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H4: Toyota makes inroads on lead Audi's Le Mans advantage

#8 Toyota, Le Mans 2012Benoit Treluyer remains the overall leader of the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours, but his advantage was slashed throughout the fourth hour as Toyota began to charge.

The Japanese marque's attack was led by Sebastien Buemi in the #8 TS030, who produced a fantastic stint - regularly lapping below the 3m30s mark - to cut the deficit from around two minutes to just 10 seconds, even if Audi was forced to react to the charge and up its own pace towards the end of the fourth hour.

Buemi did not get the chance to see just how close he could get to putting the Toyota into the lead though, having to stop 10 minutes before the end of the fourth hour just after setting his team's fastest lap of the race.

Still Treluyer was afforded little breathing room as the second TS030, piloted now by Nicolas Lapierre, had followed Buemi's example and was also on a charge. It too got down to within 20s of the lead Audi before having to stop for the sixth time.

Buemi and Lapierre's pace allowed them to re-emerge from the pits in second and third respectively, ahead of the #3 Audi R18 ultra currently driven by Romain Dumas.

It is the only Audi to have also made six stops - the other three cars having only made five, being able to push each stint slightly longer than Toyota.

The #2 Audi e-tron quattro of Tom Kristensen remains on the lead lap in fifth, ahead of Marco Bonanomi in the #4 R18 ultra.

Neel Jani kept the #12 Rebellion Lola top of the non-factory LMP1 pile in seventh overall, around two minutes ahead of the sister #13 car.

Olivier Pla handed the lead of the LMP2 class over to team-mate Matthieu Lahaye, who continued to stretch away from Bas Leinders, at the wheel of the #35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan.

Jody Firth meanwhile moved to the front of a tight battle for third in the #48 Murphy ORECA-Nissan, although Ryan Dalziel's HPD, Pierre Kaffer's ORECA-Nissan and Alex Brundle's Zytek-Nissan all remain within one minute of the Briton.

The #51 AF Corse Ferrari's ability to run far deeper into its stints than either Aston Martin or Corvette once again told as Giancarlo Fisichella retook the lead of the GTE Pro class despite lapping slightly slower than either Darren Turner or Tommy Milner.

Turner had been third until Milner pitted and handed over to Richard Westbrook, allowing him to slip by and into second. The trio remain on the same lap.

Seth Neiman took over control of the GTE Am class-leading #79 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 following Spencer Pumpelly's fine stint.

Gianluca Roda had been closing slightly however in the #88 Felbermayr Porsche, which is now around 80s down.

NOTES

- The quickest LMP1 qualifier, Strakka Racing's HPD, was pushed back into the garage before the start and joined the race on lap six.

- The #17 Pescarolo started the race from the pitlane after an engine change ran late. The team's #16 Dome also pitted with drivetrain issues.

- Misfire for #99 Aston Martin Vantage hands #79 Flying Lizard Porsche sizeable GTE Am lead.

- Titanic GTE Pro scrap between Corvette, Aston Martin and Ferrari.

- Garage checks for Tom Kristensen in the #2 Audi, the third unexpected delay for the marque across its four cars.

- 30s pit stop penalties for #40 and #49 LMP2s and #75 for speeding in pitlane.

- #29 Gulf Racing Lola B12 the first official retirement.

POSITIONS AFTER 4 HOURS

Pos Car            Drivers                      Class  Laps  Gap
 1. #1  Audi       Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer    LMP1   67    
 2. #8  Toyota     Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin      LMP1   67    + 1m16.333s
 3. #7  Toyota     Wurz/Lapierre/Nakajima       LMP1   67    + 1m19.629s
 4. #3  Audi       Gene/Dumas/Duval             LMP1   67    + 1m27.428s
 5. #2  Audi       McNish/Capello/Kristensen    LMP1   66    +     1 Lap
 6. #4  Audi       Jarvis/Bonanomi/Rockenfeller LMP1   66    + 1m19.346s
 7. #12 Lola       Prost/Heidfeld/Jani          LMP1   65    +    2 Laps
 8. #13 Lola       Belicchi/Bleekemolen/Primat  LMP1   65    + 1m46.384s
 9. #22 HPD        Brabham/Dumbreck/Chandhok    LMP1   64    +    3 Laps
10. #15 OAK        Montagny/Kraihamer/Baguette  LMP1   64    + 1m05.509s
11. #24 Morgan     Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla           LMP2   63    +    4 Laps
12. #35 Morgan     H Hansson/Leinders/Martin    LMP2   63    +   42.920s
13. #48 Oreca      Firth/Hartley/Hughes         LMP2   63    + 1m30.325s
14. #44 HPD        Potolicchio/Dalziel/K-Smith  LMP2   63    + 1m46.713s
15. #49 Oreca      Perez Companc/Kaffer/Ayari   LMP2   62    +    5 Laps
16. #42 Zytek      Brundle/Brundle/Ordonez      LMP2   62    +   12.698s
17. #25 Oreca      Martin/Charouz/Graves        LMP2   62    + 1m10.145s
18. #26 Oreca      Ragues/Panciatici/Rusinov    LMP2   62    + 1m45.955s
19. #38 Zytek      Hancock/Dolan/Kurosawa       LMP2   62    + 2m41.748s
20. #30 Lola       Sims/Buurman/Iannetta        LMP2   62    + 2m43.190s
21. #23 Oreca      Tresson/Mailleux/Lombard     LMP2   62    + 3m25.861s
22. #45 Oreca      Briere/Nakano/Petersen       LMP2   61    +    6 Laps
23. #33 HPD        Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz          LMP2   61    +   53.129s
24. #46 Oreca      Thiriet/Beche/Tinseau        LMP2   61    + 2m43.306s
25. #41 Zytek      Zugel/Julian/Gonzalez        LMP2   61    + 3m23.779s
26. #31 Lola       Holzer/Schultis/Moro         LMP2   60    +    7 Laps
27. #21 HPD        Leventis/Kane/Watts          LMP1   60    + 3m06.006s
28. #51 Ferrari    Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander    GTEP   59    +    8 Laps
29. #40 Oreca      Frey/Hirschi/Meichtry        LMP2   59    +   52.781s
30. #97 Aston      Mucke/Fernandez/Turner       GTEP   59    +   53.999s
31. #74 Corvette   Gavin/Westbrook/Milner       GTEP   59    + 1m05.145s
32. #77 Porsche    Lietz/Lieb/Henzler           GTEP   59    + 3m14.673s
33. #59 Ferrari    Makowiecki/Melo/Farnbacher   GTEP   58    +    9 Laps
34. #73 Corvette   Garcia/Magnussen/Taylor      GTEP   58    + 1m03.847s
35. #79 Porsche    Neiman/Pumpelly/Pilet        GTEA   58    + 3m02.741s
36. #66 Ferrari    Walker/Cocker/Wills          GTEP   58    + 4m10.443s
37. #88 Porsche    Ried/Roda/Ruberti            GTEA   58    + 4m25.572s
38. #50 Corvette   Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy        GTEA   58    + 4m52.114s
39. #58 Ferrari    Ehret/Jeannette/Montecalvo   GTEA   57    +   10 Laps
40. #67 Porsche    Pons/Armindo/Narac           GTEA   57    + 1m21.152s
41. #81 Ferrari    Perazzini/Cadei/Griffin      GTEA   57    + 1m27.717s
42. #61 Ferrari    Kauffman/Aguas/Vickers       GTEA   57    + 2m40.976s
43. #57 Ferrari    Krohn/Jonsson/Rugolo         GTEA   57    + 3m34.566s
44. #83 Ferrari    Rodrigues/Illiano/Ferte      GTEA   56    +   11 Laps
45. #43 Norma      Rosier/Haezebrouck/Thirion   LMP2   56    +   56.589s
46. #71 Ferrari    Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci      GTEP   56    + 3m05.578s
47. #70 Corvette   Bourret/Gibon/Belloc         GTEA   55    +   12 Laps
48. #55 Porsche    Daniels/Palttala/Camathias   GTEA   55    + 2m29.699s
49. #80 Porsche    Bergmeister/Long/Holzer      GTEP   54    +   13 Laps
50. #17 Dome       Minassian/Bourdais/Ara       LMP1   54    +   24.600s
51. #0  DeltaWing  Franchitti/Krumm/Motoyama    CDNT   51    +   16 Laps
52. #75 Porsche    al Faisal/Curtis/Edwards     GTEA   51    +   56.796s
53. #28 Lola       Giroix/Badey/Johansson       LMP2   45    +   22 Laps
54. #99 Aston      Nygaard/Poulsen/Simonsen     GTEA   31    +   36 Laps
55. #16 Pescarolo  Collard/Bouillon/Hall        LMP1   20    +   47 Laps
56. #29 Lola       Ihara/Deletraz/Rostan        LMP2   17    +   50 Laps
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