The 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans started in dramatic fashion, with the first retiree of the racing coming in the opening half hour. Toyota Gazoo Racing leads the way after a short battle from the Rebellion Racing cars whilst the rain that was expected to fall during the first hour of the race never came.
Bruno Senna had a look at taking the lead of the race from pole-sitting Mike Conway going into the first corner, but Conway protected the position, keeping hold of first place. It took Sebastien Buemi about five laps to get past the #1 Rebellion, showing great form from the Privateer team, but before the first hour was out it was a Toyota one-two at the front.
Conway looked to have the advantage over the sister car, that pitted early due to a potential issue and suspect puncture, but as the race continued Buemi got back into the flow. A great move from Swiss driver through the Porsche Curves saw the #8 steam into the lead ahead of the sister car. Because of its early stop, the #8 will come into the pits ahead of the #7, likely to lose the net lead through the pit window, but will regain it again once the #7 comes in for its stop.
United Autosports have been the ones to watch in LMP2, holding a strong position at the front of the class, but the SO24-HAS by Graff #39 has been lightening fast in the hands of James Allen. Filipe Alburquerque had a great start, retaining the lead from pole position, but the supreme pace from Allen has seen the #39 up into the lead of the class.
Issues for both Signatech Alpine and Racing Team Nederland saw them into the pits early and taking them out of contention for the race win. Both cars suffered a water pressure issues, with the #29 Dutch car taking more pain as it was pushed back briefly into the garage.
Having being handed more fuel ahead of the race due to a Balance of Performance change, the Porsche GT Team cars have been falling down the grid. As we say last year with Aston Martin Racing, the late BoP change has really hurt the pace of that car. It is not uncommon to see the GTE cars holding off a little in practice/qualifying to not show the entire pace of their cars so as to avoid BoP changes, and this is likely the case for Aston Martin, who currently show commanding pace.
A tight fight between them and AF Corse has been raging since the start, with James Calado doing a mega job in the #51. At the time of posting, it’s an Aston Martin one-two with Maxime Martin leading the way from Nicki Thiim, demoting Calado to P3 just before their pit stops.
There have already been a few incidents on track in the short time the race has been running, with Eurasia Motorsport LMP2 and Luzich Racing GTE Am going across the gravel on the run through Dunlop. Unfortunately it was in the Luzich incident that the first retirement of the 88th rendition of Le Mans came. The #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing was very unlucky as the #61 spun off in front of it, and had no where to go careering off the track to the right of Dunlop. Unable to recover the car back to the pits under its own steam, the #88 was forced to retire.
The third-place starting #56 Team Project 1 currently leads the Am class ahead of Salih Yoluc in the #90 TF Sport, and Paul Dalla Lana in the #98 Am works Aston Martin.