LM24: Comfortable lead for Toyota after frantic opening hour

Image by Sam Bloxham/LAT

LM24: Comfortable lead for Toyota after frantic opening hour

Le Mans/WEC

LM24: Comfortable lead for Toyota after frantic opening hour


After an hour of racing in the 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours, it’s Toyota Gazoo Racing’s pair of TS050 HYBRIDS running in a strong, healthy 1-2 formation up front with light rain falling around the circuit. Behind, though, it was a frantic hour of racing, across all the classes.

At the end of the first hour, the No. 8 of Sebastien Buemi was running ahead of the No. 7 of Mike Conway, though Conway did lead for a time early in the hour, before letting the pole-sitting No. 8 past down the Mulsanne Straight 15 minutes into the race.

Behind, it was a real lottery in LMP1 among the privateers, mainly due to multiple dramas, one of which came before the race started. The ByKolles ENSO CLM P1/01 had a tough opening hour and was the first to hit trouble, Tom Dillman unable to get the car fired. When he did finally get going, he then had a spin at the Dunlop bridge. It certainly wasn’t the start to the race the Austrian team wanted! However, its car did end the hour back up to sixth overall.

The other hairy moment came at Turn 1 at the start, the nose of the No. 1 Rebellion R-13 of Andre Lotterer falling off and flying into the DragonSpeed BR1 as Lotterer ran wide on the run up the hill, looking to get in amongst the Toyotas. As a result, Lotterer had to pit at the end of the lap for a replacement nose, while the DragonSpeed machine of Ben Hanley pitted a few laps later for a check due to a vibration. No issue was found. The two cars are now ninth and fifth, respectively.

Behind the Toyotas after 60 minutes of racing is the No. 17 SMP Racing BR1 of Stephane Sarrazin, who managed to keep it clean through the opening melee and plant the car in third after a tussle through traffic with the No. 3 Rebellion of Thomas Laurent, who ended the hour fourth. The car is a minute behind the leading Toyota after the first round of stops.

It was a rollercoaster for the CEFC TRSM Ginettas, the No. 6 of Alex Brundle climbing to sixth in the opening laps before finishing the hour eighth after slowing with a gearbox issue. The sister car also was in trouble: contact for Mike Simpson meant the team had to pit to change the front end of the car.

Image by Ashleigh Hartwell/LAT

LMP2 was fast and furious early, the big moves coming on Lap 1, with the No. 31 DragonSpeed ORECA 07 Gibson leading after an early charge from Nathanael Berthon, who stormed past the pole-sitting No. 48 IDEC Sport ORECA.

The running order was shuffled considerably through the first round of stops, with the No. 26 G-Drive Racing 07 Gibson of Jean-Eric Vergne emerging from pit lane as the leader ahead of the TDS Racing example of Loic Duval. Third was the No. 36 Alpine heading into Hour 2, ahead of the pole-sitting IDEC ORECA in fourth and the No. 23 Panis Barthez Ligier JS P217 — the highest placed Onroak machine in the field.

GTE Pro, like LMP2, was also frantic throughout the hour at the head of the field. Early on, the pole-sitting No. 91 Porsche of Gianmaria Bruni and No. 92 Porsche of Kevin Estre (the two retro-liveried cars) battled hard for the class lead with the No. 66 and No. 68 Fords scrapping for third behind. The order into Hour 2, though, was slightly different.

The No. 92, with Michael Christensen now behind the wheel, ahead of the No. 68 Ford GT of Dirk Muller. The top three was completed by Bruni’s No. 91, with the No. 93 of Patrick Pilet (who was involved in a very close battle with the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari halfway through the hour) in fourth. The No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Calado ended up circulating fifth, ahead of the No. 66 Ford of Stefan Mucke, who was leading a train of GTE Pro runners which included the first of the Corvettes (No. 63) and BMWs (No. 82.)

Aston Martin Racing, despite a late BoP break after qualifying, looks to still be in for a tough race at this stage, its Vantages still 16th and 17th after an hour of racing.

Down in GTE Am, Gulf Racing leads the way after Ben Barker muscled his way past the No. 88 Dempsey Proton Porsche of Matteo Cairoli, who ended up dropping to third through the first round of stops behind the No. 54 Spirit of Race Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella.