24 Hours of Le Mans Live Race Blog – Day into Night
24 Hours of Le Mans Live Race Blog – Day into Night
12 Hour Update
In any other American Le Mans Series race, 12 hours would see cars crossing under the checkered flag. At Le Mans, it’s merely crossed flags. We’re halfway home in the 78th 24 Hours of Le Mans, at 3:00 a.m. local time and 9:00 p.m. ET.
A relatively uneventful last four hours had one more Safety Car period and three more retirements. The No. 2 Peugeot continues to lead overall and in LMP1 with drivers Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian. Other class leaders are the Strakka HPD, the No. 42 of Danny Watts, Jonny Kane and Nick Leventis (LMP2), the No. 64 Corvette C6 ZR1 of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, Emmanuel Collard (GT2) the No. 50 Saleen S7R of Roland Berville, Julien Canal and Gabriele Gardel (GT1). Michelin technical partner teams currently lead all four classes and the top nine positions overall.
Overall, the Peugeot leads the No. 9 Audi R15 Plus TDI by 3 minutes, 13.9 seconds at half distance, according to Radio Le Mans’ radio coverage (available live on michelinracingusa.com). The No. 8 Audi is third ahead of the No. 4 Peugeot, No. 1 Peugeot, and No. 7 Audi. The No. 007 Aston Martin is seventh overall and top gasoline runner.
GT1 took the biggest shakeup with the leading Ford GT and older Corvette C6.R going to the garage in the ninth hour. That promoted one of the oldest cars in the field, the Saleen, to the lead.
Meanwhile, the streak is over for Risi Competizione in GT2. After six straight major endurance race victories dating to the 2008 Le Mans, the No. 82 Risi Ferrari has retired with gearbox issues. It ends a brilliant drive from last to first in class. Jaime Melo gave everyone a thrill ride with a great battle for the class lead with Collard in the Corvette. Corvettes No. 64 and 63 run 1-2 in class, a minute ahead in the No. 77 Porsche.
Anthony Davidson had an off in the No. 1 Peugeot and Jean-Christophe Boullion crashed at the final chicanes before the front straight in a Lola Rebellion Coupe.
Official retirements are: No. 3 Peugeot, No. 5 Ginetta Zytek, No. 13 Lola Rebellion Coupe, No. 19 Lola AER (LMP1), No. 29 Lola Judd Coupe, No. 38 Norma Judd (LMP2), No. 61 Ford GT, No. 70 Ford GT (GT1), No. 79 BMW, No. 80 Flying Lizard Porsche, No. 81 RSR Jaguar, No. 82 Risi Ferrari, No. 92 Aston Martin Vantage (GT2).
Eight Hour Update
We’re through eight hours, one-third of the way through the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and officially into the night at La Sarthe. Temperatures cool as the darkness hits, and Radio Le Mans has just reported the ambient temperatures at 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit).
Two of Peugeot’s factory cars have hit problems, leaving the all-French driving lineup of Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian and Franck Montagny in the lead in the No. 2 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
The defending champion No. 1 car, which held the overall lead, returned to its garage with Marc Gene driving. Crews began to work feverishly on the car after removing the engine cover, but sent the car back out after a 12-minute repair. It was confirmed by the ACO that the alternator was replaced. The No. 3 has officially retired.
This leaves the Oreca-prepared No. 4 Peugeot, also driven by three Frenchman, Nicolas Lapierre, Olivier Panis and Loic Duval, second overall ahead of the three Audi R15 TDIs. Eight-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen ran aground of the BMW M3 “art car” in the fifth hour, as he went off the road driver’s left to avoid the slowing BMW into the gravel at the Porsche Curves. Audi director Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was visibly frustrated with BMW officials and stormed to the BMW pit after the incident.
Officials helped the Audi out of the gravel and back to the pit lane but he lost about 12 minutes in the process. Allan McNish is now aboard the lead No. 7 Audi and is making his charge back through the field, having just passed the stricken No. 1 Peugeot for sixth place overall.
LMP2 has seen the two HPD ARX 01-cs battle among themselves. Although Nick Leventis had an off at a chicane in the Strakka car, that car has resumed in the lead as of 11 p.m. local time, 5 p.m. ET. The Highcroft car is second with David Brabham back driving.
The GT2 battle was highly intense with several lead changes between the No. 82 Risi Ferrari and No. 64 Corvette Racing C6 ZR1. Jaime Melo and Oliver Gavin swapped the lead going into the first and second chicanes on the Mulsanne Straight. Melo held off Gavin.
However, the joy was short-lived for Melo as near the eight-hour mark, the Risi Ferrari was pushed into the garage to work on intermittent gearbox issues, Radio Le Mans’ radio coverage reported.
The two Corvettes now run 1-2 in class, but two European Porsches are in tow, driven by ALMS regulars Wolf Henzler and Patrick Long in the Nos. 77 and 76 911 GT3 RSRs, respectively. Unfortunately the stalwart ALMS Porsche team, Flying Lizard Motorsports, has retired its No. 80 Porsche. An off-course incident required radiator replacement, and after one lap it was determined repairs were ineffective. The Lizards still have not won Le Mans, a shame for the two-time defending ALMS GT2 champions and current ALMS GT points leaders.
The second safety car period occurred during this four-hour stint. Official retirements are: No. 3 Peugeot, No. 5 Ginetta Zytek, No. 19 Lola AER (LMP1), No. 29 Lola Judd Coupe, No. 38 Norma Judd (LMP2), No. 61 Ford GT, No. 70 Ford GT (GT1), No. 80 Flying Lizard Porsche, No. 81 RSR Jaguar, No. 92 Aston Martin Vantage (GT2).