Photo: Sean Smith/Adrenal Media
After 1 hr, the #8 and #7 Toyota Hybrid TS040s ran first and second ahead of the #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid and the #2 Audi e-tron quattro. The #7 had started on pole, with thet #1 Audi in P2. Andre Lotterer (#2 Audi) passed Alexander Wurz (#7 Toyota) on Lap 13 to take the lead before rain started 36 min into the race. After the first cycle of pit stops, Sebastian Buemi (#8 Toyota) emerged in the lead, ahead of Wurz and Lotterer, still on slicks. Lucas di Grassi (#1 Audi) went off track in his debut behind the wheel, while #14 Porsche lost its front-left wheel.
The #47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan led LMP2, with the #92 and #91 Porsche Team Manthey RSR 911s on point in GTE Pro. The #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 led GTE Am.
With 2 hrs elapsed the #8 and #7 Toyotas remained in the lead, followed by the #20 Porsche. The #2 Audi ran fifth behind #12 Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60, having left the track and entered a gravel trap. Both the #1 Audi and #14 Porsche had retired; the first with chassis damage, the second with hydraulic problems. KCMG continued to lead LMP2, with the Porsche 911s having traded spots at the top of GTE Pro. The #81 AF Corse Ferrari and #53 RAM Racing Ferrari led GTE Am, the Aston Martin having fallen back with door problems.
An off by the #8 Toyota allowed Benoit Treluyer to get a lap back approaching the halfway mark, moving the Audi to within 3 laps of the race leader. The two Toyotas were the only cars on the lead lap. KCMG led P2 by three-quarters of a lap over the #42 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan. The Porsches remained on top of GTE Pro, with Marco Holzer leading Jorg Bergmeister and both ahead of the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia piloted by Gianmaria Bruni. Paul Dalla Lana retook the lead on track in #98 Aston, passing a Ferrari.
The #2 Audi hit the barriers hard with 2 hr 56 minute left, Treluyer still behind the wheel, causing severe damage to the front end of the car. Treluyer sought to get the Audi back to the pits under its own power, successfully restarting the car but with more than half a lap between himself and pit entry.
Bergmeister (#91) took the lead in GTE Pro right before the safety car came out. Treluyer continued his efforts, but couldn’t force the car to move forward. Pit lane is closed this year for the first three laps following a safety car. The caution saw #8 Nicolas Lapierre on point. The #7 Toyota had already made its fourth stop before the safety car came out, Stephane Sarrazin behind the wheel, but fell a lap behind in the process. The #20 Porsche driven by Brendon Hartley closed in behind the second place Toyota during the safety-car period.
All of the leaders began to pit behind the safety car with 2:35 to go. Mark Webber took over for Hartley in the #20. Green-flag racing resumed at 2:29. Anthony Davidson (#8) led Sarrazin by three-quarters of a lap, with Webber 24.5 sec behind the second Toyota. The KCMG P2 entry was penalized by speeding in pit lane with 2:16 to go.
Webber trailed Sarrazin by 41 sec at the 2:13 mark. Nick Tandy (#91 Porsche) led Richard Lietz in the #92 sister car by 8.347 sec, with Bruni another 13.219 sec back in the #51. KCMG led G-Drive by 0.222 sec.
With 2 hr to go Davidson led Sarrazin by one lap, Webber ran P3, 48.821 sec behind the second Toyota. Nico Prost drove the Rebellion 5 laps behind in fourth overall. KCMG continued to lead G-Drive in LMP2 by less than 1 sec, the closest race of the contest. GTE Pro ran Tandy, Lietz, and Bruni, with Darren Turner (#97 Aston Martin) 33.588sec back in P4 before being issued a stop and go penalty for overtaking under a yellow light. The penalty moved Matt Griffin (#52 RAM Racing Ferrari) into fourth in class.
KCMG was issued a stop-and-go penalty for speeding on pit lane earlier in the race.
The #8 pitted from the lead with 1:40 to go, Davidson remaining behind the wheel. At 1:32 race control said rain might arrive in 20 min. The #91 and #92 Porsches both came in at 1:31. Patrick Pilet took over in the #91 and Frederic Makowiecki in the #92. Vilander continued to run third in the Ferrari.
Rain started to fall with 1:20 to go. Griffin put the RAM Ferrari into the gravel, moving the #97 Aston Martin back into fourth, Turner behind the wheel, and the #71 AF Corse to P5 one lap behind the Aston. Porsche drivers described the race as “getting tricky now on slicks.” The two Toyotas pitted, with Sebastian Buemi taking over in the #8 and Kaz Nakajima the #7. Webber took P2 briefly before his own stop.
As the race entered its final hour, Buemi led Nakajima by a lap, with Webber another lap back, and Mathias Beche in the Rebellion 5 laps behind the Porsche. G-Drive led LMP2 by one lap over KCMG, Olivier Pla and Richard Bradley in the respective driver’s seats. GTE Pro had Pilet, Makowiecki, and Vilander ahead of Stefan Mucke in the #97 Aston and Davide Rigon in the #71 AF Corse.
The race was red-flagged for heavy rain with 25 min left. Toyota finished 1-2, with the #8 maintaining its station ahead of the #7. The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid took third in its WEC debut, Mark Webber behind the wheel at the finish. Rebellion Racing led the privateers, taking fourth overall. It was the first time since the 2011 Petit LeMans that both Audi LMP1s failed to finish a race.
Partial race results: LMP1
#8 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid – Sebastian Buemi (Switzerland), Anthony Davidson (UK), Nicolas Lapierre (France)
#7 Toyota Racing TS040 Hybrid – Kazuki Nakajima (Japan), Alexander Wurz (Austria), Stephane Sarrazin (France).
#20 Porsche 919 Hybrid – Mark Webber (Australia), Brendon Hartley (Australia), Timo Bernhard (Germany)
#12 Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60-Toyota – Mathias Bache (Switzerland), Nicolas Prost (France), Nick Heidfeld (Germany)
#26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan – Olivier Pla (France), Julien Canal (France), Roman Rusinov (Russia)
#47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan – Richard Bradley (UK), Tsugio Matsuda (Japan), Matthew Howson (UK)
#92 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR – Frederic Makowiecki (France), Richard Lietz (Austria), Marco Holzer (Germany)
#91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR – Patrick Pilet (France), Jorg Bergmeister (Germany), Nick Tandy (UK)
#97 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 – Stefan Mucke (Germany), Darren Turner (UK)
#51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia – Tony Vilander (Norway), Gianmaria Bruni (Italy)
#71 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia – Davide Rigon (Italy), James Calado (UK)
#95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 – Nicki Thiim (Swizerland), Kristian Poulsen (Switzerland), David Heinemeier-Hansson (Switzerland)
#98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 – Paul Dalla Lana (Canada), Pedro Lamy (Portugal), Christoffer Nygaard (Switzerland)
#81 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia – Michele Rugolo (France), Sam Bird (UK), Stephen Wyatt (Australia)
For full results click here.
Next event: 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamp – May 3