Brendon Hartley leads early in Le Mans race

Last updated 05:54 15/06/2014
Brendon Hartley
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NEAR THE FRONT: Brendon Hartley in action during the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The Kiwi driver, teamed with Timo Bernhard and Mark Webber, led in his Porsche after 49 laps.

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In its return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans after a 16-year absence in the top category, Porsche took the lead in the fourth hour on Saturday (local time) as sudden rain led to the crash of two contenders.

Kiwi driver Brendon Hartley's Porsche No 20 capitalised on a pit stop from Stephane Sarrazin's Toyota No 7 to take a 20-second lead after 49 laps, however Sarrazin retook the lead soon after.

Benoit Treluyer's Audi No 2 was third, 53 seconds off the pace, while defending champion Tom Kristensen's Audi No. 1 moved into fourth place, one lap behind Hartley.

Nicolas Lapierre's Toyota No 8 and Marco Bonanomi's Audi No 3 were fighting for third place in the second hour when rain led the Toyota to lose traction and bounce off a barrier before clipping the Audi.

The accident brought the safety flag out for about 40 minutes. Lapierre was able to drive his Toyota back to the garage to have it repaired but slipped to 43rd, nine laps off the pace. Bonanomi was forced to retire.

Audi has won nine of the last 10 races at Le Mans, including the last four. A total of 54 cars started the 82nd edition of the race, which ends on Sunday (1am Monday NZ time).

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- AP

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