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24H Le Mans

Toyota In Control After Three Hours

Toyota puts a lap on non-hybrid contenders after three hours at Le Mans…

Photo: Olivier Beroud Images

Toyota consolidated its healthy lead at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after three hours, as Fernando Alonso turned his first laps in the race.

Mike Conway handed over to Jose Maria Lopez midway through the third hour, one lap after Alonso took the reins of the No. 8 car from Sebastien Buemi.

After losing his pole advantage at the start, Buemi then needed to make a longer stop for a change of rear wing after contact with Andre Lotterer’s No. 1 Rebellion Racing R13 Gibson at the first corner.

The Swiss driver responded by retrieving the gap on-track, coming to within a second of Conway, but couldn’t find a way past before the driver swaps.

The pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids ran hours two and three in unison ahead of the non-hybrid pack, which was fronted by the No. 17 SMP Racing BR Engineering BR1 AER driven by Egor Orudzhev on three hours.

The Rebellion has roughly half a minute in hand to the fourth-placed No. 17 BR Engineering BR1 AER which has Egor Orudzhev at the controls, with fresh pit stops incoming.

However, SMP’s sister No. 11 car that Vitaly Petrov started has been confined to its garage since the second hour for lengthy repairs on a technical issue that has yet to be diagnosed.

In LMP2, Jean-Eric Vergne extended G-Drive Racing’s position of authority with an impressive opening leg in the No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 07 Gibson.

The Frenchman has been in charge since the first bout of pit stops, with Loic Duval trying to keep chase for much of the opening stanza in the No. 28 TDS Racing Oreca.

Vergne has since relinquished his seat to silver-rated Andrea Pizzitola, who now holds a 1 minute 15-second margin over Andre Negrao.

The TDS car that Duval started has since dropped to fourth with bronze-rated Francois Perrodo currently strapped in for his first stint.

Hours two and three of the GTE-Pro category were dictated by Porsche, which ran first and second at the top of the hour.

Frederic Makowiecki brought the No. 91 ‘Rothmans’ Porsche 911 RSR out of the latest round of stops with a 0.7-second lead over Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 92 ‘Pink Pig’ machine.

Dirk Mueller was second for a period in the No. 68 Ford GT, but that car has since slipped back to third.

Porsche and Ford then filled out the next two places on the hour, while the No. 82 BMW Team MTEK M8 GTE ran sixth, although Alexander Sims previously had the car as high as fourth in the tight class battle.

Two cars in the class experienced setbacks, with the No. 51 Ferrari dropping out of fifth place with a puncture and the No. 64 Corvette C7.R spending considerably longer in the pits with a confirmed suspension issue.

Porsche also held sway in GTE-Am as Julien Andlauer moved the No. 77 Dempsey-Proton Racing Porsche into the class lead.

The 18-year-old entered the fourth hour with a 32-second lead over Cooper MacNeil in the No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE, while bronze-rated Thomas Flohr is third in the Spirit of Race Ferrari.

POSITIONS AFTER 3 HOURS

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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