Toyota firmly in Le Mans box seat through opening hours

The #7 Toyota remained in the box seat through the opening hours. Pic: Marius Hecker/

The first quarter of the 88th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans ended under full course yellow with the two Toyotas battling for overall honours.

The #7 and #8 Toyota TS050 Hybrids enjoyed good progress in the first six hours, putting a lap on the two Rebellions.

The two Toyotas were running out of sync to each other after Sebastien Buemi’s first stint was thwarted by a suspected puncture in the #8.

The #7, which was led through the opening hours by Mike Conway, established a clear buffer through four hours with Hyperpole winner Kamui Kobayashi leading Brendon Hartley by 40 seconds.

After a promising start to the race, the Rebellion cars continued to lose ground at up to five seconds per lap.

The fifth LMP1 runner, #4 ByKolles Racing, dropped to as low as 36th position after it lost 20 minutes in the third hour in pit lane with gearbox dramas.

However, an accident for Alexander West (#52 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE Evo) at the Porsche Curves triggered the race’s first Safety Car period, throwing pit strategy up in the air and bunching up the field.

The 22-car LMP2 class was highly competitive as expected, with the top five cars in class at one stage covered by 30 seconds. At the time of the full course yellow, the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca led from the #26 G-Drive Racing, #32 United Autosports, #38 Jota Sport, #31 Panis Racing and #30 Duqueine Team, with the Hyperpole-winning #22 United Autosport entry seventh in class.

Earlier, the #39 Graff Racing Oreca gained the lead in the second hour with Australian James Allen behind the wheel, before it dropped down the field after a spin from Vincent Capillaire in the Porsche Curves after three hours.

In LMGTE Pro, Porsche GT Team’s two entries had dropped to sixth and eighth respectively in class, with Davide Rigon leading in AF Corse’s #71 Ferrari 488 GTE Evo.

The #97 Aston Martin Vantage shadowed the #71 through four hours, before the #51 made it an AF Corse one-two in ahead of the full course yellow.

Through six hours, a strong stint for Augusto Farfus saw the #98 AMR Aston Martin lead the #90 TF Sport Aston in LMGTE Am, with Iron Lynx’s #75 Ferrari leading AF Corse’s #83 and Luzich Racing’s #61.

CLICK HERE for classification to Hour 6.

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