TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL LEADS AT THE HALFWAY POINT
With half of the race and 196 laps already covered, three Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs figure inside the provisional top-four. After inheriting top spot six hours previously, the No9 car (Gene/Wurz/Brabham) leads, more than two minutes clear of the No1 Audi. The No8 car (Bourdais/Montagny/Sarrazin) and the No17 Pescarolo-run 908 (Boullion/Pagenaud/Treluyer) are third and fourth respectively. After falling to 51st place following its pit-lane tangle shortly after the start, the No7 Peugeot (Klien/Lamy/Minassian) is up to seventh overall. (Conditions: clear. 22C 19C)
Pit stops and incidents:
No7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Nicolas Minassian / Pedro Lamy / Christian
00.06: pit-stop (fuel and tyres). Klien takes over from Minassian. Front splitter change.
00.51: pit-stop (fuel)
01.34: pit-stop (fuel and tyres)
02.18: pit-stop (fuel)
No8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Stephane Sarrazin / Franck Montagny / Sebastien
00.41: pit-stop (fuel)
01.28: pit-stop (fuel and tyres). Sarrazin takes over from Montagny
02.10: pit-stop (fuel)
02.50: pit-stop (fuel)
No9 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Marc Gene / Alexander Wurz / David Brabham):
00.01: pit-stop (fuel and tyres). Brabham takes over from Gene
00.44: pit-stop (fuel)
01.27: pit-stop (fuel)
02:10: pit-stop (fuel and tyres). Wurz takes over from Brabham
02.53: pit-stop (fuel)
Having taken over behind the wheel of No8 just before midnight, Montagny posts a series of ultra-quick laps (including a best for the car so far: 3m24.844s) and is less than 20s of the 2nd-placed Audi (No1) at the end of his first stint (0.40am). A little less than an hour later, he hands over to Sarrazin who also puts in a sequence of fast times to narrow the gap down to less than 10s (6.116s at exactly 2pm).
The No9 Peugeot, now with Brabham onboard, still tops the leaderboard, with the Pescarolo-run 908 HDi FAP providing rearguard cover for the French firm in 4th place. No7 keeps on picking off the LMP1 cars and Klien passes Oreca No11 to claim 8th just after the race tips into its 12th hour, and ultimately takes 7th at the race's mid-point.
The final hour before the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours' mid-distance continues with Sarrazin closing to within 5s of McNish in the No1 Audi, then 1.344s as the two cars cross the line for the 181st time (2.07am). Onboard camera footage follows the thrilling battle between the two cars on the next lap before Sarrazin pits. Half an hour later, it's the Audi's turn to pit and Sarrazin's constant pushing enables him to maintain the pressure as the German car rejoins. Perhaps a triple stint will give the Frenchman the edge...
Nicolas Minassian (No7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "It's going well... and not so well. I felt comfortable in the car, but it was tough being eliminated from the fight for first place barely an hour into the race. The main thing, though, is that the leading car is a Peugeot. Team Peugeot Total deserves to be in front. I have so much respect for this team."
Franck Montagny (No8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "It's not so good being the chaser. I don't enjoy pushing my car so hard and the last thing I want is to tangle with another car, especially since we haven't yet reached the halfway point."
David Brabham (No9 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "So far so good. We're doing exactly what we wanted and my car handled really well. I didn't feel under any particular pressure from behind. Maintaining the gap wasn't a problem and that's the target."
Olivier Quesnel (Director, Peugeot Sport): "Halfway into the race, there are three Peugeots in the top-4. There's just one Audi splitting us, and that's the best one; the one that has a habit of winning... We intend to let No9 defend its lead without taking any undue risks, with No8 pushing to take 2nd spot, which would give us a little security with two cars in front. And No17 is there providing cover...