Alex Wurz in the #7 Toyota led the first hour of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking the car that Kazuki Nakajima put on pole into the early lead.
Wurz initially led Neel Jani in the #14 Porsche 919 Hybrid before Nicolas Lapierre made it a Toyota one-two at the front of the race in the early laps. However, the Frenchman’s tenure of second was short lived a slide into the gravel at the second of the Mulsanne Straight chicanes losing him time to Andre Lotterer in the #2 Audi R18 which had become the leader of the three R18 e-tron Quattro.
Lapierre’s error dropped him into the middle of the snarling LMP1 pack featuring Jani and the other two Audis.
Jani would be the major casualty of the first hour, the #14 touring back to the pits just after the half hour with a fuel pressure issue. The car, still with Jani at the wheel, was returned to the race towards the end of the hour after losing nine minutes to repairs in the garage.
The opening hour also brought the first use of the SlowZone procedure, being used to allow marshals to corral the gravel thrown onto the track by Lapierre’s earlier off.
Following a round of pitstops for the LMP1 teams, Wurz continued to lead – though with murmurs of an unsafe release when the Austrian was released into the path of an Audi – with Lotterer’s #2 the leader of a three car battle between he, Lapierre and Marco Bononomi in the #3 R18. Lapierre looked likely to retake second place but as the trio approached as Aston Martin at the Dunlop Chicane Bononomi got the better run past the traffic and down the Forest Esses to take third place.
Alex Imperatori led LMP2 at the end of the hour, the Swiss driver in the KCMG machine leapin up the order to second in class behind Jota man Harry Tincknell in the early laps before taking the lead following the opening round of stops.
Tincknell fell to fourth by the end of the hour, losing ground to both Tristan Gommendy in the Thiriet by TDS Racing and Jann Mardenborough in the OAK Racing Ligier-Nissans.
Mardenborough was involved in one of the – remarkably few – moment of contact tipping Marco Cioci’s #61 LMGTE Am Ferrari into the gravel on the outside of Mulsanne Corner.
The sister car – the #81 – led the way in the class, Sam Bird maintaining the advantage in class given him by his class pole position. He did lose the top spot in class to first Aston Martin Racing’s Nicki Thiim and then Imsa Performance Matmut’s Nicolas Armindo before reassuming the lead.
Gimmi Bruni did lead LMGTE Pro for AF Corse, the class providing a near nose to tail battle between the top for in class with Bruni the Corvettes of Jan Magnussen and Oliver Gavin and Aston Martin’s Darren Turner. Magnussen’s pressure on the Ferrari paid off, the Dane taking the lead of the class, but at almost the same time Turner pushed the sister C7.R back to fourth in class.
However the positions were shuffled after pitstops, Bruni’s #51 retaking the lead ahead of the pair of Corvettes Gavin ahead of Magnussen.
The opening 60 minutes also saw the demise of the Nissan ZEOD RC, grinding to a halt after less than half an hour with a terminal gearbox failure.
2014 24 Hours of Le Mans class standings after 1 hour.
1 – #7 Toyota Racing – Nakajima/Sarrazin/Wurz
2 – #2 Audi Sport Team Joest – Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer
3 – #3 Audi Sport Team Joest – Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis
1 – #47 KCMG – Bradley/Howson/Imperatori
2 – #35 OAK Racing – Brundle/Mardenborough/Shulzhitskiy
3 – #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing – Badey/Gommendy/Thiriet
1 – #51 AF Corse – Bruni/Fisichella/Vilander
2 – #74 Corvette Racing – Gavin/Milner/Westbrook
3 – #73 Corvette Racing – Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor
1 – #81 AF Corse – Bird/Rugolo/Wyatt
2 – #95 Aston Martin Racing – Heinemeier-Hansson/Poulsen/Thiim
3 – #72 SMP Racing – Basov/Bertolini/Shiatar