Motor racing: Toyota lead rain-hit Le Mans

France's Stephane Sarrazin drives his Toyota TSO50 Hybrid N°6 as he competes during the 84th Le Mans 24-hours endurance race on June 18 in Le Mans, western France.
France's Stephane Sarrazin drives his Toyota TSO50 Hybrid N°6 as he competes during the 84th Le Mans 24-hours endurance race on June 18 in Le Mans, western France. PHOTO: AFP

LE MANS (AFP) - The Toyota TS050 Hybrid of Stephane Sarrazin led the Le Mans 24 Hour Race heading into the night on Saturday, battling back the early challenge of Porsche on a rain-soaked day.

The Porsche of Neel Jani, which had started from pole position, was in second spot.

Earlier, Australian world champion Mark Webber, sharing driving duties of the Porsche, had snatched the lead from the Toyota of fellow ex-Formula One star Kamui Kobayashi.

The 84th edition of the classic endurance event had got off to a disappointing start in front of 200,000 drenched spectators.

Flagged off by Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt, the first seven laps took place behind the safety car as torrential rain lashed the track and the 60 cars on the grid.

Once the race started in earnest, the Toyota, with Mike Conway at the wheel at the start, passed the pole-sitting Porsches.

However, after a refuelling stop, the leading Porsche reclaimed the race advantage in the early exchanges.

Audi was the first of the "big three" manufacturers to suffer problems when the triple champions of Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Andre Lotterer lost around 20 minutes because of a faulty turbo.