With just three hours into the 76th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the favorites for the overall win have struck trouble. At the two-hour and 15-minute mark, Stephane Sarrazin brought the leading No. 8 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi-FAP into the pits for service. What looked to be a routine stop quickly turned into a frantic flurry of action as the car was wheeled into the garage for service.
Apparent gearbox problems struck the No. 8 car, causing a lengthy stay in the garage. Alexander Wurz, now in the diesel machine, rejoined twenty minutes later in 27th, seven laps down to new race leader Dindo Capello in the No. 2 Audi Sport Team Joest R10 TDI.
Capello now leads because of the trouble by both of the other Peugeots. First it was the No. 7 entry of Jacques Villenueve, who pitted out of sequence because of a slow puncture. Then one lap later, the No. 9 car was in to change the front nose because its headlights malfunctioned. Ricardo Zonta's stop was not nearly as lengthy of the No. 8 car's, but it still lost valuable time, giving the early advantage to Audi for the first time of the race.
McNish, who drove a mega two-hour, 45-minute drive, was pleased with his triple stint in the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI.
"It was a good first stint, a bit of a battle with [Nicolas] Minassian," McNish explained. "The pit work was excellent. We had to take some dirt out of the radiator duct that cost us about 30 seconds, but that had to be done. My job's done for the moment!"
In LM P2, the No. 34 Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder of Jos Verstappen continues to lead, followed closely by John Nielsen in the No. 31 Team Essex entry. The two Porsches have moved up to 11th and 12th overall, showing some early muscle over their contenders.
Antonio Garcia has taken the lead in the LM GT1 category, as the No. 009 Aston Martin Racing DBR9 holds a slight margin over the second-placed No. 63 Corvette Racing C6.R of Johnny O'Connell. Olivier Beretta in the No. 64 Corvette runs in a solid third.
One GT1 contender to hit trouble was the No. 50 Larbre Competition Saleen S7R of Christophe Bochut, who lost a tire and spun into the gravel at the Dunlop Chicane. Bouchut limped the car back to the pits for service.
Mika Salo continues to lead LM GT2 in his No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT. The Finn holds a one-lap lead over the No. 77 Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche.
Other incidents in the third hour included an off by the No. 16 Pescarolo Sport Judd of Emmanuel Collard and a high-speed tire puncture for the No. 14 Creation Autosportif CA07 AIM of Stuart Hall.
Update: The No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Patrick Long, Raymond Narac and Richard Lietz has been retired following the incident with the No. 80 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche last hour. The No. 41 Trading Performance Zytek 07S is also officially out of the race, making it three early race retirements.