Porsche lead Audi into Sunday at Le Mans

Sat Jun 13, 2015 7:56pm EDT
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LE MANS, France (Reuters) - Force India Formula One driver Nico Hulkenberg led his first Le Mans 24 Hours race on Saturday before handing over to Porsche team mate Nick Tandy as the battle with champions Audi raged through the night.

The number 19 car that Hulkenberg shares with Briton Tandy and New Zealand's Earl Bamber led as the clock ticked past midnight but after 10 hours of high-speed action there was little to separate the two German manufacturers.

Both marques, part of the Volkswagen stable, traded the lead as the pitstops came and went.

Mark Webber, the former Red Bull Formula One driver, had earlier been in the driving seat of the number 17 Porsche as the race reached the quarter distance with the Australian leading the way.

However, Webber was handed a one-minute 'stop and go' penalty after the eight-hours mark for overtaking under yellow warning flags through a slow zone imposed around the Mulsanne corner following the third safety car interlude of the race.

As the race headed into Sunday, Tandy led the number nine and seven Audis with Webber's Porsche, shared with New Zealander Brendon Hartley and Germany's Timo Bernhard, lapping in fourth place.

Defending champions Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fassler had also led in the number seven Audi as the three drivers chase their fourth win together.

Porsche had swept the top three places in qualifying thanks to their lightning one lap pace but Audi showed they were formidable foes and just as quick in race trim.

The safety cars, three of them to cope with the long Le Mans lap, made their first appearance at the end of the first hour when a three car collision dumped oil on the track at the first chicane.   Continued...

Timo Bernhard of Germany drives his Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17 during the Le Mans 24-hour sportscar race in Le Mans, central France June 13, 2015. The Porsche 919 Hybrid number 17 is also driven by Brendon Hartley of New Zealand and Mark Webber of Australia. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe