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24H Le Mans

Toyota Leads Opening Hour at Le Mans

No. 7 Toyota out front and building its lead after early non-hybrid challenge in Hour 1…

Photo: MPS Agency

The pair of Toyota TS050 Hybrids ran 1-2 at the end of the opening hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans despite a first-lap challenge from the non-hybrid LMP1 competition.

Mike Conway consolidated his pole position at the 3 p.m. race start in the No. 7 Toyota, but his teammate Sebastien Buemi lost a place to Gustavo Menezes in the No. 3 Rebellion R13 Gibson on the opening lap.

Menezes was re-passed by Buemi before the cars returned for their second tour, however, and the Toyotas opened up a five-second lead heading into the first pit stops.

This turned into a 21-second lead by the end of the hour, which also included some close racing between the Rebellion and SMP Racing entries.

Vitaly Petrov, driving the No. 11 SMP-entered BR Engineering BR1 AER, made a series of challenges on Menezes for third but couldn’t forge a way past.

The Russian driver ended the opening hour with 12 seconds to make up to the Rebellion, while Stephane Sarrazin sat back in fifth in the sister SMP machine.

Rebellion’s No. 1 car hit trouble late in the first hour when Bruno Senna was reduced to a crawl by a puncture that dropped the Brazilian off the lead lap and down to 26th overall.

In LMP2, Signatech Alpine took the lead from TDS Racing, with Nicolas Lapierre opening up a 17-second advantage over Matthieu Vaxiviere.

Jean-Eric Vergne is currently chasing down Vaxiviere in the G-Drive Racing Oreca-based Aurus 01 Gibson with IDEC Sport’s Paul-Loup Chatin running fourth ahead of DragonSpeed’s Anthony Davidson.

The lead in GTE-Pro changed on-track during the opening stanza when Antonio Garcia worked the No. 63 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R to the front ahead of Nicki Thiim in the pole-sitting No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage GTE.

This came just before Harry Tincknell, who started second in the No. 67 Ford GT, lost two places in quick succession to the No. 92 and No. 93 Porsche 911 RSRs.

Thiim had slipped to 10th by the end of the first hour with Garcia leading the train from Michael Christensen and Nick Tandy.

The Spirit of Race Ferrari 488 GTE currently leads GTE-Am with Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel, following a wild spin late in the hour for Satoshi Hoshino in the formerly-leading No. 88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche.

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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