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24H Le Mans

Conway Leads Chaotic Opening Hour at Le Mans

Rain brings early drama to Le Mans as No. 7 Toyota escapes the mayhem to lead…

Photo: ACO

Toyota driver Mike Conway led a chaotic opening hour of racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after rainfall contributed to multiple incidents up and down the 61-car field.

The 89th edition of the French endurance classic started with two laps under the safety car due to the wet conditions, with the field being released at the start of lap three.

Pole-sitter Conway was the only Hypercar-class driver to emerge from the first stint relatively unscathed after incidents affected the No. 7 Toyota GR010 Hybrid’s main rivals including its sister No. 8 car.

A second-corner lunge from Glickenhaus driver Olivier Pla rotated Sebastien Buemi’s No. 8 Toyota which combined with a system reset and a wide moment at Arnage to cost the Swiss over a minute and a half.

Pla’s No. 708 Glickenhaus 007 Pipo LMH carried on, albeit with right-front corner damage and a looming penalty, and even picked up a position when the Frenchman overtook his teammate Richard Westbrook who went off-track at Dunlop on lap two.

Conway was then given more breathing room at the head of the field when Nicolas Lapierre spun the second-placed Alpine A480 Gibson at Indianapolis, dropping to 18th.

The driver of the No. 7 Toyota extended his lead over Pla’s Glickenhaus to 40 seconds with half an hour on the race clock.

LMP2 leader Antonio Felix da Costa soon caught the non-hybrid LMH prototypes with hits JOTA Oreca 07 Gibson and moved past both before the first round of pit stops.

A drying track surface prompted the entire field to adopt slicks before the end of the first hour. Conway emerged with a 43-second lead over da Costa, with a recovering Buemi back up to third overall, 19 seconds behind the JOTA driver.

Nyck de Vries was fourth in the LMP2-class No. 26 G-Drive Racing Aurus-badged Oreca, six seconds up the road from Lapierre on board the Alpine LMP1 car.

The two Glickenhaus entries were among the LMP2 mid-pack, with Pla running just over a minute and a half behind the leading Toyota.

Corvette Racing took an early GTE-Pro lead in the wet conditions but both C8.Rs driven by Tommy Milner and Antonio Garcia were soon swamped by the chasing pack.

Milner was the first to relent, dropping behind both AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evos, before Garcia was also overtaken by Miguel Molina and James Calado.

The changes gave Ferrari a one-two that switched around when Calado out-braked Molina into the first Mulsanne chicane.

Corvette Racing brought Milner in as one of the earliest adopters of slicks after 40 minutes, in a move that paid off when the American came out ahead of Molina to lead again.

Laurens Vanthoor and Gianmaria Bruni were third and fourth in Porsche 911 RSR-19, with Calado slipping to fifth and Garcia one place further back.

Antonio Fuoco took the GTE-Am lead from pole-sitter Julien Andlauer in the opening stint, only for the Italian to lose ground during the pit stops.

Nicklas Nielsen inherited the top spot heading into the second hour for AF Corse, with Andlauer running second ahead of Matteo Cressoni of Iron Lynx and Nicki Thiim of NorthWest Aston Martin Racing.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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