Eventful start to Monza 1000km

Marc Gene in the No. 7 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi FAP leads at Monza after roughly one hour into the 1000km race, the second round of the Le Mans Series season. But the story so far has been about the Audis, particularly the No. 1 Audi Sport Team...

Marc Gene in the No. 7 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi FAP leads at Monza after roughly one hour into the 1000km race, the second round of the Le Mans Series season. But the story so far has been about the Audis, particularly the No. 1 Audi Sport Team Joest R10 TDI of Dindo Capello, which suffered a disastrous accident 20 minutes into the race.

Capello and the Rollcentre Racing Pescarolo Judd of Vanina Ickx made contact exiting the Ascari chicane, sending the Audi R10 TDI into a high-speed spin. After losing its rear deck lid, the car caught air, nearly rolling over. Capello limped the heavily damaged Audi back to the pits for repairs as the field slowed for the second safety car period of the race.

"I haven't seen what happened yet," Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, head of Audi Motorsport said. "I heard from Dindo that he was touched by someone. The car is damaged very badly. The race for sure is long, but after such an incident, it would be something special to come back into the points."

After nearly 20 minutes of work in the garage, Capello rejoined the field, nine laps adrift from the leader. Co-driver Allan McNish said the team not only replaced damaged bodywork but also made repairs to the suspension and uprights.

The other Audi of Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat hasn't fared much better. Fuel pressure problems forced the No. 2 entry to start from the pits. However, Rockenfeller has since charged up the leaderboard, moving to third overall.

After making clever pit strategy, Stefan Mucke in the Charouz Racing Systems Lola B06/80 Aston Martin led the race overall for a point, before coming in for its stop. However, Mucke soon suffered problems of his own, as the car crawled back into the pits one lap later. The gasoline-fueled LM P1 coupe has since made frequent stops, with suspected electric gremlins. The car runs 21st overall, four laps adrift from the leaders.

"I honestly don't know," co-driver Jan Charouz said. "The mechanics are trying to figure it out. The engine is shutting off. We think it's something with the ECU."

So it's a Peugeot 1-2, with Gene leading ahead of Pedro Lamy, who took over the reigns of the No. 8 entry from Stephane Sarrazin, who drove the opening stint.

"I didn't push really hard because the setup was quite difficult," Sarrazin said. "I was just trying to avoid mistakes. Everything can happen. For us, it's very important to finish and score points."

Jos Verstappen has dominated the LM P2 class so far, aboard his Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder. The Dutchman runs in 5th overall, two laps down on overall leader Gene. The Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 Judd runs second in class, with the Horag Racing Porsche in third.

Olivier Beretta paced LM GT1 aboard his No. 72 Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.R, just ahead of Antonio Garcia, who is now in the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9. Garcia's co-driver, Tomas Enge, made a great start, moving into the lead before pitting.

"We had a pretty good battle with Olivier with the other Corvette," Enge said. "They pitted halfway through our stint, which was pretty surprising. Something strange is going on with their strategy. We have to find out."

In LM GT2, the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430 GT of Rob Bell leads, ahead of the Farnbacher Racing Ferrari and No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR.

"We're doing good but there's four hours to go," Gianmaria Bruni, Bell's co-driver said. "Rob's in the car now. It's fantastic racing here with the Ferrari car in Monza. We'll need a little bit of luck, but we'll see."

Forty-two laps are complete, with at least four more hours remaining in the 1000km (or 173-lap) race. Stay tuned for more updates on this action-packed race.

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Gianmaria Bruni , Tomas Enge , Antonio Garcia , Allan McNish , Marc Gene , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Vanina Ickx , Rob Bell , Luc Alphand , Olivier Beretta , Alexandre Prémat , Mike Rockenfeller , Stefan Mücke , Jan Charouz , Dindo Capello
Teams Audi Sport Team Joest , IMSA Performance Matmut