After 2 hours - Peugeot gets the early jump

After the rain that hit the track early in the morning, the track had dried out before the start under cloudy skies. Already 45 minutes before the start, problems developed for one of the 55 cars when the No. 80 Flying Lizard Porsche got a ...

After the rain that hit the track early in the morning, the track had dried out before the start under cloudy skies.

Already 45 minutes before the start, problems developed for one of the 55 cars when the No. 80 Flying Lizard Porsche got a puncture while being on its way to the starting grid. The car was able to get a fresh set of Michelin tires in the pit, without losing his starting position on the grid.

When the 'Tricoleur' was waved for the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, pole sitter Pedro Lamy was able to keep the lead with the No. 3 Peugeot, in front of the Peugeot sister cars driven by Marc Gene and Franck Montagny.

The first half hour of the race was already full of drama with the No. 19 Michael Lewis Autocon car having big technical problems in the first lap. The orange car driven by Michael Lewis lost power in the final sector of the race and had to be parked without having completed one full lap.

Even bigger problems followed after 17 minutes for the Beechdean Mansell team. Former Formula 1 champion Nigel Mansell got on the straight towards the Indianapolis corner going over 200 km/h with a puncture. The No. 5 car spun and hit the armco, damaging the right rear of the car heavily causing the team to retire early.

The former Formula One and CART champion was able to eventually climb out of the cockpit of the LMP1 entry, but the car was withdrawn before sons Leo and Greg could participate in the 78th edition of the French endurance classic.

The incident started a controversial safety car period, the one first using the new three-car method introduced by the Automobile Club de L'Ouest. The second safety car picked up a group including the chasing Audi entries in fifth, sixth and seventh, creating a bigger gap to the leading four Peugeot entries.

"It's a part of the game and everybody has to cope with it," said Wolfgang Ulrich, director of Audi Sport. "There was a big discussion about (the three safety cars). If the ACO decides that this is the way it will work, everybody will have to cope with it."

After a 31-minute safety car period, the leading Peugeots resumed on the Apit straight, while the three Audi's did not come past the start/finish until 57 seconds later. Prior to the safety car period, the lead No. 7 Audi of Allan McNish had trailed the leading No. 1 Peugeot of Pedro Lamy Aby 12 seconds.

In the same lap as Mansell's crash, the new RSR Jaguar car had be pushed into the pitbox after the car already had lost power. The car has completed only 4 laps and hasn't been seen back on track.

Franck Montagny opened the race with the No. 2 Peugeot in very strong fashion by passing the No. 1 Peugeot after 10 minutes. By making the first pitstop of the race one lap earlier than Lamy in the No. 3 car, Montagny was even able to take over the lead after one hour of racing.

Six minutes before the 2-hour mark Dirk Muller parked his multi-colored No. 79 BMW in the first chicane to inspect his car after he felt a problem on his left rear. On this side the tire was punctured, after which the German had to drive very carefully back to the pit. In the pit more damage on the underside of the car was found, caused driving over the kerbstones when Muller parked his car.

Three minutes later Bas Leinders all of a sudden stood in the gravel trap of the Dunlop Esses with a heavily damaged right rear of the No. 70 Ford GT. Though it wasn't clear what happened to the Belgian driver, it seemed like he had lost the car and hit the tire barrier. After Leinders was able to get out of the gravel, he crawled back to the pit for long time repairs.

Strakka Racing was able to take the best usage of his pole position and kept the lead in the LM P2 class, in front of the No. 26 Highcroft HPD and the No. 25 Ray Mallock Limited Lola.

In GT1 pole sitter Julien Jousse made a bad start of the race and dropped with the No. 52 AMR Young Driver Aston Martin back to third position. With Tomas Mutsch behind the steering wheel, Matech Competition's No. 60 Ford GT took over the lead, in front of the No. 73 corvette.

Corvette was in the first two hours dominant in the GT2 class with the No. 64 car leading the No. 63 Corvette.

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Dirk Müller , Allan McNish , Franck Montagny , Marc Gene , Nigel Mansell , Pedro Lamy , Michael Lewis , Bas Leinders , Ray Mallock , Julien Jousse
Teams Strakka Racing