24 Hours of Le MansFIA WEC

24 Hours of Le Mans: Hour 1 – Chaos for United Autosport off the Line

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#22 United Autosports in the gravel at the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans
Credit: FIA World Endurance Championship

The first hour of the 90th 24 Hours of Le Mans started with chaos for the LMP2s as Toyota Gazoo Racing held a strong one-two at the front of the grid.

Sebastien Buemi led the field over the line as the clock struck 16:00, the five Hypercars pulling into a pack of their own. Both Glickenhaus Racing cars had a better run to the line that the Alpine Elf Team, going either side of Nicolas Lapierre to demote him from third to fifth. It went even worse for the French driver when Robert Kubica came flying passed him in the #9 Prema Orlen Team LMP2 to put him sixth overall, but within a lap and a half Lapierre was back in front.

Buemi was complaining of oversteer at the end of the hour, with Mike Conway reeling him in to take the lead of the race. The duo still run one-two, but now reversed as we go into the second hour.

Will Owen looked to have the edge on Rene Rast in the #31 WRT on the run towards Dunlop, but sadly got trapped in a WRT sandwich with the #41 Realteam by WRT. Rast was deemed to have been at fault as he moved back across the track, believing he was ahead of the United Autosports and bouncing Owen into his team mate. The #22 shot off the track with front nose damage and came to a stop in the gravels on the inside of Dunlop Curve. The car was retrieved from the gravel and made it back to the pits for repairs, but the likely lost about 20 minutes in the incident.

Rast was handede a one minute stop/go penalty for causing the collision.

Sophia Floersch also had a dreaedful start, not even making it down the main straight before an issue had befell her. It is unknown at the time of publishing what made the car run slow, but she had fallen down the order before the official start, as if the throttle had not kicked in. Whatever the issue, it wasn’t too terminal as, before the end of the hour, she was back on track, five laps down on the leaders, two laps down on the closers Am.

Issues also hit the #35 Ultimate, dropping it to the back of the grid, whilst the #41 also lost all track position in the collision with the #22.

The Vector Sport and Algarve Pro Racing #45 – sister car to the Floersch entry – both made it through all of the GTEs by the fifth lap of the race. They still have a gap to close to make a charge on the rest of the class, but both have made very good progress in Hour 1. All LMP2 cars except the #47 are through the GTE cars.

The GTE Pro class has not changed in order since the starting grid, apart from the two Porsche GT Team cars have swapped. Kevin Estre made the pass on Gianmaria Bruni on the run down to the first corner, positions they have retained at the end of the first hour. Nick Tandy still leads the class, with Antonio Garcia defending the Corvette Racing one-two.

Pace swung back to the Porsches and Aston Martins in GTE Am as pole sitter Vincent Abril fell down the order. He ended the hour seventh in class – the best placed Ferrari – after having been swarmed by the rest of the class. Alessio Picariello leads the way in the Hardpoint Motorsport Porsche ahead of Matteo Cairoli in the #46 Team Project 1 and Julien Andlauer in the WeatherTech Racing.

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The Checkered Flag’s correspondent for the FIA World Endurance Championship. Working in motorsport as a hobby and as a professional, Alice is a freelance digital communications manager, video editor and graphic designer at OrbitSphere. She also runs and manages her own YouTube channel - Circuit The World - with videos on gaming, travel, motorsports and reviews.
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