The 78th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hour continued to be a contest of speed versus consistency and endurance, but the roles were reversed as the race entered its final six hours. Instead of leading and pushing the pace, Peugeot Sport's final ...
The 78th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hour continued to be a contest of speed versus consistency and endurance, but the roles were reversed as the race entered its final six hours.
Instead of leading and pushing the pace, Peugeot Sport's final remaining hope versus the three-car Audi armada was a matter of catching the leaders. After an alternator problem set back the No. 2 Peugeot 14 minutes early in the evening, by the 18th hour drivers Alexander Wurz, Marc Gene and Anthony Davidson had brought the car back to within one lap of the leading Audi R15 driven by Romain Dumas.
If Davidson and his co-drivers are able to continue to maintain a pace of two seconds a lap faster than the leading Audi -- which would be consistent with the Peugeot speed from the start of the race -- just enough laps remained in the final six hours to get back to the front.
But speed has its price -- as the Peugeot Sport team has discovered in this race already with two retirements and a broken suspension that took the Oreca team's Peugeot out of the front running. In the case of Davidson, he was warned by race officials after going off course during an overtaking maneuver on the Mulsanne straight.
The No. 64 Corvette driven by Emmanuel Collard also paid a price for Formula 1 veteran Davidson's aggression. As the Peugeot dived past the GT2 class leader in the Porsche Curves, the prototype either nudged the Corvette or influenced driver Collard out of the groove enough to send the C6.R spinning backwards into the barrier.
Although the resulting heavy damage did not prevent the Frenchman from trundling back to the nearby pits, a victory in GT2 became doubtful due to the time required for repairs and the likelihood of reduced lap times -- even with a safety car period required to fix the barriers.
The Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which had been pressing the pace despite being lap down to the Corvette, became the new GT2 class leader. The hustle of the factory driving trio of Marc Lieb, Richard Lietz and Wolf Henzler finally began paying off.
The AF Corse SRL Ferrari moved into second place, two laps behind the leaders with Jean Alesi on board headed into the final six hours. The Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari 430 GTC appeared in the top three for the first time after a consistent run by Dominik Farnbacher, Allan Simonsen and Leh Keen.
Having lost time with its third tire puncture of the race, the Highcroft Racing team continued to give chase in the LMP2 category versus the fellow HPD ARX-01c entry of Strakka Racing. Two entries were struggling to maintain momentum in LMP2. The Quifel-ASM Team's Ginetta-Zytken 09S had to repair a left front axle and the KSM Lola-Judd found the gravel trap in the hands of Jean de Pourtales.
In GT1, the "old reliable" Saleen S7R of Labre Competition continued to soldier on in the lead. But it was two laps behind the leading GT2 entry of Felbermayr-Proton and half a lap behind the second-placed GT2 Ferrari of AF Corse.