Okay, we’ve just hit the halfway point of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Grab a coffee and bear with me, because there is a bit to go through.[Not a valid template]
Audi would have been forgiven for feeling a bit nervous when problems in the seventh hour at Le Mans struck two of its three entries in quick succession. Crank sensor failure on the lead #1 R18 e-tron Quattro – which at the hands of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer had held a lead of over a minute – dropped the Audi twelve laps behind the leaders and into 21st place. Five hours of solid running though had already brought the #1 car back up to ninth. The #3 Audi was similarly fighting back after a puncture for Oliver Jarvis following contact with an LMP2 car knocked the R18 off the podium into fourth.
An Audi 1-2-3 suddenly became a Toyota 2-3, even despite a low fuel grounding the #7 TS030 of Alexander Wurz, Nicholas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima temporarily to a halt earlier in the day. Stellar running from Lapierre kept Toyota in the hunt – with the #7 even taking the lead in the opening hours – just behind the sister #8 entry of Anthony Davidson, Sébastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin. Polesitter’s Loic Duval, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish though kept Audi on-top in the #2 Audi by more than a lap over the Toyotas.
Rebellion Racing maintained their ‘best of the rest’ status in fifth and sixth, the #13 just ahead of #12. The #21 Strakka Racing entry had at one point run sixth until a water leak sparked an unscheduled pit stop and loss of track position for drivers Nick Leventis, Danny Watts and Jonny Kane. Currently the HPD ARX 03c runs seventh.
A huge accident for the #30 Oreca 03 marked a dramatic – and fiery – end to HVM Status GP’s race. Despite the whole of the rear suspension assembly being ripped from the entry and hard impact against the safety barriers, driver Tony Burgess was able to walk away unscathed, albeit understandably shocked. This marked the sixth safety car of the event.
The #35 Morgan-Nissan continues to lead an OAK Racing 1-2 in LMP2. Bertrand Baguette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Martin Plowman hold off category polesitters Oliver Pla, David Heinemeier-Hansson and Alex Brundle in the sister #24 prototype, who survived a spin out of the Porsche Curves and tapping the wall to work its way back up the order, past early leaders G-Drive Racing. The #99 Aston Martin Racing Vantage GTE of Bob Bell, Fred Makoweicki and Bruno Senna leads the GTE Pro class, while the #76 IMSA Performance Matmut 911 GT3 RSR of Raymond Narac, Christophe Bourret, and Jean-Karl Vernay.
Gulf Racing Middle East’s Le Mans weekend failed to improve, the team unable to source a vibration discovered by drivers Fabien Giroix, Philippe Haezebrouck and Keiko Ihara making the Lola undriveable. Having completed just 22 laps compared with the leaders 155 laps at the twelve-hour mark, Gulf Racing eventually pulled the plug.
Krohn Racing meanwhile ended a tumultuous weekend in the gravel trap at Indianapolis. Despite a superb effort by the Krohn mechanics to repair the heavily damaged Ferrari 458 Italia by essentially fusing two 458 Italias together following a hefty shunt on Wednesday, there was no escape for Tracy Kohn, Nicolas Jönsson and Maurizio Mediani from the gravel trap, and the car was officially retired. A hefty accident for the #25 Oreca brought the Delta ADR team’s Le Mans campaign to an early close.
Right, a slightly long winded round-up done. If you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a lie down.
– Shots courtesy of Eric Fabre.