LE MANS, France — Looking to become the first Japanese manufacturer to win the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans since Mazda’s lone triumph in 1991, Toyota Gazoo Racing continues to dominate the annual endurance classic, holding the top two overall positions in the running order at the 18-hour benchmark of the twice-around-the-clock event.
For the first time at one of the six-hour cuts, however, it is the team’s No. 5 entry shared by Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson and Kazuki Nakajima that sits on top of the overall leaderboard.
With Buemi at the controls, the No. 5 enjoys a 31.558-second lead over the No. 6 piloted currently by former IndyCar star Mike Conway.
The pole-sitting No. 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid is also still on the lead lap and in the hunt, running third with Marc Lieb after a slow tire puncture during the 14th hour forced then-leader Lieb to relinquish the top spot and make an extra pit stop.
Fourth is the No. 8 Audi Sport Team Joest machine of Loic Duval, two laps down, with the sister No. 7 Audi riding 12 laps behind in fifth.
The battle for the LMP2 crown continues to be controlled by the No. 36 Signatech Alpine A460-Nissan of Stephane Richelmi, Gustavo Menezes and Nicolas Lapierre, with the team sitting a full lap ahead of the runner-up No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca 05-Nissan of Rene Rast, Roman Rusinov and Will Stevens.
GTE-Pro remains hotly contested and led by the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Matteo Malucelli, who has topped the class at each of the three benchmarks so far.
The No. 68 Ford GT from Chip Ganassi Racing Team USA remains in the hunt to celebrate Ford’s 50 year anniversary of their first Le Mans victory with another win, riding second in class thanks to Dirk Muller and just 34 seconds behind the class lead. However, the sister No. 69 Ford GT has fallen a lap off the pace, though it is still third in class with Richard Westbrook currently on track.
American Bill Sweedler currently holds the lead of the GTE-Am class, sharing the No. 62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari F458 Italia with Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal. The veteran IMSA trio is a lap up on the No. 88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing machine, which paced the class early on and through the six-hour mark.
The biggest game-changer and first major accident of the race came courtesy of the GTE-Pro field, when Tommy Milner lost control of the No. 64 Corvette-C7.R entering turn one and pounded the tire barriers, sending one stack flying and causing heavy damage to the machine that sat in victory lane a year ago. The incident was enough to retire the machine after 219 laps in this year’s edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
A second incident came courtesy of Ed Brown and the Extreme Speed Motorosports gang, who are looking to sweep the Endurance Racing Triple Crown in 2016. Brown went off at Tertre Rouge in the No. 30 Tequila Patron ESM/Ligier JS P2-Nissan, but has since been able to continue on and move back into the top 20 overall.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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