Reliability breaks Peugeot, Audi takes over the lead

In a surprising turn of events, Audi has taken the overall lead in the 78th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans after the No. 2 Peugeot had to retire at 7am (just past the end of the 16th hour). While Franck Montagny had a comfortable lead with the No. 2 Peugeot, all of a sudden flames came out of the exhausts, indicating that the engine was at the end of its lifetime.

#2 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908: Nicolas Minassian, St?phane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

A deeply disappointed Montagny, whose dream just went up in smoke, had to park his car on the exit of Tertre Rouge, while trying to find a way to get the car back to the pit. However, the only possible way was not via the race track, but on the back of a truck.

"I don't know what happened with the engine," Montagny commented. "It goes always right, but exactly today it goes wrong. I don't know what to say ..."

For Peugeot, the No. 2 car was the best hope left to repeat last year's victory, after technical trouble had already struck all three other Peugeots, causing them to lose a lot of positions or retire. The only remaining Team Peugeot Total car is now the No. 1 car, which is two laps down on the leading Audi, but there is still a long way to go to the finish.

"I don't think we can do it," Peugeot Sport director Olivier Quesnel said. "If course we are going to push as hard as we can with the No. 1 car, but I don't think it will work."

All the technical problems at Peugeot have helped Audi to a position that goes even beyond Audi's own dreams before the race. The German car maker is now leading the race 1-2, with the No. 9 car in front of the No. 8 car. The only remaining Team Peugeot Total car is currently in third position, trying to close the gap with the Audis, while the No. 7 Audi is running in fourth place.

At the same moment as the problems that ended the race for the No. 2 Peugeot, also the GT2 ranking was turned upside down. The second-placed No. 64 Corvette, driven by Antonio Garcia, had to be parked on the Mulsanne straight, with smoke coming from under the hood. The Corvette's retirement allowed the Felbermayr move up to second place in the GT2 class, while the AF Corse Ferrari jumped onto the provisional podium with a third position.

Strakka Racing is still leading the P2 class, while the only remaining Corvette Racing car (No. 64) is still on top of the GT2 leader board.