THE N7 PEUGEOT 908 HDi FAP LEADS INTO THE NIGHT
Darkness has fallen over the circuit as the first third of the race comes to completion, and Peugeot continues to top the provisional leaderboard. The N7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP of Gene/Minassian/Villeneuve is still in front, although the N9 sister car ((Montagny/Klien/Zonta) did lead for more than an hour after a strong quadruple stint from Franck Montagny. Team-mate Christian Klien lost that advantage, however, when he spun off and fell to 3rd place behind the N2 Audi. Stephane Sarrazin took over from team-mate Pedro Lamy in the N8 car and posted a stunning 3m19.394s as he powered his Peugeot 908 HDi FAP up to sixth spot at the eight-hour mark.
Conditions: overcast. 18C (16C)
Franck Montagny completes a quadruple stint which lasted more than 2½ hours. In that period, he twice improved the fastest race lap (a 3m20.668s, then a 3m20.600 at 8.06pm) and passed the N7 car to put the N9 machine in the lead before handing over to Christian Klien.
The fruit of his efforts was lost, however, when Christian Klien put the N9 car in the gravel at the Ford Chicane at 10.08pm. The organisers towed him free and he was able to re-join the race, but the lead and practically a lap were lost in the process. A series of quick times suggested that there were no problems with his Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, now in 3rd place. This incident left car N7 in front again with Marc Gene at the wheel who had built up a sufficient lead to be able to stop for fuel and tyres after 127 laps without losing first place.
Meanwhile, Stephane Sarrazin posted the first sub-3m20s lap of the race with a 3m19.394s on the car's 102nd lap, to edge even closer to the outright record of Jacky Oliver (1971, 3m18.4s)! The Frenchman continued to take the N8 car up the order and was in 6th place on completion of the first third of the race.
Jacques VILLENEUVE (N7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, at 10pm): "It's even more exciting to be here this year than in 2007. The pace is faster, the car is quicker and we've been in and out of the lead. It's still too early to be thinking in terms of victory. There's still a very long way to go, although there's no pressure within the team at the moment; I didn't hesitate an instant when the team called me on the radio to ask me to let Montagny pass into the lead just before the six-hour mark."
Christian KLIEN (N9 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, at 10.45pm): "My second run, in the dark, was much more difficult than the first because I didn't get in that much night driving during qualifying. I found myself in the gravel after attempting to overtake a slower car at the Ford Chicane; he didn't see me and we collided. The incident lost me a lap which is obviously a huge shame, but I had the pleasure of leading during my Le Mans 24 Hours debut."