2019 24 Hours of Le Mans – Hour 1 Update – Conway stretches his legs

by James Eagles
Toyota #7 - World Endurance Championship - 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

Mike Conway holds the advantage after a frantic first hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing in car #7, leading team-mate Sébastien Buemi (#8) by over 15 seconds.

Conway also managed to set a new race lap record at the Circuit de la Sarthe with a time of 3:17.297, over a second faster than Buemi’s best effort, as dark clouds consumed the circuit with spots of rain reported on the Mulsanne straight.

Both Toyota cars have made their first pitstops for refuelling, with quadruple stints expected on the first set of tyres.

Gustavo Menezes in the #3 Rebellion Racing car has been locked in an intense battle with the #11 SMP Racing of Vitaly Petrov to keep third place, with Stéphane Sarrazin (SMP Racing #17) keeping in touch with the duo.

Lapierre leads in tight, but quiet, LMP2 race

Nicolas Lapierre and the #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut team lead the LMP2 class by nearly 20 seconds, ahead of TDS Racing‘s Matthieu Vaxivière and G-Drive Racing‘s Jean-Éric Vergne.

Vaxivière and Vergne have rarely been far away from each other, with the P2 field in close proximity for the majority of the hour.

GTE Pro traffic has been the largest threat to the order in the class, bunching up duelling cars in the technical parts of the circuit.

The only troubled car in the category was the all-French #30 Duqueine Engineering entry; a puncture forced Nicolas Jamin to limp back to the pits from the Mulsanne straight.

Corvette heads pulsating GTE Pro start

The #63 Corvette Racing car, driven by Antonio García, has worked its way up to the head of the field in GTE Pro, after a wonderful battle between Aston Martin, Corvette and Ford.

Nicki Thiim (Aston Martin #95) had started the race at the front from pole position, but succumbed to huge pressure from García and Harry Tincknell in the #67 Ford UK car around halfway through the opening 60 minutes.

Thiim also come under attack from Kévin Estre in the white, black and gold-liveried Porsche #92, the Frenchman forcing his way past the Aston Martin at Mulsanne corner and easing Thiim out of clear track on the exit.

The Dane has felt the effect of the Balance of Performance changes, with the Aston’s acceleration slightly compromised by the revisions.

The race’s first Full Course Yellow, prompted by a spin from GTE-Am driver Satoshi Hoshino in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, nearly ended in disaster between Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche #91) and Oliver Gavin (Corvette #64) as the latter reacted late to the resumption of green flag racing after Tetre Rouge.

Bruni tried to force his way through on the outside escape road, but had to accept defeat after slight contact on the front right corner.

Ferrari and Fisichella on the edge in GTE Am

Giancarlo Fisichella has not allowed a warning for exceeding track limits prevent his run to first place in the GTE Am category in the #45 Spirit of Race Ferrari.

Matt Campbell holds second place in the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche, around 5 seconds clear of the third-placed #86 Gulf Racing Porsche – driven by Ben Barker.

2019 24 Hours of Le Mans – Standings After 1 Hour

LMP1

1. #7 Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Mike Conway – Kamui Kobayashi – José María López

2. #8  Toyota Gazoo Racing – Toyota TS050 – Hybrid – Fernando Alonso – Sébastien Buemi – Kazuki Nakajima

3. #3 Rebellion Racing – Rebellion R13 – Gibson –Nathanaël Berthon – Thomas Laurent – Gustavo Menezes

LMP2

1. #36 Signatech Alpine Matmut – Alpine A470 – Gibson – Nicolas Lapierre – André Negrâo – Pierre Thiriet

2. #28 TDS Racing – Oreca 07 – Gibson – Loïc Duval – François Perrodo – Matthieu Vaxivière

3. #26 G-Drive Racing – Aurus 01 – Gibson – Roman Rusinov – Job Van Uitert – Jean-Éric Vergne

GTE Pro

1. #63 Corvette Racing – Chevrolet Corvette C7.R – Antonio García – Jan Magnussen – Mike Rockenfeller

2. #92 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Michael Christensen – Kevin Estre – Laurens Vanthoor

3. #93 Porsche GT Team – Porsche 911 RSR – Earl Bamber – Patrick Pilet – Nick Tandy

GTE Am

1. #45 Spirit of Race – Ferrari 488 GTE – Francesco Castellacci  – Giancarlo Fisichella – Thomas Flohr

2. #77 Dempsey-Proton Racing – Porsche 911 RSR – Julien Andlauer – Matt Campbell – Christian Ried

3. #86 Gulf Racing – Porsche 911 RSR – Ben Barker – Thomas Preining – Mike Wainwright

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