The 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans begun in dramatic fashion, with the battle for the overall lead of the race immediately ramping up between Audi and Toyota.
However, it was a crash by Allan Simonsen from the LMGTE Am lead in the #95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage that dominated the opening 60 minutes, leaving all but the opening ten minutes to be run behind the safety car as the severely damaged car was recovered and the barriers on the outside of Tertre Rouge were repaired.
Before Simonsen’s exit Andre Lotterer had jumped into the lead in the #1 Audi e-tron quattro ahead of Allan McNish in the pole sitting #2 car. However, it was the move of Nicolas Lapierre that was the story of the race in the early laps.
Despite starting fifth – behind all three Audi and the sister Toyota TS030 Hybrid – the Frenchman was into third through the Dunlop Curves and then chased down McNish to take second under braking for the second of the Mulsanne Straight chicanes.
Lapierre pushed on to close onto the back of Lotterer before the safety cars intervened and was joined in the top three by Anthony Davidson in the #8 Toyota who fought his way by Lucas di Grassi and Allan McNish to take third and then pull away from the two R18s.
Rebellion Racing hold sixth and seventh with LMP1 privateer rivals Strakka Racing tenth after having to fight through the lower classes after being demoted on the grid for not completing the minimum number of laps during qualifying.
OAK Racing’s #24 leads LMP2 in the hands of Olivier Pla. Alexandre Imperatori lies second in class in the KCMG Morgan, the Chinese entry elevated to second as several cars made stops under the safety car including both the Signatech Alpine #36 started by Nelson Panciatici and John Martin’s G-Drive sponsored ORECA-Nissan which had held second before the safety car came out.
After a crash in warm-up there were more problems for the other G-Drive liveried car, which as pulled into the garage due to air leak that caused a gear selection problem. Also in LMP2 there we issues for the Murphy Prototypes team which stopped in the garage with an electrical problem.
Aston Martin Racing lead LMGTE Pro, but with the #97 rather than the polesitting #99, which had dropped to third by the end of the hour with the #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey entry finding a way between the two Vantages. The class was one of the major casualties – aside, of course from Simonsen’s #95 – of the safety car period as the multiple safety cars used at Le Mans came out in the right (or wrong) place to engineer at huge gap between the #99 Aston and the #91 Porsche in fourth in class.
Simonsen’s crash, the final part of a number of spins at Tertre Rouge, removed the heavily fancied car from the race and presented the lead to Patrick Long, the Porsche works driver starting the race in the Dempsey Del Piero-Proton Porsche. At the end of the hour he led from the #67 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche and the #61 AF Corse Ferrari.
2013 24 Hours of Le Mans class standings after 1 hour
1 – #1 Audi Sport Team Joest – Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer
2 – #7 Toyota Racing – Lapierre/Nakajima/Wurz
3 – #8 Toyota Racing – Buemi/Davidson/Sarrazin
1 – #24 OAK Racing – Brundle/Heinemeier Hansson/Pla
2 – #47 KCMG – Howson/Imperatori/Tung
3 – #38 Jota – Dolan/Luhr/Turvey
1 – #97 Aston Martin Racing – Dumbreck/Mucke/Turner
2 – #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey – Dumas/Lieb/Lietz
3 – #99 Aston Martin Racing – Bell/Makowiecki/Senna
1 – #77 Dempsey Del Piero – Dempsey/Foster/Long
2 – #67 IMSA Performance Matmut – Gibon/Henzler/Milesi
3 – #61 AF Corse – Cioci/Gerber/Griffin