ROUND-UP AFTER AN HOUR'S RACING
Toyota is leading the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans. But the Rebellion R13-Gibsons are not far behind.
Never far behind the Toyota TS050 Hybrids during free practice and qualifying, the two Rebellion R13-Gibsons entered by Rebellion Racing certainly intend to give the Japanese cars a run for their money. From the very start of the race, Bruno Senna (Rebellion Racing #1 Rebellion R13-Gibson) made his presence felt. He even edged in front for a while before braking for Dunlop and, with 3:19.264, recorded the fastest race lap so far on his fourth lap. The Swiss team are certainly a force to be reckoned with again this year!
The Brazilian driver maintained his position during his first stint, sandwiched between the Japanese cars. Then, after nine laps and a first pit stop, he handed the wheel over to Sébastien Buemi. The two Toyotas were out front but the situation didn’t last. The #8 went back into the pit for a tyre change on the 14th lap. An unplanned stop that has seen the Japanese hybrid drop out of the top three for now.
It would be hard to make a prediction about the LMP2 class, which is always hotly contested, but British team United Autosports soon took the lead with its two cars (the #22 and #32 Oreca 07-Gibsons). Filipe Alburquerque and Alex Brundle had little trouble moving ahead, hitting a speed of 325 kph before braking for the chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight. Behind them, there were just ten seconds separating the pack of ten cars led by Jean-Eric Vergne (G-Drive Racing #26 Aurus 01-Gibson).
There was bad news, however, for the Racing Team Nederland #29 Oreca 07-Gibson driven by Frits Van Eerd/Giedo Van Der Garde/Nyck de Vries. It returned to the pitlane and even spent a brief spell in its garage, falling three laps behind. It came to a halt again not long after. There was trouble too for the Signatech Alpine Elf #36 Alpine A470-Gibson with André Negrão/Pierre Ragues/Thomas Laurent at the wheel. Negrão had to return to the garage with a leak. That cost the team two laps, then a few more precious seconds were lost due to a “late” non-compliant pit stop.
LMGTE Pro polesitter Gianmaria Bruni (Porsche Team #91 Porsche 911 RSR-19 ) dropped down the rankings during the first few laps. He was first overtaken by James Calado (AF Corse #51 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO) then by the two Aston Martin Vantage AMRs. The German cars are last in class, with the best in the LMGTE Am class not far behind.
The first spins off track came in the LMGTE Am class. Having just been overtaken by the leading car, Oswaldo Negri (Luzich Racing #61 Ferrari 488 GTE EVO) skidded off while braking at the Dunlop Corner. To try and avoid him, Thomas Preining (Porsche 911 RSR #88 Dempsey-Proton Racing) drove off line and hit the wall of tyres.