Toyota dominates opening stages at Le Mans
Toyota has dominated the opening stages of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its two cars heading the field throughout the first six hours.
The two factory LMP1 entries hold a two lap advantage over the rest of the field, a lead that would have been greater if they’d not been caught in the pits under the second safety car which saw them give up a lap of their advantage.
Though the #8 entry had opened a sizeable advantage in the hands of Sebastien Buemi, only for the sister car to close the gap as the pair found themselves together throughout much of the opening six hours.
Matt Campbell’s Dempsey Racing Porsche 911 RSR held the lead in the LMGTE-Am class, the Australian taking over the car from co-driver Julien Andlauer in a commanding position.
From the start the #77 Porsche dropped down the order before climbing to the lead in class, the safety cars playing to their advantage to see them hold almost a lap advantage over the Team Project 1 Porsche driven by Jorg Bergmeister.
Porsche also led the LMGTE-Pro class, which has largely seen a battle between the two factory Porsche GT Racing entries.
After four hours Kevin Estre emerged as the class leader, building a lap advantage over the second placed #81 BMW Team MTEK entry.
Heading the LMP2 field was the #26 G-Drive Racing entry, also holding a lap advantage in class.
A touch between the #8 Toyota and #1 Rebellion into the opening turn saw Andre Lotterer damage the front of his car, sending the Belgian wide on the approach to the Dunlop Chicane and into the #10 DragonSpeed entry of Ben Hanley.
Though turned aronud, Hanley was able to rejoin while Lotterer limped the Rebellion, which lost its front bodywork in the clash, around the lap before pitting for a replacement.
Ben Barker headed the LMGTE-Am class in the early laps before a slow puncture forced him into the lane.
Co-driver Mike Wainwright then lost control at the right hander of Indianapolis, tagging the wall and bringing out a Slow Zone with just over an hour and a half run in the race.
However, Wainwright was able to drag the car back to the pits and rejoin the race it dropped four laps off the class leaders.
Two safety cars were called in the opening six hours, the first for debris when the #38 LMP2 Jackie Chan DC Racing suffered a right front tyre failure.
The second came after a heavy crash for Dominik Kraihmer in the ByKolles LMP1 entry as he tried to lap one of the LMGTE-Am entries at the Porsche Curves.
Kraihmer appeared to crowd the #88 Dempsey Racing Porsche before making contact and leaving the road, making heavy contact with the barriers.
It ended what had been a troublesome race for the ByKolles squad after the car failed to get away on the formation lap and started the race from the rear of the field.
Just shy of the six hour marker Juan-Pablo Montoya crashed the United Autosports entry after he ran long at Indianapolis and nosed the LMP2 entry into barriers, though the Colombian was able to carry on after being dragged out of the gravel.
As evening begins to fall the race carries on, with rain forecast before sunrise on Sunday morning.