The race was started behind the safety car because of heavy rain. After six laps behind the safety car, the race was finally green-flagged 52 minutes into the race.
Porsche Team had claimed the front row with its No. 2 car on pole and the No. 1 car in second place. Yet on the drying track, Mike Conway did brilliant job to claim the lead for the No. 6 Toyota Gazoo Racing machine before the first round of pit stops.
The first stops shuffled the order on top as teams switched to slick tires. André Lotterer was the first factory LMP1 driver to pit his No. 7 Audi Sport Team Joest machine for fuel and slicks and was the big winner of the first round of stops. Then No. 1 Porsche and the No. 8 Audi pitted the following lap and joined the track behind Lotterer’s No. 7 Audi. The two Toyotas and the No. 2 Porsche pitted only a lap later fell behind those three factory LMP1 cars that had already pitted.
The No. 7 Audi’s lead was short-lived as Lotterer had to return to pits from the lead only four laps after his previous stop. The turbocharger of the car had to be changed, costing six laps.
An Audi was once again leading the race when Loïc Duval in the No. 8 machine passed Brendon Hartley in the No. 1 Porsche on lap 16. Hartley claimed the lead back from Duval two laps later, and before the second stops, third-placed Mike Conway in the No. 6 Toyota had caught the second-placed Duval.
The No. 6 Toyota overtook the No. 8 Audi during the second stops while the No. 1 Porsche continued in the lead. Since then, the leading Porsche was able to build gap to the second-placed Toyota while the third-placed Audi couldn’t match the pace of those two.
Meanwhile the No. 5 Toyota was running fourth and the polesitter No. 2 Porsche fifth. The No 5 Toyota fell behind the No. 2 Porsche because of an unscheduled pit stop to change a vibrating set of tires. Those two gained a position when the No. 8 Audi had a lengthy stop to change its door, causing it to lose over a minute.
While the No. 1 Porsche had been able to build gap to the No. 6 Toyota, the Toyotas were able to have stints of 14 laps as opposed to 13 laps for Porsche and Audi. At the six-hour mark, Kamui Kobayashi of the No. 6 Toyota is leading Timo Bernhard of the No. 1 Porsche by one minute. While the Toyota is still to make its seventh stop, it will be only six laps before the Porsche will stop.
TDS, Risi, Proton leaders in LMP2, GTE-Pro, GTE-Am
The No. 44 Oreca-Nissan 05 of Manor dominated the LMP2 class until the end of the fifth hour. Roberto Merhi had a brilliant opening stint for the team, yet the team lost over 50 seconds when Matt Rao spun at the Dunlop Chicane and fell into fourth place.
The No. 46 Oreca-Nissan 05 of Thiriet by TDS Racing became the new LMP2 leader. After six hours, it leads by 11 seconds to the No. 36 Signatech Alpine entry and had already done its eighth stop.
The Balance of Performance of the GTE-Pro cars was adjusted after the dominant qualifying performance of the Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE cars. Once the race got green, Frédéric Makowiecki of the No. 92 Porsche Motorsport entry was able to lead the race on damp track. Yet once the track got dry, Ford and Ferrari were again the superior GTE-Pro cars despite the BoP changes.
At the six-hour mark, the No. 82 Ferrari of Risi Competizione is leading the GTE-Pro class ahead of three Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs. The entire top 10 was within just over 10 seconds while the fifth-placed No. 95 Aston Martin Racing Vantage V8 was already over one minute, 30 seconds from the lead.
In GTE-Am, the No. 88 Porsche of Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing is leading at the six-hour mark by over one minute, 20 seconds to the No. 78 KCMG Porsche. In third place is the No. 98 Aston Martin Racing entry.