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Button Leads Hour 1 as No. 3 Rebellion Crashes Out

Jenson Button leads hour 1 at Fuji for SMP Racing as Menezes crashes…

Photo: FIA WEC

Jenson Button led a safety car-affected opening hour of the 6 Hours of Fuji as the second-in-championship No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson crashed out.

The SMP Racing driver took the lead in the No. 11 BR Engineering BR1 AER by not pitting under safety car conditions, with the pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids running second and third.

The interruption was caused by debris from the right-rear tire of the MR Racing GTE-Am Ferrari which delaminated violently on the front straight.

Rebellion Racing, meanwhile, lost one of its cars after Gustavo Menezes crashed into the tire barriers under the safety car and picked up substantial damage.

Menezes, who walked away from the accident, spun in the damp conditions having recently taken a set of slicks with the 2.8-mile Fuji Speedway starting to dry out after a wet start.

The No. 3 crew arrived in Japan second in the LMP1 standings and two points behind leaders Fernando Alonso, Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, after winning the 6 Hours of Silverstone.

The race returned to green shortly before the close of the opening hour, with Button running four seconds ahead of Kamui Kobayashi and Nakajima in the two Toyotas.

At the start, Nakajima led away comfortably while Kobayashi recovered the No. 7 through the LMP1 field after starting from the back.

Rebellion ran 2-3 early on, before the two SMP cars closed in with Stephane Sarrazin moving the No. 17 BR1 ahead of Menezes 15 minutes into the race.

However, Sarrazin was forced to make an emergency pit stop when the front-left tire of his car came loose while out on track. 

In LMP2, Matthieu Vaxiviere took the lead in the pits in the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, while Aston Martin Racing ran 1-2 in the early stages of GTE-Pro.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

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