Audi leads at halfway point

Audi Sport dominated the opening twelve hours of the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours. Rinaldo Capello put in an extremely strong opening stint in the ...

Audi Sport dominated the opening twelve hours of the 2007 Le Mans 24 Hours. Rinaldo Capello put in an extremely strong opening stint in the #2 Audi Sport TDI R10 to build up a large initial lead, which kept on growing as the race unfolded.

Peugeot initially started from pole position with Sebastien Bourdais leading the field away on the opening lap in the #8 car but his lead lasted only two corners as he ran wide at the Dunlop Chicane. Audi started to apply pressure and the #1 and #3 cars of Frank Biela and Lucas Luhr respectively started to pick of Bourdais and the #7 car of Nicolas Minassian, and within the hour the Audis occupied the first three places.

Luhr handed over the #3 Team Joest Audi to Mike Rockenfeller who then crashed at Tetre Rouge and heavily damaged the rear of the car and the circuit barrier. Rockenfeller was okay but the car was not able to continue and the Safety Car was deployed for a lengthy period while the barrier was repaired.

A brief rain shower followed, as did another Safety Car period, and once the confusion ended the #1 Audi had dropped down to fifth behind the #8 and #7 Peugeots and the #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01 which had benefited from strong tactics and good work in the pits.

Peugeot suffered their first major mechanical problem during the fifth hour when Sarrazin pitted the #8 car with smoke coming from the right rear of the car. The team worked on the car and it was able to rejoin back in eighth position, and this handed second position to the #1 Audi that had worked its way up to third.

The pair of Audis continued to pull away and by the midway point Tom Kristensen in the #2 car was three laps ahead of Emanuele Pirro in the #1 car, with the #7 Peugeot of Marc Gene in third place and pushing hard.

In the LMP2 class the #40 Quifel - ASM Team Lola-AER B0540 driven by Miguel Amaral, Miguel Angel de Castro and Warren Hughes initially dominated the class with both a strong performance and the gradual disappearance of other challengers - the #21 Team Bruichladdich Radical AER SR9 of Tim Greaves crashed due to the wet conditions, the #32 Team Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2 of Michael Vergers suffered gear selection problems, and the #25 Team RML Ray Mallock Lola-AER B05-40 of Andy Wallace stopped out on the circuit.

The LMP2 mechanical gremlins eventually hit the #40 car too when Hughes ground to a halt out on the circuit with no drive and a missing rear wheel. He eventually got back to the pits to undergo lengthy repairs, but had to pit again for further fixes and dropped out of contention. The #31 Team Binnie Motorsports Lola-Zytek B05-40 Chris Buncombe was leading the class at the halfway point.

The LMGT1 was highly competitive and dominated by Team Aston Martin, with the #007 of Kox leading slightly over the #009 of Rickard Rydell, after the #008 AMR Larbre Competition Aston Martin DBR9 of Christophe Bouchut initially led but dropped back to third place.

The #64 Team Corvette Racing C6-R driven by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis has been closely following the sister #63 car, which was in third place, but dropped out after a couple of hours due to a driveshaft problem.

The #97 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT driven by Mika Salo had a comfortable lead in the LMGT2 class after taking the lead when the #76 Imsa Performancec Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR developed a problem with the front wheel.

The #80 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman and Jorg Bergmeister started in fourth place but dropped out of contention in the early hours of the night after the car suffered gearbox problems had a lengthy pitstop in order to reconstruct the gearbox.

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