AUDI, ASTON MARTIN LEAD IN EARLY MORNING AT LE MANS LE MANS, France (June 18, 2006) - The No. 8 Audi R10 TDI continued to lead, and GT1 saw a lead change after several hours of thrilling racing as the eighth hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans ...
AUDI, ASTON MARTIN LEAD IN EARLY MORNING AT LE MANS
LE MANS, France (June 18, 2006) - The No. 8 Audi R10 TDI continued to lead, and GT1 saw a lead change after several hours of thrilling racing as the eighth hour of the 24 Hours of Le Mans concluded Sunday morning. Those teams, and others from the American Le Mans Series, continued their strong steady runs into the early morning.
The No. 009 Aston Martin Racing DBR9 moved past the leading Corvette C6.R for the class lead during a round of pit stops, and Pedro Lamy drove to an advantage of nearly a minute over Olivier Beretta just past midnight. By the eight-hour mark, the lead had grown to two minutes.
"The car was really good throughout my stint," said Stephane Sarrazin, who along with Stephane Ortelli are partnering with Lamy. "I was able to continue with a good pace, although I was held up in traffic quite a lot. The only problem I had was when a stone got caught under my throttle pedal, resulting in it staying open on one lap at the chicane. But so far so good."
Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen had led for much of the first third of the French classic in their effort for three straight class wins. Aston Martin Racing, after a win at Sebring last year, was hoping for a victory in front of a legion of English fans.
The other Corvette Racing entry, No. 63, was fifth in class and four laps down after an early off. Also lapping in the night was the No. 66 ACEMCO Motorsports S7R (fifth in class) and the No. 63 Corvette C6.R (seventh).
Up front, the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI of Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner were three laps clear of the second-place Pescarolo entry. Driving a smooth and trouble-free race through 1 a.m., the Audi consistently was lapping well below the 3:40 mark.
After spending nearly 30 minutes in the pits to replace a fuel filter and ECU black box, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish made up 13 positions in more than three hours and continued to work their way back to a possible podium position. Both drivers posted laps in the 3:32 range - Kristensen's top lap was a race-best 3:31.211 - as the No. 7 car climbed to third at the 7:30 mark.
Audi is trying to become the first manufacturer to win at Le Mans with a diesel engine. Already, the R10 TDI has been victorious at Sebring, and the two cars will return to North America and the American Le Mans Series starting in mid-July at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park.
In LMP2, the KUMHO-shod Miracle Motorsports Courage C65-AER moved up to third in class at eight hours with Andy Lally, John Macaluso and Ian James running a steady and consistent pace. "We've been double stinting the tires and they're wearing very well," said KUMHO Tire USA motorsports manager Rudy Consolacion. "The tire temps have been right where we want them, and we're discussing whether to triple stint the tires during the night. That decision will basically depend on the driver."
After making seven pit stops in the first hour and changing a wastegate, Intersport Racing had climbed to fifth in P2. But the AER-powered Lola B05/40 spent considerable time in the pits with a transmission leak. The team continued to work past the eight-hour mark.
In GT2, the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche was running fifth in class before a spin right at 1 a.m. moved it back a spot. Next was the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche in seventh position, but the car stalled on track with what the team thought to be a dead battery shortly thereafter. The Panoz Esperante GTLM of Multimatic Motorsports Team Panoz had retired with fuel pick-up problems that surfaced two-and-a-half hours in.