Le Mans 24h: Alonso's Toyota leads with four hours left

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Le Mans 24h: Alonso's Toyota leads with four hours left
By: Filip Cleeren
Jun 17, 2018, 9:09 AM

The lead Toyota of Fernando Alonso has extended his lead to over a minute in the Le Mans 24 Hours with four hours of the race remaining, as Paul di Resta suffered a big crash.

The morning hours were interrupted by two safety car procedures, the first to repair a loose drain cover on the exit of Tertre Rouge and the second for a big shunt for di Resta in the #22 United Autosport Ligier. 

Di Resta lost control of his LMP2 car in the second part of the Porsche Curves and veered nose-first into the inside concrete wall. The Scot escaped unharmed but was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks.

During the two safety car periods Jose Maria Lopez, who had taken over the #7 Toyota from Mike Conway, lost over a minute to Alonso’s leading #8 Toyota by falling behind a different safety car train.

At the second restart Alonso's lead over Jose Maria Lopez had ballooned to 1m25s, which the Spaniard managed to consolidate at the 20-hour mark.

After a spate of minor technical gremlins Rebellion remained on course for a steady run to the podium. Mathias Beche’s #3 R-13 defended a 30-second gap on the #1 sister car of Bruno Senna, but a faster stop for the Brazilian promoted the car he shares with Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani to third, 11 laps down on the Toyotas.

The #10 DragonSpeed BR01 retired from the race earlier in the morning after an off by Ben Hanley in Porsche Curves, meaning the #11 SMP BR1 and the sole surviving #5 Ginetta are the only other runners in the lead category.

LMP2: Drama for Panis-Barthez

In LMP2, Jean-Eric Vergne maintained the #26 G-Drive Oreca's one-lap lead over the #23 Panis Barthez Ligier of Will Stevens, until Stevens’ car was wheeled back into the garage with technical problems.

That promoted Pierre Thiriet to second in the #36 Signatech Alpine, two laps behind the leader.

Paul-Loup Chatin followed in third in the #48 IDEC Sport Oreca, while Tristan Gommendy's #39 Graff Oreca benefited from Ligier’s collapse to vault up to fourth.

Juan Pablo Montoya is the best of the Ligier runners now in fifth, the #22 United Autosports car having made up ground after the Colombian's previous off at Indianapolis.

GTE: Porsche keeps its lead

Porsche kept the GTE Pro category under lock and key, as Michael Christensen's leading #92 Porsche 911 RSR expanded its lead over Gianmaria Bruni’s #91 sister car.

By the time Laurens Vanthoor took over the Pink Pig-liveried car, his advantage had increased from two to three minutes. 

Bruni handed the #91 car to Frederic Makowiecki, who survived a big scare by going into the gravel in the Porsche Curves. 

That allowed the #67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx to get a run on Makowiecki on the following lap, and  after a thrilling side-by-side duel Priaulx took over the position. The second #68 Ford of Sebastien Bourdais was also hounding the Porsche for third. 

The #63 Corvette continued to produce a steady run in fifth position as its sister #64 car retired due to its V8 engine overheating. Richard Westbrook was sixth in the #69 Ford ahead of the first two AF Corse Ferraris.

In GTE Am, the #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche was able to maintain its healthy advantage.

The #85 Keating Ferrari 488 and the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari were locked in a tight battle for second place, with Jeroen Bleekemolen gaining the upper hand through the morning in the Keating car.

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