#7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid (Photo Credit: Toyota Racing)

#7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid (Photo Credit: Toyota Racing)

Toyota Racing lead the 2012 24 Hours of Le Mans, Nicolas Lapierre taking the lead after tight battle – the Toyota driver briefly taking to the grass – in the final minutes of the hour.

The #1 car driven by last year's winners, Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer had never been headed since the race started, but started to come under pressure from the #8 and #7 Toyotas. At one stage, the top four cars were split by only twenty-two seconds, before the two Japanese cars closed to within three seconds of Treluyer's lead.

It was Le Mans debutant Sebastien Buemi who lead the charge in the #8, before both cars pitted on laps 73 and 74. Buemi handed over the driving duties to Anthony Davidson, whilst Nicolas Lapierre – who had set the fastest lap of the race, stayed aboard the #7 car.

Audi's challenging race continued meanwhile, as Romain Dumas was caught out by GT traffic and ended in the barriers. He was attempting to lap the GTE Am Flying Lizard Porsche when he got off line and crashed, heavily damaging the front of his car. There were extraordinary scenes as the Frenchman hopped out the car and ripped the damaged nose section off the R18 Ultra, before going down a lap after limping back to the pits. He was unsurprisingly pushed into the garage with suspected suspension damage.

Further round the same lap Seth Neiman in the Flying Lizard spun at Indianapolis, out of the class lead. Despite a small fire on the back of the car he made it back to the pits, but lost the class lead to the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette.

Elsewhere, there were problems for the Nissan Deltawing. The revolutionary Nissan powered machine entered the pits for a scheduled stop but was briefly delayed when the fuel rig appeared to break, showering several mechanics in fuel. Thankfully, there was no fire and the car was able to re-join the action.

The fantastic GTE Pro battle continued to rage further down the field as Darren Turner and Tommy Milner once again found each other on the same piece of race track.

It was #1 Audi who continued to lead by a minute at the end of the hour however, having not made a pit stop.  

2012 24 Hours of Le Mans class standings after 5 hours:

#7 – Toyota Racing – Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima – 83 laps
#1 – Audi Sport Team Joest – Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer – 83 laps
#2 – Audi Sport Team Joest – Capello/Kristensen/McNish – 83 laps
#8 – Toyota Racing – Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin – 82 laps
#4 – Audi Sport North America – Bonanomi/Jarvis/Rockenfelle – 82 laps

#24 – OAK Racing – Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla – 79 laps
#35 – OAK Racing – Heinemeier Hansson/Leinders/Martin – 78 laps
#44 – Starworks Motorsports – Potolicchio/Dalziel/Kimber-Smith – 78 laps
#48 – Murphy Prototypes – Firth/Hughes/Hartley – 78 laps
#26  – Signatech Nissan – Panciatici/Ragues/Rusinov – 78 laps

#51 – AF Corse – Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander – 74 laps
#74 – Corvette Racing – Gavin/Milner/Westbrook – 74 laps
#97 – Aston Martin Racing – Fernandez/Mucke/Turner – 74 laps
#59 – Luxury Racing – Makoweicki/Melo/Farnbacher – 73 laps
#77 – Team Felbermayr-Proton – Lieb/Lietz/Henzler – 73 laps

#50 – Larbre Competition – Bornhouser/Canal/Lamy – 72 laps
#88 – Team Felbermayr-Proton – Ried/Roda/Ruberti – 72 laps
#58 – Luxury Racing – Ehret/Montecalvo/Jeannette – 72 laps
#67 – imsa Performance Matmut – Armindo/Narac/Pons – 72 laps
#61 AF Corse-Waltrip – Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers – 71 laps