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WEC: 24 Hours of Le Mans – Toyota, Signatech, Ferraris lead at halfway

Porsche, Toyota, and Audi qualified in the order at the front of the grid, the #2 Porsche Team 919 Hybrid (Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb) starting on the pole. LMP2 qualifying had the #26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05-Nissan starting first followed by the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460-Nissan and the #36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan.

Ford Chip Ganassi Teams USA and UK took three of the top four spots in GTE Pro qualifying. The USA #68 GT started on the pole (Joey Hand, Dirk Muller, Sebastien Bourdais) with the USA #69 sister car next door. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 started third and the #67 Ganassi Team UK entry fourth. GTE Am was topped by the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia. The #98 Aston Martin Racing V8 Vantage qualified second and the #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche 911 RSR third.

The race started in the wet for the first time in its 84-year history, the field circulating behind the safety car. The #67 Ford retired before the green flag with a gearbox issue. Nearly 53 min into the race the cars were unleashed.

Two hours in the #69 Ford (Richard Westbrook) let GTE Pro followed by the #92 Porsche Motorsport 911 RSR (2016)(Frederic Makowiecki) and the #51 Ferrari (James Calado). The #6 Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 Hybrid led overall, the #44 Manor Oreca 05-Nissan led LMP2, and the #88 Porsche GTE Am.

 The #5 Toyota ran second and the #1 Porsche third, the Toyotas having made only one pit stop and other LMP1 teams two. When they pitted the #1 Porsche (Brendon Hartley) moved to the front, followed by Mike Conway in the #6 Toyota and Loic Duval in the #8 Audi Sport Team Joest R18.

The #1 pitted from the overall lead with at the 21 hr and 20 min mark, falling to third behind the two Toyotas. Westbrook led GTE Pro, followed by Giancarlo Fisichella in the #82 Risi Competitzione Ferrari. The #78 KCMG Porsche led GTE Am. Conway came in with the #6 Toyota at 21:09, remaining the car. The #5 followed. Both went 14 laps between stops, the Porsches having done 13. Hartley retook the lead. Toni Vilander took over in the #82, running in the GTE Pro lead as Westbrook pitted.

Mark Webber got behind the wheel in the #1 Porsche with 20:33 to go, Conway taking the lead in the #6 Toyota. Sebastian Buemi ran second in the #5.

The #6 continued to lead 6 hr into the race, Kamui Kobayashi having turned its fastest lap at 3:21.445. The #1 and #2 Porsches ran second and third. The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 05-Nissan (from the European Le Mans Series) led LMP2, with the #36 Signatech Alpine in second. The #26 G-Drive entry fell from the leaders following a puncture and a drive through penalty for leaving the engine running during a pit stop.

Ford ran 1-2 in GTE Pro ahead of the Risi Ferrari. The #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche led GTE Am for Hours 4-6, followed by the #98 Aston Martin and #78 KCMG Porsche.

Just past halfway, the #6 Toyota remained in front (Kobayashi), 34.765 sec ahead of the #2 Porsche (Dumas) and 2:32.913 up on its #5 sister car (Anthony Davidson). The #36 returned to the LMP2 lead (Gustavo Menezes). The #46 was 41.855 sec down (Ryo Hirokawa) and the #26 G-Drive entry had returned to third, one lap down.

With roughly 10:30 to go the Risi Ferrari led GTE Pro, Fisichella behind the wheel. The #69 Ford, piloted by Ryan Briscoe, was 27.468 sec back and the #68 (Joey Hand) 1:07.881 behind the class leader. The #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari (Townsend Bell) led GTE Am, 1:40.087 up on the Abu Dhabi-Proton Porsche (Khaled Al-Qubaisi) and one lap ahead of the Clearwater Racing Ferrari.

 

 

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