After 3 hours: 009 leads GT1 class at Le Mans 24 Hours
After three hours of the world's most demanding endurance race, Aston Martin DBR9 number 009 - driven by David Brabham, Antonio Garcia and Darren Turner - leads the GT1 class in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The battle for the category lead though is extremely close, as there are two Corvettes within a minute and a half of the leading Aston Martin. The 007 car of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Andrea Piccini and Karl Wendlinger is fourth, just over one minute further back from the top trio.
None of the drivers have reported any problems with the two Gulf-liveried DBR9s, but the Aston Martin-engined LMP1 prototype hit trouble an hour and a half after the green light, following its excellent start from sixth place on the grid. Jan Charouz had a spin that damaged the front-right bodywork and steering of the car, which took just 25 minutes in the pits to repair thanks to some slick pit work.
There were no such problems for the two factory DBR9s though. David Brabham started from fourth on the GT1 grid, and did an extremely rapid initial double stint, which moved the car up the field.
"We didn't really have any dramas: the only thing is that we got held up by a car that was weaving all over the place," said Brabham. "The handling of the car went off gradually, but I think that was down to the tyre pressures climbing too high, so we stopped a little bit early at the end of my first stint in order to rectify the situation. At the start of the race, getting the tyre pressures right involves a bit of guesswork, so these things can happen. Apart from that, the car's going great and it's been a really good start." Brabham then handed over to Garcia at around 1715, and Turner is now in the car.
Wendlinger started the race in 007, and he too reported a trouble-free beginning. "Everything went according to plan: we made sure that we gave ourselves enough space on the first lap and just stayed out of trouble," he said. "There's nothing to be gained from pushing too hard too quickly, so I concentrated on lapping consistently and maintaining position. I wasn't too happy with the handling, but I think that's just down to the same tyre pressure issue that affected 009."
After Wendlinger, Piccini took over the car and now Darren Turner is embarking on a long evening stint - just as he did last year when he formed part of the winning 009 crew.