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Race report
Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans 24h, H3: Ferrari leads as rain brings out safety car

Ferrari led the centenary edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours after the opening three hours, as numerous LMP2 and GTE accidents were followed by further chaos amid the arrival of rain.

#50 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco, Miguel Molina, Nicklas Nielsen

The #50 Ferrari 499P of Antonio Fuoco was circulating nearly 20 seconds clear of the chasing pack when the safety car was called due to heavy rain at the Porsche Curves just before the end of the third hour.

Fuoco’s team-mate Nicklas Nielsen had moved the #50 into the effective lead by pitting early in the opening hour. It put the car out of sequence with the rest, but Fuoco was able to move back in front when the two Toyotas came into the pits under a FCY in the third hour.

The #94 Peugeot of Gustavo Menezes rose as high as second after shining in damp conditions, but the French driver brought the car into the pits under the safety car, elevating Antonio Giovinazzi’s #51 Ferrari into second.

Menezes returned from the pits in third position, ahead of Mike Conway in the #7 Toyota and the Yifei Ye in the #38 JOTA Porsche, which tactically used a number of FCY periods to move up the order.

The #8 Toyota of Sebastien Buemi that led at the end of the opening hour dropped to sixth position after its final pitstop ahead of the #6 Porsche of Kevin Estre, which suffered a slow puncture while Laurens Vanthoor was at the wheel.

The #2 Cadillac ran eighth but enjoyed a brief stint in the lead by not pitting under a FCY in hour 2. Jean-Eric Vergne ran ninth in the #93 Peugeot, while Felipe Nasr ran 10th in Porsche’s additional #75 entry.

The #3 Cadillac dropped a lap down in the second hour of the race after being hit from behind by the #55 GMB Aston Martin Vantage of Gustav Birch in a three-way incident that also involved the #21 Ferrari of Ulysse de Pauw under the Dunlop Bridge.

The #3 Cadillac also suffered a double spin when the rain hit the track late on, just after the #709 Glickenhaus crashed at Porsche Curves with Esteban Gutierrez at the wheel.

In LMP2, the pole-sitting #48 IDEC Sport ORECA dropped to 12th, not helped by a pitstop that was almost 30 seconds slower than its rivals.

It elevated the #28 JOTA car of Pietro Fittipaldi to the top spot, ahead of the #36 Alpine of Julien Canal.

Two LMP2 cars retired from the race due to separate incidents in the second hour. The #14 Nielsen Racing ORECA was the first to drop out of the race after Rodrigo Sales suffered a huge crash going into the first chicane.

Not long after, Ricky Taylor crashed his #13 Tower Motorsport car into the barriers at the kink after Tertre Rouge, spilling debris all over the track and extending the slow zone period.

In the third hour, Frederick Lubin lost control as he went over the white lines at the same part of the track in his #22 United Autosports car, slamming into the side of the Mikkel Pedersen’s #77 Proton Porsche.

The GTE Am class also saw a reshuffle after the pole-sitting Corvette came into the garage due to suspected technical issues, losing a lap in repairs.

It left the #54 AF Corse Ferrari of Davide Rigon at the front, ahead of Sarah Bovy in the #85 Iron Dames Porsche and the #56 Project 1 AO Porsche of PJ Hyett.

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