively.

Townsend Bell led in GTE-AM for Scuderia Corsa in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE, getting the jump on early leader Fernando Rees of Larbre Competition.

Rees sat two seconds behind Bell at the end of the first hour, with Rob Bell running third in the TF Sport Aston Martin.

Luke Smith is a British motorsport journalist who has served as NBC Sports’ lead Formula 1 writer since 2013, as well as working on its online sports car coverage.


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