Stephen Errity, Le Mans Correspondent
Andre Lotterer has picked up where he left off at Le Mans – leading the race in the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro that he qualified on pole position on Thursday night. After a clean start with no accidents, the field has now run through its first pitstop cycle and settled into a race rythmn.
The only major position change off the grid was Allan McNish in the #2 R18 e-tron quattro getting ahead of the #8 Toyota for third, but later in the hour the #4 Audi R18 TDI spent two minutes in the garage, leaving it a lap down in 11th place. There was also an unscheduled second stop for the #3 R18 TDI, currently being driven by Loic Duval, to repair a puncture, which allowed Wurz reclaim third place in the #8 Toyota and elevated McNish to second, despite a brief moment in the gravel on the entry to Tertre Rouge.
Behind the works cars, the two Rebellion Racing Lola-Toyotas are circulating in sixth and seventh. Their chief rivals, and privateer polesitters, Strakka Racing, are on the back foot, having started six laps down after repairing a gearbox and driveshaft seal to stop an oil leak. But their pace is good and the fightback has already begun.
Bertrand Baguette in the P1 OAK and David Brabham in the JRM HPD had an entertaining battle at the bottom of the top 10 in the early stages. They're currently running eigth and tenth after the stops, split by the delayed #4 Audi with Mike Rockenfeller at the wheel. Elsewhere in P1, the #16 Pescarolo 03's nightmare start to the event continued, with an attempted gamble on wet tyres not working out when an early light shower dissipated and further time in the garage being needed to fix technical problems.
In P2, Status GP and Jota had unscheduled early stops to repair suspension defect and puncture respectively, while class polesitters ADR-Delta saw their lead evaporate when they lost a minute during the first routine stop. This has allowed Olivier Pla in the #24 OAK Morgan to capture the class lead as the race enters its second hour, ahead of the Oreca-Nissans of Mathias Beche (Thiriet by TDS Racing) and Soheil Ayari (Pecom Racing).