McNish leads with six hours remaining

With only six hours remaining in the 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest R10 TDI of Allan McNish continues to lead, holding a one lap margin over the second placed No. 7 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi-FAP of Nicolas Minassian. Circuit de La Sarthe is still clouded under rainy weather, with at least two more hours of light rain in the forecast.

#2 Audi Sport North America Audi R10: Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello.
Photo by John Dagys.

As long as it stays wet, Peugeot's chances of catching the Audi is slim. The Serge Saulnier-led squad has struggled in the rainy conditions and even outfitted its No. 8 entry with experimental bodywork from the Le Mans Series to see if it improves the performance. So far, it has not made a difference. If the track dries up and teams switch to intermediate or slicks, there still may be a fighting chance since the lead 908 HDi runs just one lap down adrift at the moment.

The No. 9 Peugeot of Christian Klien runs in third, two laps back on the race leader, with the No. 3 Audi of Alexnadre Premat in fourth and Emanuele Pirro's No. 1 Audi rounding out the top-five. Bernoit Treluyer's No. 17 Pescarolo Sport Judd has stayed out front as the leading gasoline-powered LM P1 in seventh overall.

In LM P2, the Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder of Jereon Bleekamolen now holds a nine-lap lead over a new second place runner. Cong Fu Cheng in the No. 35 Saulnier Racing Pescarolo has inherited the runner-up slot after engine problems dropped the No. 31 Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder of Sascha Maaassen to third, ten laps adrift.

David Brabham in the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 appears to have taken control of the LM GT1 category, enjoying a one-lap lead over the two Corvette Racing C6.Rs, the No. 63 machine of Jan Magnussen ahead of the No. 64 entry in fourth.

"The conditions were changing every lap," O'Connell's co-driver Ron Fellows said. "There were dry areas in the Porsche Curves and then heavy rain in the front straight and in Dunlop. I got caught out by a shower in Mulsanne, had to back up and lost maybe 30 seconds. At that point I think we'd spent too much time in semi-dry conditions, and then when it turned wet again we'd built up too much tire pressure. It's incredibly difficult because the track changes every lap."

The race for the LM GT2 crown has been a one-horse affair for much of the race, and Risi Competizione's dominance continues into hour 18. Gianmaria Bruni has pulled back out to a two-lap lead over the No. 96 Virgo Motorsport Ferrari, with Paolo Rubert's BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari in third.

Recent retirements now include the No. 16 Pescarolo Sport Judd (engine), No. 45 Embassy Racing WF01 Zytek (accident), No. 33 Speedy Racng Team Sebah Lola B08/80 (accident), and Kruse-Shiller Motorsport Lola B05/40 Mazda.