Timo Bernhard leads, behind the safety car, at the end of the first hour for the 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans after a bittersweet 60 minutes for Audi Motorsport.
Benoit Treluyer lead from the start of the race at 3pm local time (2pm UK) with Bernhard in second. Allan McNish, starting the no.3 car from fourth place was initially shuffled back a place by Franck Montagny and Sebastien Bourdais in the Peugeot 908s.
Contrary to the measurements taken during qualifying earlier in the week – which showed the Peugeots significantly faster – the leading Audis were able to pull away and McNish was in third before the half hour mark with a move around the outside going into the first of the chicanes on the Mulsanne Chicane.
The Scot was then able to pull away, three seconds ahead after just half a lap clear of the 908s.
Bernhard was able to take the lead during the round of pitstops, the Treluyer pitting from the lead with McNish in tow to begin the stop, Bernhard only following in later, leapfrogging the his teammate in the process.
McNish was able to take second place and attempted a pass for the lead down the Dunlop Esses when Bernhard was baulked by the no.58 Luxury Racing driven by Anthony Beltoise. McNish fired down the inside of Bernhard, but caught the front of the Ferrari spearing both into the gravel. First contact with barrier sent the R18 into a terrifying corkscrew, scattering parts into an area populated with marshalls and photographers.
The car ended the incident on its roof, but when right McNish was able to walk away from the wreck. At the time of writing no major injuries were reported after people were hit by flying debris. Beltoise was able to remain in the race, though the Ferrari returned to the garage for the team to tend to rear bodywork damage from hitting the wall.
Leading LMP2 at the start of the safety car period was the Team ORECA Matmut ORECA 03. The similar Nissan engine car, run by Signatech had led early from pole position, but Franck Mailleux was slowed by a left-rear puncture that damaged the rear bodywork.
GTE-Pro was led by the no.74 Corvette, taking the lead from the AF Corse Ferrari of Gianmaria Bruni during the pitstops. The pole sitting BMW lost the class lead on lap one. GTE-Am is being led by the Larbre Competition Porsche that set the pace during qualifying , followed by the AMR Middle East Aston Martin Vantage.
The AMR-One LMP1 challenge from Aston Martin lasted scarcely 10 minutes before Darren Turner spun at the first chicane and Adrian Fernandez parked the no.009 car with an engine problem out on track.
The Checkered Flag is covering the entire 24 Hours of Le Mans live, with hourly update.
2011 24 Hours of Le Mans standings after 1 hour
No.1 Audi Sport Team Joest – Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller
No.2 Audi Sport Team Joest – Fassler/Lotterer/Treloyer
No.8 Peugeot Sport Total – Minassian/Montagny/Sarrazin
No.48 – Team ORECA Matmut – Hallyday/Kraihamer/Premat
No.49 – OAK Racing – de Crem/Charouz/Nakano
No.42 – Strakka Racing – Leventis/Kane/Watt
No.74 – Corvette racing – Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook
No.51 – AF Corse – Bruni/Fisichell.Vilander
No.55 – BMW Motorsport -Farfus/Muller/Werner
No.70 – Larbre Competition – Belloc/Bourret/Gibon
No.60 -Gulf AMR Middle East – Giroix/Goethe/Wainwright
No.63 – Proton Competition – Felbermayr Jr/Felbermayr Sr/Reid