LM24: Hours 1 to 6 – A turbulent start

It has been a frenetic first six hours of the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, with toe-to-toe battles for the lead and number of accident-induced safety car periods. Audi lead in LMP1, while the KCMG car enjoys a significant advantage in LMP2. In GTE, Aston Martin lead both the Pro and Am classes.

Porsche set the early pace as the 24 hours got underway, with the #18 919 Hybrid in the hands of Neel Jani making good its escape. Soon, however, the #18 car found itself being caught and passed by the #17 car of Timo Bernhard. The Audis and the Porsches spent the first hour of the race frantically battling for position among themselves, passing and re-passing each other almost at will. All the while, the red-and-white Porsche 919 Hybrid was building somewhat of a lead on the other LMP1 cars.

Then, the #92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR dropped oil just before the first chicane and promptly caught fire, bringing out the first safety car of the race. The #13 Rebellion R-One of Alexandre Imperatori arrived on the scene together with the #42 Strakka Dome, spinning and making contact with the British-entered car.

The withdrawal of the safety car after half an hour brought the curtain back up on a fascinating battle between the Audis and the Porsches, with the #7 car of Tréluyer/Lotterer/Fässler coming out on top and leading at the two-hour mark. However, a puncture put paid to the hard-charging Audi, which lost half a minute in the pits. Tréluyer was right back on the pace, though, and almost stuck his R18 in the barriers on the run down to Tertre Rouge.

A major incident then befell the #8 Audi of Loic Duval, which slammed into the barriers after being slightly caught out by a slow zone just before Indianapolis. Duval swiftly made his way back to the pits, and the Audi was back out on the track in a astonishingly short period of time. A subsequent safety car period was required to repair the barriers, which suffered some major damage.

The problems that hit the #7 and #8 cars meant that the #9 Audi has become the leading challenger for the lead against the #17 Porsche. Filipe Albuquerque in particular was on the limit in the chase for the lead, setting a new race lap record of 3:17.647, which had stood since 1971.

In P2, the KCMG Oreca 05 held a commanding lead after an early battle with the #26 G-Drive Racing machine. Advantaged by the safety car, the #47 machine still leads at the six-hour stage ahead of the Thiriet by TDS Oreca 05.

In GTE-Pro, Aston Martin and Corvette delivered some early blows in the battle for the lead. It was the kind of door-to-door action we have become accustomed to, and the #64 Corvette more than held its own against the V8 power of the #99 and#97 Aston Martins. The Corvette leads at the six-hour stage in the hands of Jordan Taylor, with Alex MacDowall in the #99 machine just behind. The #98 Aston Martin of Paul Dalla Lana, Mathias Lauda and Pedro Lamy dominates the GTE-Am class, holding a considerable lead over the #72 SMP Racing car.

Image source: FIA WEC press material