Audi leads opening hour

Audi dominated the opening hour of Le Mans 24 Hours with the #2 Audi Sport North America R10 TDI of Rinaldo Capello building up a three-quarters of a minute lead over Frank Biela and Lucas Luhr in the sister Audi Sport cars.

Start: #8 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908: Pedro Lamy, St?phane Sarrazin, S?bastien Bourdais and #2 Audi Sport North America Audi R10: Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello battle.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Sebastien Bourdais in the #8 Team Peugeot Total 908 led the field away at the rolling start but his lead only lasted two corners as he ran across the Dunlop chicane, thus handing the lead to Rinaldo Capello. He then fell back to third place as Nicolas Minassian in the #7 Peugeot dived past further round the first lap.

Capello quickly pulled away and this left a very close battle with Bourdais, Minassian, Luhr and Biela all fighting for second place, but over the course of the next few laps the Audis worked their way past and before long the team was holding the first, second and third positions.

There was an intense battle at the head of the LMP2 class with the #33 Team Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2 of Adrian Fernandez narrowly ahead of the #40 Quifel - ASM Team Lola-AER B0540 of Warren Hughes and the #32 Team Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2 of Michael Vergers. The #32 Vergers got past Hughes and soon after tried to challenge Fernandez but braked too late at the Dunlop chicane and spun. After the first round of pitstops Hughes lead Fernandez by half a second.

The #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd 01 of Emmanuel Collard made a very early pitstop as the team were unhappy with the tyres on the car, which dropped the car back to sixth in the LMP1 class.

The #19 Team Chamberlain - Synergy Lola-AER B0610 driven by Bob Berridge toured round the end of the first lap with a punctured left-rear tyre. The bodywork was repaired and he returned to the track after a quick pit stop.

The #53 JLOC Isao Noritake Lamboughini Murcielago R-GT of Koji Yamanishi stopped on the grass on the inside of the Playstation chicane halfway round the second lap with an unknown problem.

The weather conditions for the first hour were completely dry with bright sun drying the traack for two hours before the race. As the second hour started, however, the rain started to fall, mechanics stood waiting in the pitlane with wet weather tyres and the Safety Car was deployed.