Le Mans Series back on track after three month break After a three month break the Le Mans Series will burst back into life at the Nurburgring, Germany, this weekend as Peugeot and Audi continue their battle at the head of the field. Last...
Le Mans Series back on track after three month break
After a three month break the Le Mans Series will burst back into life at the Nurburgring, Germany, this weekend as Peugeot and Audi continue their battle at the head of the field.
Last year, in perfect weather and without a safety car, the winning Peugeot 908 HDI FAP of Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy won the race having completed 195 laps, 1000 kilometres. This year, we can expect the pace to be even faster as Audi and Peugeot push each other to the limit. Whatever happens in Germany, and at the final race at Silverstone on September 14, the two manufacturers, each racing 650bhp diesel-powered prototypes, will be able to look back on a successful season. Peugeot is unbeaten in the Le Mans Series, having won each race in 2007, and has beaten Audi in each of the three races this year. However, at the Le Mans 24 hours, Audi struck back with Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello sharing the winning Audi R10TDI with eight-time winner Tom Kristensen.
This is the fifth season of the Le Mans Series, and it continues to gain strength with a grid of 49 cars which will start this fourth race of the 2008 season in Germany. The race will be shown live on Motors TV, while Eurosport 2 will broadcast qualifying and three hours of the race.
Organisers have invested in the promotion of the series, and introduced live pit reports and information following the link on www.lemansseries.com, along with the radio service Radio Le Mans, which broadcasts in English on the internet at www.radiolemans.com.
The races at Monza and Spa attracted more than 215,000 listeners over the two weekends. More than 10,000 podcasts have been downloaded.
Audi and Peugeot may be fighting for the overall win, but there are many more battles in the category, not least among the Pescarolo, Creation, Charouz and Team ORECA petrol-powered prototypes. So far this year, we have seen the Charouz Racing Systems Aston Martinpowered Lola coupe challenge the Audis and Peugeots in the opening stages of the race, and on its debut in Spain in April Jan Charouz and Stefan Mucke had a problem-free race to finish third overall.
Minor problems have cost the car time at Monza and Spa, and the team will be looking to improve on that in Germany.
First they will have to get past the Pescarolo Sport team, the 2006 champions which have already scored a third place finish at Monza in April, and ORECA and Creation AIM, each of which welcomes back drivers Stephane Ortelli and Jamie Campbell- Walter from injury.
The series is delighted to welcome back these two drivers, both of which had accidents at Monza. Ortelli suffered a rear wing failure following contact with another car during the race, and his ORECA-run prototype had a huge accident from which the Frenchman was lucky to emerge with only a broken ankle. Campbell-Walter also had a mechanical failure, in qualifying, and crashed his Creation into the barriers, breaking four vertebrae. Both drivers have worked hard to be ready in time to re-join the series for the German race.
The Spanish Epsilon Euskadi team has again entered two of its stunning "LM" P1 coupes, while the British Rollcentre team has a Pescarolo for Joao Barbosa and Vanina Ickx.
Porsche's RS Spyder has yet to be beaten, with Peter van Merksteijn and Jos Verstappen taking two wins, and the Team Essex Porsche of John Nielsen and Casper Elgaard winning at Monza.
The two teams were in dominant form at Le Mans, too, where they finished first and second, the van Merksteijn car having a perfect run to victory. The Swiss Horag Racing team did not go to Le Mans with its Porsche RS Spyder, and so will return to action for the first time since Spa on May 11 with Fredy Lienhard, Didier Theys and Jan Lammers.
Mike Newton and Tommy Erdos have yet to reach the podium after technical problems with their RML MG Lola in the opening three races, but the British team won in Germany last year, and will be hoping to re-start their championship bid on the famous track.
Darren Manning returns to the Embassy Racing team for the first time since the Mil Milhas in 2007 and will share the Zytekpowered WF-01 with Joey Foster. Another team looking for a change in fortunes is the Speedy Racing Team Sebah which finished second in class at the opening race in Barcelona.
No fewer than 32 prototypes are scheduled to take the start at the Nurburgring, half of them in the "LM"P2 category with no fewer than nine different chassis manufacturers.
Throughout the field there will be fantastic battles, not least in the hotly contested GT1 category where Aston Martin and Corvette will again face each other. They will keep a watchful eye on the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini Murcielago which has scored two podium finishes this season.
The score stands at 2-1 in favour of Corvette, represented by the Luc Alphand Aventures team. Guillaume Moreau, Patrice Goueslard and Jerome Policand won in Barcelona and at Spa, but followed the Team Modena Aston Martin of Antonio Garcia and Tomas Enge over the line at Monza. Just 12 seconds separated the two after more than five hours of racing, and at the Nurburgring the competition will be just as fierce.
However, the Luc Alphand team has a secret weapon, in the shapes of Corvette factory drivers in the American Le Mans Series, British driver Oliver Gavin and Monegasque Olivier Beretta who will share the team's second Corvette C6.R with Alphand. The pair raced with the team at the Spa 24 hours in 2007 and at the final round of the 2007 LMS in Brazil, and are a welcome addition to the class.
Nine points separate the lead Alphand Corvette from the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini in the teams' title, with Modena a third three points adrift with two races remaining.
The score line may read three wins to nil in favour of Ferrari so far this season, but the battle at the head of the GT2 teams' table is far closer.
Just one point separates the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari 430 GT of Rob Bell and Gianmaria Bruni from the Team Felbermayr Proton Porsche driven by Marc Lieb and Alex Davison.
Both cars had strong races at Barcelona and Spa, the Ferrari winning both ahead of the Porsche, and at Monza both ran into problems. At Spa, Bell had the drive of his life to hold off Lieb by just one tenth of a second after the Ferrari had been hit by a prototype and damaged its rear suspension!
The Farnbacher Ferrari team took victory at Monza with Pierre Ehret and Pierre Kaffer, joined this weekend by Anthony Beltoise.
Strong opposition can be expected from the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche of Raymond Narac and Richard Lietz, which suffered a broken throttle cable last time out at Spa, while the Farnbacher Racing Porsche of Lars Erik Nielsen, Allan Simonsen and Richard Westbrook will also challenge strongly.
Throughout the field, in all classes there will be strong battles, plenty of overtaking and we can expect high drama in one of the most famous races of them all.