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Nielsen Leads Opening Hour for Ferrari

Nielsen passes Vanthoor in first hour of 24 Hours of Le Mans before picking up penalty…

Photo: ACO

Nicklas Nielsen led the opening hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Ferrari AF Corse after wresting the advantage from Porsche at the first round of pit stops.

The No. 50 Ferrari 499P of Nicklas Nielsen surged up the order from fourth on the grid to grab second at the Dunlop chicane, before the Danish driver passed the pole-sitting No. 6 Penske Porsche 963 of Laurens Vanthoor on the run to Indianapolis.

It wasn’t long before the second of the factory Ferraris, the No. 51 car of Antonio Giovinazzi, made it a 1-2 for the Prancing Horse up front, as Giovinazzi picked off Vanthoor for second on lap four.

That was how the order remained at the head of the field until the first round of stops, which most of the frontrunners coming in together on lap 12.

Vanthoor briefly regained the lead ahead of Nielsen after the first stops, as Giovinazzi and the No. 83 AF Corse Ferrari of Robert Kubica both served their 10-second penalties picked up on Wednesday for not respecting pit lane procedures.

But Nielsen was soon back ahead of Vanthoor, completing the move for the lead on the final part of the Mulsanne straight on lap 14.

However, the No. 50 Ferrari has also been given a 10-second penalty to be served at the next stop for an unsafe release, as Nielsen was released right into the path of Sebastien Bourdais’ Cadillac exiting the pits.

Bourdais was running third in the No. 3 Cadillac V-Series.R before he was passed by Giovinazzi just shy of the one-hour mark.

Sebastien Buemi ran fifth in the best of the Toyotas, the No. 8 GR010 Hybrid, followed by Charles Milesi’s No. 35 Alpine A424, while Kubica slipped from fifth to seventh as a result of the No. 83’s car penalty.

Nicolas Lapierre had the second of the Alpines in eighth, while the top 10 was rounded off by two Porsches, Frederic Makowiecki in the No. 5 factory car and Phil Hanson in the No. 38 Hertz Team JOTA 963.

There was drama for BMW as the No. 15 M Hybrid V8 of Marco Wittmann suffered a spin at the Forest Esses, making light contact with the barriers.

Wittmann was able to get back to the pits and ran 22nd among the Hypercars, only ahead of the No. 99 Proton Competition Porsche which was taken into the garage.

In LMP2, the No. 9 Proton Competition Oreca 07 Gibson of Bent Viscaal led after the opening hour, having leapt up the order during the pitstops.

Viscaal was one of a group of five cars in class to pit at the end of lap 10, which rapid pitwork by the Proton crew putting the Dutchman out ahead of the No. 65 Panis Racing Oreca of Mathias Beche, which pitted the previous lap.

Beche had been running second behind the pole-sitting No. 14 AO by TF Sport car, which lost ground as Louis Deletraz made way for Bronze-rated PJ Hyett at his first stop.

The No. 22 United Autosports car of Oliver Jarvis ran third ahead of the No. 37 Cool Racing machine of Malthe Jakobsen and the No. 28 IDEC Sport of Job van Uitert.

Ben Keating suffered a spin at Dunlop Curve in the sister No. 23 United machine, dropping a lap off the lead in the process.

Also in trouble early on was the No. 47 Cool Racing Oreca after a slow in lap before a spell in the garage, with that car now five laps down.

LMGT3 was led by the pole-winning No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S GT3 Evo of Frederik Schandorff, which maintained the advantage through the first round of stops.

Ben Barker climbed from fourth on the grid to run second in the No. 77 Proton Competition Ford Mustang GT3, ahead of the No. 66 JMW Ferrari 296 GT3 of Larry ten Voorde.

The No. 92 Manthey PureRxcing Porsche 911 GT3 R that had started second dropped down the order in the early laps as Bronze-rated Alex Malykhin struggled against the pros.

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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