Le Mans hour 4: Toyotas swap places as safety car shakes race up

Fernando Alonso led the majority of the fourth hour at the Le Mans 24 Hours before a late stop handed Jose Maria Lopez the lead in the #7 Toyota HYBRID TS050

Le Mans hour 4: Toyotas swap places as safety car shakes race up

Alonso enjoyed a comfortable lead after Lopez was forced to pit due to a left-rear puncture and the gap ballooned to several minutes when the two Toyotas were split by a safety car caused by the punctured tyre on Gabriel Aubry's #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA on the Mulsanne straight.

But Alonso pitted within the final minutes of the hour to give Lopez the lead by a few seconds, having previously breezed past him approaching the Porsche Curves meaning Toyota enacted its well-established protocol of allowing the faster car through.

With the two Toyotas now the only cars on the lead lap, SMP Racing's Egor Orudzhev is the highest-placed LMP1 privateer having got ahead of Mathias Beche's Rebellion Racing R-13 for third.

The sister Rebellion driven by Bruno Senna also moved ahead to claim fourth, after Beche was held at the pit exit during the safety car period.

But a stop late in the hour shuffled Beche back in front of Senna.

The DragonSpeed BR1 of Henrik Hedman is in sixth and Dominik Kraihamer is closing in aboard the ByKolles machine, meaning it is close to clearing the LMP2 field and rejoining the leading LMP1 cars.

Williams F1 young driver Oliver Rowland made some progress in the #6 Manor-Ginetta to run in 13th before he pitted and fell to the fringes of the top 15, with Leo Roussel close in the sister car back in 18th.

G-Drive still in charge in LMP2

Andrea Pizzitola continues to lead the class in the #26 ORECA after four hours, as the safety car stretched G-Drive Racing's lead to 1m27s over Pierre Thiriet's #36 Signatech-Alpine.

Pizzitola ran as high as sixth overall prior to making the car's sixth pitstop when the safety car period ended on lap 60.

Signatech's Andre Negrao had taken almost 10s out of Pizzitola under a slow zone caused by Felipe Nasr (#47 Cetilar Villorba Corse Dallara) going off and chipped his deficit to 1m06s on lap 53, but lost six seconds on the following lap to negate the advantage.

When the safety car appeared, Negrao was caught in the next safety car queue, but the net loss was only around 10 seconds after the Brazilian handed over to Thiriet.

Graff-So24 Racing pitted Vincent Capillaire for Jonathan Hirschi just before the safety car, and resumed third when Julien Canal pitted his Panis-Barthez Competition Ligier on the hour mark.

Behind Canal, Memo Rojas was fifth in the pole-sitting IDEC Sport ORECA, having also pitted prior to the safety car, while Francois Perrodo was the final car on the lead lap in P6.

Juan-Pablo Montoya has completed his first racing laps aboard the #32 United Autosports Ligier, but is a lap off the lead in 11th after a lengthy pitstop under the safety car.

Safety car blows GTE Pro fight open

The caution period completely changed the complexion of the GTE Pro fight, as two of the leading cars in class got held at the end of the pit lane.

Laurens Vanthoor had just passed Porsche team-mate Frederic Makowiecki before making his fourth stop, a lap before the majority of the field.

Managing to hand over the #92 car to Kevin Estre before the safety car was deployed, he gained a lead of over a minute when racing resumed as both Richard Lietz (taking over from Makowiecki) and Joey Hand (replacing Sebastien Bourdais in the #68 Ford) were forced to wait for the next safety car.

Also benefitting from this were Scott Dixon, who moved up to second after jumping in the #69 Ford, and Nick Catsburg in the #81 BMW, with the Dutch driver passing the IndyCar star for second in class before the end of the hour.

Antonio Giovinazzi (#52 Ferrari) moved ahead of Harry Tincknell (#67 Ford) for fourth moments later, having also pitted on the same lap as the leading Porsche.

After their cars battled for the lead just before the safety car was deployed, Hand and Lietz dropped to eighth and ninth in class, while the #66 Ford, #82 BMW and #93 Porsche also lost ground.

In GTE Am, the #77 Dempsey-Proton Porsche continues to lead comfortably, now in the hands of Matt Campbell, by 1m27s from Matt Griffin in the #84 JMW Ferrari.

The erstwhile class-leading #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari has dropped back to fifth behind the #56 Project 1 Porsche and the #98 Aston Martin.

Positions after four hours

Pos Class Car Drivers Laps Gap
1 LMP1 #7 Toyota Conway, Kobayashi, Lopez 65
2 LMP1 #8 Toyota Buemi, Nakajima, Alonso 65 + 5.703s
3 LMP1 #17 BR Sarrazin, Orudzhev, Isaakyan 64 + 1 Lap
4 LMP1 #3 Rebellion Laurent, Beche, Menezes 63 + 2 Laps
5 LMP1 #1 Rebellion Lotterer, Jani, Senna 62 + 3 Laps
6 LMP1 #10 BR Hedman, Hanley, Van Der Zande 62 + 5.776s
7 LMP2 #26 Oreca Rusinov, Pizzitola, Vergne 62 + 55.962s
8 LMP1 #4 Enso Webb, Kraihamer, Dillmann 62 + 1m03.668s
9 LMP2 #36 Alpine Lapierre, Negrao, Thiriet 61 + 4 Laps
10 LMP2 #23 Ligier Buret, Canal, Stevens 61 + 3.190s
11 LMP2 #39 Oreca Capillaire, Hirschi, Gommendy 61 + 59.251s
12 LMP2 #48 Oreca Lafargue, Chatin, Rojas 61 + 1m15.270s
13 LMP2 #28 Oreca Perrodo, Vaxiviere, Duval 61 + 1m30.777s
14 LMP2 #34 Ligier Taylor, Ledogar, Heinemeier-Hansson 61 + 2m09.352s
15 LMP1 #6 Ginetta Rowland, Brundle, Turvey 60 + 5 Laps
16 LMP2 #29 Dallara Van Eerd, Van Der Garde, Lammers 60 + 46.100s
17 LMP2 #35 Dallara Shaitar, Newey, Nato 60 + 3m07.611s
18 LMP1 #5 Ginetta Robertson, Simpson, Roussel 60 + 3m11.761s
19 LMP2 #40 Oreca Allen, Gutierrez, Guibbert 60 + 3m14.628s
20 LMP2 #32 Ligier De Sadeleer, Owen, Montoya 60 + 3m17.633s
21 LMP2 #22 Ligier Hanson, Albuquerque, Di Resta 60 + 3m28.514s
22 LMP2 #33 Ligier Cheng, Boulle, Nicolet 60 + 4m38.099s
23 LMP2 #31 Oreca Gonzalez, Maldonado, Berthon 59 + 6 Laps
24 LMP2 #44 Ligier Bertolini, Jonsson, Krohn 59 + 5.407s
25 LMP2 #47 Dallara Lacorte, Sernagiotto, Nasr 59 + 1m27.388s
26 LMP2 #25 Ligier Patterson, De Jong, Kim 58 + 7 Laps
27 LMP2 #50 Ligier Creed, Ricci, Dagoneau 57 + 8 Laps
28 GTE Pro #92 Porsche Christensen, Estre, Vanthoor 57 + 7m44.848s
29 LMP2 #37 Oreca Jaafar, Jeffri, Tan 57 + 8m09.908s
30 GTE Pro #81 BMW Tomczyk, Catsburg, Eng 57 + 8m51.801s
31 GTE Pro #69 Ford Briscoe, Westbrook, Dixon 57 + 8m54.525s
32 GTE Pro #52 Ferrari Vilander, Giovinazzi, Derani 57 + 8m55.137s
33 GTE Pro #67 Ford Priaulx, Tincknell, Kanaan 57 + 8m57.384s
34 GTE Pro #93 Porsche Pilet, Tandy, Bamber 57 + 9m02.208s
35 GTE Pro #94 Porsche Dumas, Bernhard, Muller 57 + 9m02.989s
36 GTE Pro #68 Ford Hand, Muller, Bourdais 57 + 9m03.336s
37 GTE Pro #91 Porsche Lietz, Bruni, Makowiecki 57 + 9m04.069s
38 GTE Pro #66 Ford Mucke, Pla, Johnson 57 + 9m04.513s
39 GTE Pro #82 BMW Farfus, Felix Da Costa, Sims 57 + 9m07.110s
40 GTE Pro #63 Chevrolet Magnussen, Garcia, Rockenfeller 57 + 9m10.195s
41 GTE Pro #71 Ferrari Rigon, Bird, Molina 57 + 9m10.899s
42 LMP2 #38 Oreca Tung, Richelmi, Aubry 56 + 9 Laps
43 GTE Pro #51 Ferrari Pier Guidi, Calado, Serra 56 + 12m53.411s
44 GTE Pro #97 Aston Lynn, Martin, Adam 56 + 13m05.778s
45 GTE Pro #95 Aston Sorensen, Thiim, Turner 56 + 13m09.618s
46 GTE Am #77 Porsche Campbell, Ried, Andlauer 56 + 13m11.949s
47 GTE Am #84 Ferrari Griffin, Macneil, Segal 56 + 14m35.786s
48 GTE Am #56 Porsche Bergmeister, Lindsey, Perfetti 56 + 15m35.559s
49 GTE Am #98 Aston Dalla Lana, Lamy, Lauda 56 + 15m39.471s
50 GTE Am #54 Ferrari Flohr, Castellacci, Fisichella 55 + 10 Laps
51 GTE Am #88 Porsche Cairoli, Al Qubaisi, Roda 55 + 9.576s
52 GTE Am #99 Porsche Long, Pappas, Pumpelly 55 + 1m16.831s
53 GTE Am #90 Aston Yoluc, Hankey, Eastwood 55 + 1m25.386s
54 GTE Am #85 Ferrari Keating, Bleekemolen, Stolz 55 + 1m33.119s
55 GTE Am #80 Porsche Babini, Nielsen, Maris 55 + 1m35.136s
56 GTE Am #61 Ferrari Mok, Griffin, Sawa 55 + 2m42.042s
57 GTE Am #70 Ferrari Ishikawa, Beretta, Cheever 55 + 2m53.427s
58 GTE Pro #64 Chevrolet Gavin, Milner, Fassler 53 + 12 Laps
59 GTE Am #86 Porsche Wainwright, Barker, Davison 51 + 14 Laps
60 LMP1 #11 BR Petrov, Aleshin, Button 18 + 47 Laps
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Le Mans hour 3: Alonso chasing Lopez in Toyota lead battle

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Series WEC
Drivers Olivier Pla
Teams Toyota Racing
Author Tom Errington
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