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24H Le Mans

Lopez Picks Up Puncture From Lead, Nakajima Overtakes

Kazuki Nakajima leading at Le Mans with an hour to go after double puncture for Lopez…

Photo: ACO

Jose Maria Lopez and the No. 7 Toyota TS050 Hybrid have lost the lead of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with an hour remaining due to a pair of punctures in quick succession.

This allowed Kazuki Nakajima to move into the top spot with 58 minutes on the clock, putting himself, Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Buemi in prime position to become back-to-back winners.

Lopez brought his car into the pits from a healthy lead of over two minutes to replace one tire after picking up a puncture, while he appeared to pick up another puncture on his out lap, forcing him to come back into the pits.

Speculation suggests the cause of the issue could be a sensor problem rather than two quick punctures.

Nakajima managed to pass Lopez on-track shortly after the second apparent puncture, and now holds a one-minute lead over the long-time leader.

Lopez, Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi had led most of the race after starting from pole, but now look set to settle for second position.

Nico Lapierre leads LMP2 with Signatech Alpine Matmut still out front ahead of the No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing car.

AF Corse has managed to hold onto its GTE-Pro advantage over two Porsches filling the provisional podium positions, with Alessandro Pier Guidi currently piloting the No. 51 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

Keating Motorsports has had its GTE-Am lead shrunk after team owner/driver Ben Keating was called in for a drive-through penalty for spinning his wheels after the previous stop.

Of note, the No. 85 customer-run Ford GT was called in for a nose change which was executed by the factory Ford Chip Ganassi Racing squad.

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist. He is a graduate of Politics and International Relations.

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