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Ferrari Leads Porsche After Six Hours; Alpines Out

Yifei Ye keeps No. 83 AF Corse car at the front as Alpine loses both cars…

Photo: Julien Delfosse/DPPI

Ferrari led the 24 Hours of Le Mans after six hours with Yifei Ye keeping the No. 83 AF Corse entry ahead of the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport car, while Alpine became the first Hypercar manufacturer to suffer a retirement.

Having emerged from the early-race rain showers with the advantage, the satellite 499P that Ye took over from Robert Shwartzman led at the quarter-distance mark by around 50 seconds ahead of the No. 6 Porsche 963 of Matt Campbell.

Third was the No. 8 Toyota GR010 Hybrid of Ryo Hirakawa, a further five seconds behind.

The order had become relatively settled at the head of the field following the early-race rain showers that shook up the field, but further rain arrived just as the race approached the six-hour mark.

While the leading three cars all pitted for wets together on lap 95, what had been the second-placed No. 50 Ferrari of Miguel Molina came in on the previous lap for slicks to change over to Nicklas Nielsen.

Ferrari then elected to keep Nielsen out on a wet track, albeit lapping more than 20 seconds off the pace, and passed up the chance to bring in the Danish driver next time around, electing instead to try and brave it out on slicks.

The second factory Ferrari, the No. 50 499P of Antonio Giovinazzi, had been circulating fifth before coming to the pits for wet tires, elevating the No. 6 Penske Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor into that position.

Alpine’s No. 35 car became the first retirement in the top class and the second of the race overall (following the No. 54 AF Corse Ferrari 296 GT3) when Ferdinand Habsburg suffered a spectacular engine blow-up in the fifth hour.

The sole remaining A424, the No. 36 car, was brought into the garage to address an engine problem and was declared an official retirement not long after.

As of the six-hour mark, a total of 13 cars remained on the lead lap, including all three Cadillac V-Series.Rs, both Hertz Team JOTA Porsches, the No. 7 Toyota and the No. 15 BMW M Hybrid V8.

In LMP2, Cool Racing’s No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson took over the lead shortly before the six-hour mark after a pit stop for the Vector Sport machine that had been leading the class since the early stages.

The gap between the two cars had stabilized at around 50 seconds before Stephane Richelmi brought the No. 10 car into the pits, at which point he surrendered the lead to Lorenzo Fluxa in the Cool car.

Vector had been battling the Inter Europol Competition car for the lead of the class in the fourth hour until the No. 34 Oreca lost its front-left wheel, bringing out the first of two quickfire full-course yellows.

The second was triggered when United Autosports driver Nolan Siegel made contact with the DKR Engineering car of Rene Binder at the Ford chicane.

Despite picking up a drive-through penalty, the No. 22 United car, now in the hands of Bijoy Garg, ran third ahead of the Nielsen Racing car of Kyffin Simpson and the best of the Pro-Am entries, the AF Corse machine of Ben Barnicoat.

Manthey PureRxcing driver Joel Sturm led the way in LMGT3 after passing the Team WRT BMW of Valentino Rossi for position.

The order in the class shuffled significantly in the evening hours as different crews elected to run their Bronze-rated drivers at different points.

Ahmad Al Harthy gained significant ground during his spell at the wheel of the No. 46 BMW M4 GT3, as did both of the Manthey Porsche 911 GT3 Rs with Yasser Shahin and Alex Malykhin driving the No. 91 and 92 cars respectively.

Richard Lietz had the No. 91 Manthey car running third ahead of two McLaren 720S GT3 Evos, the No. 59 United Autosports car of James Cottingham and the No. 70 Inception Racing entry of Brendan Iribe.

Jamie Klein is Sportscar365's Asian editor. Japan-based Klein, who previously worked for Motorsport Network on the Motorsport.cоm and Autosport titles, covers the FIA World Endurance Championship and SUPER GT, among other series.

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