24h Le Mans: Toyota leads Le Mans after six hours

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The #7 Toy­ota Gazoo Rac­ing TS050 of Stéphane Sar­razin, Mike Con­way and Kamui Kobayashi leads the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the first six hours of the race. The #7 car holds a 20-sec­ond advan­tage over the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid of André Lot­ter­er, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy, with the sis­ter Toy­ota #8 anoth­er 20 sec­onds down the road.

The race began at 3:00pm local time in sear­ing heat, with dri­vers don­ning spe­cial cool­ing jack­ets on the grid to com­bat the high tem­per­a­tures. An excit­ing open­ing phase saw the #4 Bykolles Enso CLM P1/01 make con­tact with the #9 Toy­ota exit­ing Tertre Rouge, which ulti­mate­ly led to its retire­ment with engine dam­age after just 30 min­utes.

Mike Con­way put in a blis­ter­ing open­ing stint, but André Lot­ter­er in the lead Porsche kept the Eng­lish­man with­in his sights, and the lead bat­tle remains fine­ly poised after a quar­ter of the race. How­ev­er, Porsche have been left with just a sin­gle bul­let in their gun after trou­ble hit the #2 car of Bren­don Hart­ley, Earl Bam­ber and Timo Bern­hard, which spent over an hour in the pits with tech­ni­cal prob­lems.

LMP2 is head­ed by the pair of Vail­lante Rebel­lion cars, with the #31 machine of Bruno Sen­na, Julien Canal and Nico­las Prost hold­ing a 90-sec­ond advan­tage over the sis­ter #13 of Rober­to Gon­za­lez, Simon Trum­mer and Vitaly Petrov. Dra­ma hit the pole­sit­ting #26 G-Dri­ve Rac­ing Ore­ca of Roman Rusi­nov, Pierre Thiri­et and Alex Lynn, after Rusi­nov made con­tact with the #88 Abu Dhabi-Pro­ton Rac­ing car of Klaus Bach­ler, Stéphane Lémeret and Khaled Al Qubaisi in the Porsche Curves. The dam­age at the front of the Ore­ca machine was too severe for the G-Dri­ve Rac­ing crew to con­tin­ue.

GTE Pro has also pro­vid­ed a fas­ci­nat­ing bat­tle so far, with lit­tle sep­a­rat­ing all of the man­u­fac­tur­ers at the head of the field. Mar­co Sørensen had led the race away in the #95 Aston Mar­tin Van­tage, but he suf­fered a cru­el punc­ture and slipped down the order. Sørensen’s mis­for­tune hand­ed the lead to team­mate Daniel Ser­ra in the #97 machine, who cur­rent­ly leads the class at the six-hour mark. The #67 Ford GT is run­ning in sec­ond posi­tion, just 25 sec­onds down on the lead car in class.

The #82 Risi Com­pe­tizione Fer­rari 488, which fin­ished sec­ond here last year, had been run­ning well, but a seri­ous inci­dent with the #28 TDS Rac­ing machine, for which the LMP2 car was giv­en a sev­en-minute penal­ty, vault­ed #82 dri­ver Pierre Kaf­fer into the guard rails on the Mul­sanne Straight.

Aston Mar­tin also lead the GTE Am class, with the #98 car of Paul Dal­la Lana, Pedro Lamy and Matthias Lau­da hav­ing inher­it­ed the lead after prob­lems hit the pole­sit­ting #50 Lar­bre Com­pe­ti­tion Corvette C7.R, which was forced to pit and lost two laps as a result. The #84 JMW Motor­sport Fer­rari 488 is just 14 sec­onds behind in sec­ond posi­tion.

Images © WEC-Mag­a­zin / Wal­ter Schruff / Ton Kerdijk