Toyota continue to hold all the cards after the first five hours of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with Stéphane Sarrazin maintaining close to a minute’s lead over the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, André Lotterer having taking over just before the turn of the hour .
In the final seconds of the fifth hour, Pierre Kaffer was pitched into the barriers at the Playstation chicane, with the #24 TDS Racing LMP2 car of Matthieu Vaxivière making a mess of lapping the red Ferrari, pushing him off at the entry to the corner.
1st – #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Conway/Kobayashi/Sarrazin
2nd – #1 Porsche Team – Porsche 919 Hybrid – Jani/Lotterer/Tandy
3rd – #8 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Buemi/Davidson/Nakajima
Kamui Kobayashi continues to lead the class, though showed a small chink in Toyota’s armour by only being able to run 12 laps in his latest stint, while second placed Tandy was able to eek out 13 laps before stopping.
Having struggled initially to get to grips with the #8 Toyota TS050, Anthony Davidson recovered some pace during the fifth hour, closing the gap from a minute and a half to just over a minute before handing the car over to Kazuki Nakajima.
There was another minor issue for the Toyota team. During the third car’s driver change, as Yuji Kunimoto took over the #9 machine, the right side door was left unsecured, leaving it flapping around after setting off. After 5 laps, Kunimoto eventually pitted to get the issue fixed, a mechanic working away furiously on the door latch to resolve the problem.
After a long delay, the #2 Porsche was finally able to resume, the German team having replaced most of the front end of the 919 Hybrid, allowing Brendon Hartley to resume down in 56th place overall.
1st – #13 Vaillante Rebellion – Oreca 07-Gibson – Piquet Jr/Heinemeier Hansson/Beche
2nd – #31 Vaillante Rebellion – Oreca 07-Gibson – Prost/Senna/Canal
3rd – #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing – Oreca 07-Gibson – Graves/Hirschi/Vergne
Despite an off-road excursion late in the fourth hour, the #13 ORECA-Gibson of David Heinemeier Hansson continues to lead the secondary prototype class, maintaining a small but steady gap to the second Rebellion of Julien Canal.
There was a minor altercation over the final podium position, with Ho-Pin Tung at the wheel of the #24 CEFC Manor TRS Racing nudging his way past Jonathan Hirschi‘s Jackie Chan DC Racing car for third at the entry to the Dunlop Chicane. Hirschi would come to regain the position after a stop for the #24 later in the hour.
Roberto Lacorte suffered an embarrassing error, spinning on his own at the Dunlop chicane, dipping his rear wheels into the gravel and stalling the #47 Cetilar Villorba Corse. The Italian caused a slow zone waiting to get a lift out of the gravel by crane before setting off.
1st – #97 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage – Turner/Adam/Serra
2nd – #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK – Ford GT – Priaulx/Tincknell/Derani
3rd – #51 AF Corse – Ferrari 488 GTE – Calado/Per Guidi/Rugolo
Having suffered a spin that would put a washing machine to shame, the #92 Porsche 911 RSR was forced to pit early to replace its quartet of flat-spotted tyres. This would be the only real drama in the class, with Jonathan Adam continuing to maintain Aston Martin Racing’s advantage in the class.
Alessandro Per Guidi continues to hold the final podium place, fending off a challenge late in the hour from the #64 Corvette C7.R, piloted by Marcel Fässler. The Swiss driver came very close to attempting a pass in the final sector of the lap, and while he lost his initial opportunity thanks to traffic, looks like he may take the place away from Per Guidi in the coming minutes.
1st – #98 Aston Martin Racing – Aston Martin Vantage – Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda
2nd – #84 JMW Motorsport – Ferrari 488 GTE – Smith/Stevens/Vanthoor
3rd – #90 TF Sport – Aston Martin Vantage – Yoluc/Hankey/Bell
The #98 Aston Martin Vantage, which Mathias Lauda took over just prior to the top of the previous hour, continues to hold a solid class lead, with the #84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari now looking reasonably solid in second.
“At the moment it’s going pretty well, though we struggled at the end a bit, as the tyres were going off,” explained Dries Vanthoor to Radio Le Mans at the end of his stint. “I was loosing 5 seconds a lap or more and I couldn’t do anything about it. When I was trying to push more, I was locking the front wheels or understeering, so I wasn’t confident enough to push.”
There was a change for the final podium place, as Euan Hankey passed Cooper MacNeil midway through the hour.