From the green flag Audi led the 90th Le Mans 24 Hour race, most of the time running 1–2–3, with the Toyotas trailing. The race started under gray skies and intermittent rain fell on various parts of the course, so that the track changed radically from lap to lap. Spins were plentiful, including one on Lap Two which cost the lap of WEC GTE-Am points leader Allan Simonsen.
After the track was repaired and racing resumed, the spinning also resumes, though none of any consequence. Audi pushed on running ten or eleven laps per stint, while Toyota could manage eleven or twelve—but lacked the pace to stay with the Audis.
As the rain stopped and night fell, the Audis seemed to go stronger, while the Toyotas stuck to its plan, hoping fate would intervene.
Shortly before the seven-hour mark it did.
First Benoît Tréluyer in the race-leading #1 Audi e-tron quattro stalled leaving the pits. When he repitted, the car was taken right back to the garage with, according to Audi’s head of motorsports Dr. Wolfgang Ulrich, a failing alternator.
Because the Audi e-tron is a diesel/electric hybrid, an electrical issue could affect the engine management, the gearbox, the brakes, or the hybrid drive engine. The car sat in the garage as the minutes ticked by, surrendering the lead to its sister car, the #2 Audi e-tron driven by Loic Duval.
Between Tréluyer’s two pit stops, Oliver Jarvis in the #3 Audi suffered a right rear puncture which sent the car bouncing—hard—across the curb at the Dunlop Curve. This dropped the #3 to fourth, with the two Toyotas, the #8 of Stephane Sarrazin, and the #7 of Kaz Nakajima, into second and third overall,
With the fastest Audi out of the race, the Toyotas’ fuel-saving strategy had a better chance of paying off—if the Toyotas can also avoid mechanical failure, collisions, and driver error for eight hours of night and another eight hours of daylight racing.