After a very wet start and lots of close battles, four hours into the race the two Porsche 919 Hybrids are running in first (Bernhard/Hartley/Webber) and fourth (Dumas/Jani/Lieb) at the Le Mans 24 Hours. The leading Porsche is only 23 seconds ahead of the fastest Toyota.
Because of heavy rain, the 84th running of the world endurance classic got underway at 15:00 hrs behind the safety car. It led the pack around the track for seven laps. At 15:52 hrs the circuit went green. In the beginning the start drivers Neel Jani (car number 2) and Timo Bernhard (car number 1) maintained a one-two for Porsche. On lap nine the number 6 Toyota took over the lead. After 11 laps the number 1 Porsche had its first pit stop at 16:08 hrs. Bernhard handed over to Brendon Hartley, and the rain tyres were replaced by slicks. One lap later the number 2 car also changed to slicks with Romain Dumas taking over from Jani.
Ninety minutes into the race Hartley managed to take the lead with Dumas running in fifth position. Hartley came in for refuelling after 24 and 37 laps, Dumas came in for the same after 25 and 38 laps.
Timo Bernhard (35, Germany):
(9 races: overall victory 2010, overall second 2015, class victory GT 2002)
“The beginning went well for us. The rain for the start was heavier than expected and so we went for extra cut wet weather tyres. This was the right decision at the time. When the track went green after the very long safety car period, this tyre obviously wasn’t ideal and we had to soon change.”
Brendon Hartley (26, New Zealand):
(4 races: overall second 2015)
“After Timo had done a great first stint, I jumped in for a triple stint. Due to the changing weather conditions in practice and qualifying, we didn’t have much experience with how long the tyres would last. But it looks good and I think we can also do a fourth stint with one set of tyres.”
Neel Jani (32, Switzerland):
(7 races: qualifying record lap and 5th place overall 2015)
“Because the safety car stayed out for a very long time, when the track went green we were on the wrong tyres and also we had a bit of a handicap at the pit stop. But we have a very long race ahead of us and our car is running well.“
Romain Dumas (38, France):
(15 races: overall victory 2010, 3rd place overall 2007, 5th place overall 2015, class victory GTE 2013)
“I had three good stints. Unfortunately we lost our good position early on when on rain tyres, but it is still very early in the race.”