EIGHT HOURS: AUDI, RISI LEADING IN CLASS AT LE MANS The eighth hour of the 75th 24 Hours of Le Mans saw Audi continue running strong and holding the top two spots in the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs. Rinaldo Capello had retaken ...
EIGHT HOURS: AUDI, RISI LEADING IN CLASS AT LE MANS
The eighth hour of the 75th 24 Hours of Le Mans saw Audi continue running strong and holding the top two spots in the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs. Rinaldo Capello had retaken control of the leading Audi following an exceptional run by teammate Allan McNish during a safety car period near the seventh hour and led Frank Biela by two laps.
McNish's exit from the car completed the first full rotation for the Audi. During his stint, the Scot had turned more than a few laps in the 3:27 range. His best effort was 3:27.684 and nearly four seconds better than Tom Kristensen's fast lap from 2006.
It was Capello who made a storming start to assume the lead on the opening lap. The Italian showed no sign of letting up as full darkness began to set in. The first and second place showings helped take away the sting of Mike Rockenfeller's wreck that forced the retirement of the third Audi in the second hour.
"When Mike Rockenfeller made that mistake at the Tertre Rouge corner, I wasn't happy at all," said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. "But this doesn't disturb our plans too much, and remember this is a very long race. I am expecting a long fight. Our opponents are waiting for us, and we can't afford to let this affect our strategy. The good thing is the excellent result so far for the 1 and 2 cars."
The American Le Mans Series also was being well-represented in the GT2 class as Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GT and Jaime Melo led the way by two laps over the European Autorlando Sport Porsche. Risi is back at Le Mans for the first time since 2003 and is the current American Le Mans Series GT2 team championship leader.
There was a slight bit of drama early on when the right-side door of the Ferrari came loose. The crew made a quick repair, and the pit work and consistency allowed them to extend their lead into the night.
"The difficult bit was that in the first sector it was completely wet and then went to completely dry so we didn't know how long the rain was going to be around," Melo said. "Anyway, I have a good engineer, and we have a great Michelin tire engineer too, so they helped me to make a decision and it was the right one. Then we had a safety car for a long time which helped us make up some places so that was all good."
The other Risi Ferrari, the No. 99 in partnership with Krohn Racing, was running fifth and was followed by the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche.
American Le Mans Series drivers and teams were in the thick of the hunt for class leads in GT1 and LMP2. The remaining Corvette C6.R from Corvette Racing was running third with Jan Magnussen was 2:45 behind the leading factory Aston Martin DBR9 of Peter Kox. Magnussen had a moment when he was bumped by Marco Werner's Audi going up the hill toward the Dunlop Bridge and went through the gravel but rejoined the race with no apparent damage.
"No real dramas," teammate Johnny O'Connell confirmed. "The car is running well and hopefully it will be a good night. I feel good about our car. The gearbox is good, the brakes are good and the clutch is good."
The No. 63 Corvette was on its own following the retirement of the sister car of Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Max Papis. Gavin was at the wheel when the car's propshaft failed nearly two hours in. Gavin tried to bring the car back using the starter motor but wasn't allowed to by the course marshals.
In LMP2, the Barazi Epsilon works Zytek 07S/2 with Adrian Fernandez was running second in class and a lap behind the leading Lola-AER from Quifel- ASM. But the Lola stopped on course at the 8:15 mark with a broken driveshaft and was likely to be stranded.
Fernandez, who qualified and started on the P2 pole in his Le Mans debut, pitted near the 7:30 mark with a leak, fortunately during a safety car period.
"The car is working fantastically," he said. "My feet were starting to get brake fluid on them so I knew there was a leak. The yellow came at the right time because we would have lost a lot of time. The problem is fixed by the look of it."