The battle for LMP1 rages into the night

119 views

Approaching the halfway mark, the 24 Hours of Le Mans shaped up as a classic match of speed versus endurance. The faster Peugeot Sport entries suffered two technical failures in the first ten hours -- one permanent -- while the slower Audi Sport...

Approaching the halfway mark, the 24 Hours of Le Mans shaped up as a classic match of speed versus endurance. The faster Peugeot Sport entries suffered two technical failures in the first ten hours -- one permanent -- while the slower Audi Sport cars continued to lurk behind the two leading Peugeots.

The No. 2 Peugeot Sport Indy and the No. 4 ORECA Peugeot were in a lap by themselves after consistently getting one more lap for each tank of fuel and consistently turning laps one to two seconds quicker than the Audis.

Although there have been problems, the Audis have been a model of consistency if not speed. But luck has not been on their side. Tom Kristensen's spin into the gravel trap dropped the No. 7 three laps down -- but only because a wounded BMW was in his path in the high-speed Porsche Curves.

The No. 9 Audi -- fastest in qualifying among the factory R15's -- was held up when a side-mounted mirror was knocked off when a TV cameraman was hit as the car exited the pits. The cameraman -- yet to be identified -- went to the track's medical center. The No. 9 Audi had to eventually spend additional time in the pits to replace the mirror.

Peugeot had its first misadventure near the ten-hour mark, when the No. 1 908 went off course at the Dunlop Bridge after contact with a GT car. Driver Anthony Davidson continued unimpeded. The car had already lost 14 minutes with an alternator change.

Given that the three Audis followed in third through fifth position, the decision by Peugeot Sport to include a fourth entry from ORECA in its arsenal looked like a a very wise decision given the team's strategy of pushing the pace.

IndyCar veteran Marco Andretti had a tough baptism in his first Le Mans. His Rebellion Racing team suffered problems in practice and qualifying with its Lola-Rebellion chassis. In the race, cooling problems necessitated a long stop to replenish the cooling fluids. With Andretti behind the wheel, the problem with cooling fluids continued and he went off course twice, once damaging the rear wing. The LMP1 class entry shared with Nicholas Prost and Neel Jani languished in 25th position over-all.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series LEMANS