14.06.14

8 hour report: Toyota pull out comfortable lead at Le Mans

As the sunset set over Le Mans, and with one third of the 24 hour race completed, it was the Toyota TS040 that had started on pole position that held the upperhand with Kazuki Nakajima holding an advantage of nearly 2 minutes over Marcel Fassler in the no2 Audi R18, with Marc Gene in the no1 Audi in third place.

Only two of the four WEC LMP 2 competitors were still running with the no26 G-Drive Morgan lying in 12th overall and 5th in class.  The leading LMP2 car was the no35 Oak Racing Ligier, with Jann Mardenborough giving the 2013 LMP2 World Endurance Championship winning team a healthy 58 second lead over the reigning European Le Mans Champions Signatech Alpine, with Oliver Webb at the wheel of the Alpine A450b.

The race settled into a rhythm with Stephane Sarrazin pulling a good gap to the no2 Audi R18 of Benoit Treluyer and the no20 Porsche of Brendon Hartley before handing the no7 Toyota over to Kazuki Nakajima.

Hartley missed the braking at Indianapolis and had to turn round in the escape road before rejoining the track, losing a place in the process to the no1 Audi of Lucas Di Grassi.  The New Zealander then headed into the pits for his next scheduled pitstop and a quick check over by the Porsche mechanics.

On lap 97 Alexandre Imperatori in the KCMG Oreca-Nissan got sideways on the entry to the last corner due to broken suspension and spun into the wall, knocking the nosecone off the car.  The Swiss driver was okay but the car had to be pulled off the track by the marshals under a Safety Car period.  Nakajima took advantage of the Safety Car to come into the pits for a quick stop and rejoin the track in the lead of the race.  

Anthony Davidson had managed to pull the no8 Toyota back up to 7th overall after the long stop to repair the accident damage earlier in the race.  The Englishman had unlapped himself from a couple of the LMP1 runners but at the end of the 8th hour he was still 8 laps behind his teammate at the head of the field.

While the no12 Rebellion Racing R-One of Mathias Beche finished the 8th Hour in 5th overall, the sister car of Fabio Leimer retired on lap 73 with an engine problem.