AUDI LEADS AT LE MANS WITH FOUR HOURS TO GO
Now the race is on. There are less than four hours to go at the 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Marco Werner is still driving hard in the leading Audi R10 TDI, the lone entry left for the German manufacturer. Werner held a five-lap lead over former F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve in one of the factor Peugeots.
Werner and teammates Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro were on their own as the last of three Audis entered in the world's greatest sports car race. The No. 3 Audi with Mike Rockenfeller at the wheel crashed and retired in the second hours after heavy contact at Tertre Rouge. But even more shocking was Dindo Capello's off in the 16th hour while leading by two laps. A broken left-rear wheel sent him flying into the gravel at Indianapolis Corner to end a race where the No. 2 Audi had dominated since the start.
So it was understandable that Pirro wasn't taking anything for granted. This year's race has been particularly brutal with 22 retirements through 20 hours.
"When anyone asks me who is our main competitor, I always say it is the race itself," Pirro said. "To win this race you need a lot of luck. You can lose this race many ways. Only the last mile is the one that counts."
The GT1 battle was living up to its hype with Aston Martin and Corvette going head-to-head down to the wire for the third year in a row. Darren Turner in the No. 009 factory Aston Martin DBR9 led Johnny O'Connell in the last remaining works Corvette C6.R by a lap.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Aston Martin has had Corvette covered that last two years heading into the final stages. Last year the leading Aston was forced to pit for clutch repairs, giving the win to one of the factory Corvettes.
"From our point of view things are good. The car actually feels better to drive than it did at the start of the race," said Aston Martin's David Brabham. "The gearbox was a bit notchy to begin with but now it's bedded in really well."
The No. 63 Corvette was on its own following the retirement of the sister car of Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Max Papis. Gavin was at the wheel when the car's propshaft failed nearly two hours in. Gavin tried to bring the car back using the starter motor but wasn't allowed to by the course marshals.
In GT2 Risi Competizione's remaining Ferrari F430 GT of Tracy Krohn, Colin Braun and Nic Jonsson were running second in class and trailed only the IMSA Performance Porsche with American factory pilot Patrick Long driving the leading car. The Ferrari was seven laps behind after a couple of minor incidents but was in prime shape for a podium position.
The other Risi car of Mika Salo, Jaime Melo and Johnny Mowlem retired just past the 16-hour mark with a failed water pump. The car had led for nearly 11 hours before Melo hit an oil slick on the Mulsanne Straight and went into a tire barrier.
Defending class champion Team LNT was fifth with in a Panoz Esperante GTLM after the No. 82 car had to replace the rear halfshaft early on. Other than that, it was a trouble-free run.
The Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche retired with a broken driveline near the 10-hour mark. The other LNT Panoz lost a gearbox just past the three- hour mark.
In LMP2, the Barazi Epsilon factory Zytek 07S/2 with Adrian Fernandez at the wheel was surviving a rash of maladies but ran in second place in class with four hours left. The car had suffered a brake system problem, a fuel pressure issue, a wheel bearing failure and an off at Arnage that meant another lengthy stop for repairs.
The New Hampshire-based Binnie Motorsports Zytek-powered Lola was leading the class and enjoyed a 19-lap lead over the Zytek.