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Pole-Sitter Conway Leads Opening Hour at Monza

Conway consolidates No. 7 Toyota’s pole by leading opening hour at Monza…

Photo: MPS Agency

Mike Conway built a 5.5-second lead over fellow Toyota driver Sebastien Buemi during the first hour of racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at Monza.

After Jose Maria Lopez went quickest in qualifying on Saturday evening, Conway led away from pole at the start of Sunday’s six-hour contest in the same Toyota GR010 Hybrid.

The driver of the No. 7 Toyota pulled away from his teammate Buemi, who was initially overtaken by Alpine’s Andre Negrao at the first chicane before powering past up the inside at Curva Grande on the opening lap.

Negrao then fell into the range of Richard Westbrook, who challenged the Brazilian’s third place aboard the No. 709 Glickenhaus SCG 007 LMH non-hybrid.

Toyota, meanwhile, established control at the head of the five-car Hypercar field through the opening round of pit stops which occurred just after the half-hour mark during a Full Course Yellow period.

The FCY occurred when Andrew Haryanto spun his Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 at the second chicane, with his car’s rear wheels resting in the gravel.

Glickenhaus’ No. 709 car started from fourth on the grid, however Pipo Derani lost ground in the opening laps before pitting with a spark plug issue.

United Autosports’ Phil Hanson took the LMP2 lead at the first corner from Robin Frijns, whose co-driver Charles Milesi had taken pole for Team WRT.

Hanson led Frijns, Nyck de Vries, Juan Pablo Montoya, Oliver Jarvis, Loic Duval and the rest of the field through to the FCY. Montoya dipped out when he handed over to Henrik Hedman during the slow period, while the other front-runners remained at the wheel.

Frijns was half a second behind Hanson after one hour, while de Vries was a further 1.4 seconds back in the Racing Team Nederland Oreca. Realteam Racing’s Duval lost ground on the leading pack when he was tapped into a spin by Inter Europol Competition’s Alex Brundle at the first chicane.

Kevin Estre consolidated his pole position to lead the early stages of GTE-Pro in the No. 92 Porsche 911 RSR-19.

The 2018-19 WEC champion led Alessandro Pier Guidi by four seconds at the hour mark, while Gianmaria Bruni and Miguel Molina squabbled over third position.

A quicker stop from AF Corse gave Molina the jump on Bruni’s Porsche in the pits, before Bruni responded by out-braking the Spaniard at the Rettifilio chicane.

Ben Keating led GTE-Am in the pole-sitting TF Sport Aston Martin Vantage GTE after resisting early pressure from Francesco Castellacci and Alessio Rovera in customer AF Corse Ferraris.

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

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