The #36 Alpine Elf Matmut of Andre Negrao leads the 8 Hours of Portimao after two hours of action, and six hours to go at Round 2 of the WEC.
The Algarve circuit was bright and lit with sunshine as the cooler air temperatures sat around 22 degrees celsius, whilst wind speeds were around 10 Km/h.
As the first of two 8-hour races in this season, up to 38 points will be available for the winners in each category.
Additionally, Glickenhaus Racing debut into the championship as the first American manufacturer to pursue a top-tier WEC category.
The start had the Hypercars and LMP2s separated to the GTEs for what was a thrilling first two hours and tyre management being the main talking theme.
Nicolas Lapierre had a strong start in the pole-sitting #36 Alpine Elf Matmut to build on a lead from the Toyotas, with the #709 Glickenhaus Racing of Richard Westbrook locking up amongst a hectic LMP2 field.
The LMP2 pole-sitter #28 JOTA of Tom Blomqvist was tapped by home-hero and JOTA teammate Antonio Felix Da Costa, spinning the #28 around at Turn 2 but suffered no major contact.
This led to the #29 of Guido Van Der Garde took the class lead as a result whilst the #34 of Alex Brundle passed the #20 of Fjordbach with a controlled pass at Turn 1, in the middle of the field.
It was an action-packed first hour in GTE-Am, with the Aston Martins coming alive to the front end of the field, after struggling in qualifying.
Tobono Fuji took his #777 D’station Racing to the lead after passing the pole sitter #56 Egidio Perfetti (in second) and the #77 of Christian Ried.
This front trio jostle was joined by the #54 AF Corse, as the #77 lost three positions.
The cooler temperatures favoured the Astons, as the #777 made its way into the lead.
However, the repetitive lock-ups from the #777 forced them to pit for tyres after just 25 minutes of the race following tyre damage – handing it to the #54.
LMP2 had an intense lead battle between the #29 of Van Der Garde and the #31 of Robin Frijns continued right until they pitted, but a five-second slower pitstop by the WRT crew put them behind their Dutch rivals on the exit.
The first Hypercar pit was the race leader #36 after 29 laps in by Lapierre, thus Buemi took the lead.
Then it was the #7 of Jose Maria Lopez, 56 minutes into the race.
Sebastien Buemi pitted a lap later, with 37 under the belt at that point.
In LMP2, it was the matter of changing the left side tyres during the pit cycles.
A harsh lock-up of the #83 at the start of the race caught up on the team after a dramatic front-right tyre puncture and forcing them to pit the car and repair the bodywork damage that came from the moment at Turn 1.
The #709 was the last Hypercar to pit as Ryan Briscoe took over from Richard Westbrook.
Westbrook described how difficult it was to nurse the tyres after gaining blisters early into the race, thus ruling out any possibility to double-stint the tyres.
There was a major contact moment minutes from the two-hour mark as Ryan Briscoe locked up into the #77 and the #777 GTE-Am cars, and pitted once and then again after emerging clutch troubles – approximating a one-hour repair.
The two Toyotas, meanwhile, were close to each other and looked to chase the Alpine.
With two hours into the eight-hour affair, the only drive-through penalty was for the #21 of Ben Hanley who attempted to launch up the inside of the #28 JOTA at Turn 2.
|1||#36 Alpine Elf Matmut [HYPERCAR]|
|2||#8 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR|
|3||#7 Toyota GAZOO Racing [HYPERCAR]|
|4||#31 Team WRT [LMP2]|
|5||#22 United Autosports [LMP2]|
|6||#34 Inter Europol Competition (Pro/Am) [LMP2]|
|7||#29 Racing Team Nederland [LMP2]|
|8||#28 JOTA [LMP2]|
|9||#38 JOTA [LMP2]|
|10||#20 High Class Racing [LMP2]|
|11||#70 Realteam Racing (Pro/Am) [LMP2]|
|12||#1 Richard Mille Racing [LMP2]|
|13||#21 DragonSpeed USA (Pro/Am) [LMP2]|
|14||#51 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]|
|15||#92 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]|
|16||#52 AF Corse [GTE-PRO]|
|17||#709 Glickenhaus Racing [HYPERCAR]|
|18||#44 ARC Bratislava (Pro/Am) [LMP2]|
|19||#91 Porsche GT Team [GTE-PRO]|
|20||#47 Cetilar Racing [GTE-AM]|
|21||#54 AF Corse [GTE-AM]|
|22||#56 Team Project 1 [GTE-AM]|
|23||#57 Kessel Racing [GTE-AM]|
|24||#85 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]|
|25||#60 Iron Lynx [GTE-AM]|
|26||#98 Aston Martin Racing [GTE-AM]|
|27||#777 D’station Racing [GTE-AM]|
|28||#86 GR Racing [GTE-AM]|
|29||#33 TF Sport [GTE-AM]|
|30||#88 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]|
|31||#77 Dempsey-Proton Racing [GTE-AM]|
|32||#83 AF Corse [GTE-AM]|