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Toyota Leads First Hour At The Nürburgring

Thrilling battles in GTE

The #7 Toyota leads the 2017 6 Hours of Nürburgring from Pole Position, after a great drive from Kamui Kobayashi in the opening hour, fending off the two Porsche 919s behind.

There’s only three LMP1 contenders up front, after drama before the green flag fell, with the #8 Toyota slowing on the formation lap, Sebastien Buemi unable to get full power. The #8 TS050 lost eight minutes in the pit, and four laps with what was diagnosed as a fuel pump problem, and is now outside the top 20.

Between the three factory hybrids there were a handful of tussles through traffic, but Timo Bernhard in the #2 couldn’t find a way through, nor could the #1 of Andre Lotterer.

At the very end of the hour, there was a change of position though, with Neel Jani climbing in the #1 at the first stops, and taking second place at Turn 1 off the #2 as Brendon Hartley emerged from the pits. Remarkably, all three P1 cars had. one minute, 14 second first stop! All three changed drivers too, with Jose Maria Lopez climbing in the Toyota, and Jani and Hartley getting in the Porsches.

There’s just a few seconds between them with five hours remaining.

In LMP2, the #31 Rebellion ORECA of Bruno Senna leads, after the first round of pit stops just before the hour. Senna took the class lead at the start of the race, with Oliver Jarvis in the pole-sitting #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca slipping to third, behind the sister #13 Rebellion of Mathias Beche.

It was a Rebellion 1-2 for most of the hour, until the stops. Beche brought the #13 in first of the top three, and emerged third, after some rapid laps from Jarvis allowed the DC Racing crew to leapfrog the #13 and take second. It’s close, with Senna leading by just four seconds.

Behind, the #25 CEFC Manor TRS Racing ORECA of Vitaly Petrov sits fourth, with the #37 Jackie Chan DC Racing ORECA up to fifth, Alex Brundle fighting his way up the order after starting seventh.

In the hour, the three LMP2 teams which were penalised prior to the race, served their penalties and now sit ninth, 10th and 11th. It’s left the #24 Manor Oreca four laps down after the seven-minute stop, the #26 G-Drive Racing ORECA of Ben Hanley two laps down following its three-minute penalty and the #35 Alpine of Nelson Panciatici a lap down after the 30-second stop and hold.

GTE Pro was a dog fight for the first hour. The #91 Porsche of Fred Makowiechi leads after starting the race third, with the #95 Aston Martin second and the #66 Ford GT third.

At the start, Pole man Michael Christensen out-braked himself into Turn 1, and slipped to fourth place, it left the door open for Marco Sorensen in the #95, who took the lead. For much of the rest of the hour, the main story was an incredible defensive drive from the Dane, who had to defend hard from Makowiecki. He couldn’t hold it though, and the Porsche squeezed by at the exit of the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

The #66 Ford GT of Olivier Pla was able to sniff second at times, but couldn’t make anything stick. Meanwhile, the #51 AF Corse Ferrari of James Calado took fourth from Christensen just before he pitted with five hours to go.

There was only one car which suffered an issue in the class, with the #71 AF Corse Ferrari having to pit for four minutes after a clash with the #67 Ford GT of Andy Priaulx. The 488 GTE rejoined the race dead last in the class after half an hour of racing.

The first hour of racing in GTE AM was dominated by Pedro Lamy, who led the way from Pole Position in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage. Behind though there was plenty of action, with the Dempsey Proton Porsche of Christian Red slipping from second to fourth, after a charge from the Spirit of Race and Clearwater Racing Ferraris during the final 20 minutes of the hour.

It ended with Keita Sawa in the Clearwater car snatching second through the Mercedes-Benz Arena from Francesco Castellacci’s Spirit of Race 488.