23 June 2013
Hour 14: Toyota back on lead lap
Audi continues to lead as racing resumes at Le Mans, but Toyota is not about to give up the fight...
When the prolonged seventh safety car period of the 90th Le Mans 24 Hours finally ended at 0408hrs local time, Audi continued to boss the race, as it had done from the start, but Toyota showed that it was not about to go quietly about filling the podium.
The flurry of pit-stops that bridged the hour mark saw both the Japanese cars move back onto the lead lap, with the #7 entry ahead of its sister courtesy of Nicolas Lapierre remaining onboard the former while it took on tyres more suited to the wet conditions. Sebastien Buemi, having replaced Anthony Davidson in the #8, however, was not content to play second fiddle for long, sweeping past his team-mate and quickly pulling out a gap of over a minute on the Frenchman.
The #3 Audi remained fourth overall, ahead of the two Rebellion Lolas and Strakka's HPD, while the third silver machine continued to make progress up the order after its early problems. Still eight laps off the lead, it finally clearing the best of the LMP2 runners at the start of the hour, but the gremlins were not completely done with the reigning race champion, as wiper problems reared their head during Andre Lotterer's run.
As the track began to dry out again three-quarters of the way through the hour, the LMP2 lead was exchanged between the two OAK Morgans, with Martin Plowman taking over from Alex Brundle as the latter was replaced in the #24 car by Olivier Pla.
The rain naturally caused problems for some runners, despite having changed tyres, and a litany of incidents was reported as drivers adjusted to the new conditions. The chicanes proved to be a popular spot for spins or straight-on moments, with the #39 DKR Lola leading the way with a brace of incidents, one at each obstacle.
The #88 Proton Porsche, #46 Thirlet TDS ORECA and #55 AF Corse Ferrari all followed suit, while even ex-F1 drivers proved fallible as Giancarlo Fisichella went through the gravel at the first chicane in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari. The #45 OAK Morgan, meanwhile, rotated at the Dunlop Curve.
The #47 KCMG returned to its garage for more attention shortly before Strakka's race hit a temporary snag when Jonny Kane spun into the gravel at the Ford chicane, briefly blocking the pit-lane entry that he would take to after being towed out of his resting place.
Ironically, the car Kane was chasing, the #12 Rebellion Lola, was already in pit-lane, receiving a detailed service in its garage before rejoining after a five-minute break.
Audi and Toyota both ended the hour by making driver changes in the battle for the podium, with Oliver Jarvis finally handing the #3 entry to Marc Gene, and Lapierre ending his long run by handing over to Alex Wurz.
1. #2 Kristensen/Duval/McNish Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro * 202 laps (19 stops)
2. #8 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid * 202 laps (17 stops)
3. #7 Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid * 202 laps (16 stops)
1. #35 Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan * 191 laps (18 stops)
2. #24 Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan * 191 laps (17 stops)
3. #38 Dolan/Turvey/Luhr Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan 190 laps (17 stops)
1. #92 Lieb/Lietz/Dumas Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR * 184 laps (13 stops)
2. #99 Bell/Makowiecki/Senna Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 * 183 laps (14 stops)
3. #97 Turner/Mucke/Dumbreck Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 * 183 laps (14 stops)
1. #76 Narac/Bourret/Vernay IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR * 178 laps (13 stops)
2. #55 Perazzini/Case/O'Young AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 177 laps (14 stops)
3. #61 Gerber/Griffin/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia * 177 laps (14 stops)
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