Well into the second half of the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans the Peugeot 908 HDi looks set to end Audi’s dominance of the event.
The #9 Peugeot 908 HDi, driven by Australia’s David Brabham, Marc GenÃ© (Spain) and Alexander Wurz (Austria), is currently leading the race. The pole position winning #8 Peugeot, with an all French driving team of StÃ©phane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Sebastien Bourdais, is in second place.
The race for Audi has not gone to plan with just one car left in contention. Despite turbo overheating problems the #1 Audi R15 TDI of Allan McNish (Scotland), Tom Kristenesen (Denmark) and Dindo Capello (Italy) is fighting hard in third place, one lap behind the two Peugeots.
There is still a long way to go, with the race finish still some 10 hours away (11pm AEST). To keep up to date you check your local OneHD guide, or tune in to Radio Le Mans for complete audio coverage. A live scoreboard can also be accessed from the official race website. Peugeot also have a dedicated Le Mans website being constantly updated.
For those of us not in a OneHD coverage area, US motorsport channel SpeedTV is also offering a live feed of the race.
More pics and a few press snippets from Peugeot and Audi can be viewed after the jump.
Peugeot Claims Pole Position at Le Mans
Peugeot will start this weekendâ€™s Le Mans 24 Hours race from pole position for the third year in a row.
It was Team Peugeot Totalâ€™s StÃ©phane Sarrazin who put the No.8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (which he will share with SÃ©bastien Bourdais and Franck Montagny) at the front of the field for the great race.
Saturday’s race will start with four Peugeots in the top five places.
Nicolas Minassian ensured that the No.7 car he will share with Christian Klien and Pedro Lamy will start from third.
Australiaâ€™s David Brabham will start from fifth on the grid with team mates Marc GenÃ© and Alex Wurz after GenÃ© set the quick time, despite spending the entire qualifying session working only on race trim.
The three factory Peugeots are joined in the top five by the privateer Pescarolo-run No.17 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP.
For the first time in the history of the modern-day format at the Le Mans 24 Hours, teams only had one qualifying session this year.
While nobody would shun the honour of starting from pole position, the combination of the cancellation of the traditional preliminary test day and the wet conditions of Wednesday evening’s free practice meant that teams still had a lot of work to get through in the dry conditions.
The principal mission facing the three crews of the Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi FAPs during the four-hour session was to gather key information about the different compounds of slick tyres they have available for this weekend’s race.
According to Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel, qualifying was also a final opportunity for the teams to put the finishing touches to the set-ups of their respective machines.
“Given the all the work we still had to get through this evening, it was only after
11.30pm [half an hour before the end of the session] that I gave StÃ©phane the green light to go for a time,â€ he said.
â€œI told him he had three laps to try, and he took five, but I have no intention of holding that against him!
“It’s obviously nice to see four Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs in the top-five places tonight, but we mustn’t forget that this was just qualifying.
â€œThe only thing that counts for me is Sunday afternoon’s result. Even so, I would like to say a big bravo to StÃ©phane and to all the drivers, as well as to everyone in the team.
Sarrazin was pleased with the amount of work the No.8 crew had achieved in the session.
“It’s a great result for all the team, but Franck, SÃ©bastien and I worked first and foremost on the race set-up this evening. It was only when we were fully satisfied on that front that we tried for a time at the end,” he said.
“Our objective now is to get away to a good start on Saturday afternoon and put in a good race.”
According to Nicolas Minassian, the other two factory Peugeots did not get the opportunity to run the car with a qualifying set-up.
“StÃ©phane and I were on completely different strategies at the end,” he said.
“The No.7 and No.9 Peugeots were in race trim and our focus was on preparing for the race â€“ I’ve think we’ve found a good balance.
â€œOur Michelin tyres are nice and consistent, too, and we were able to post some very encouraging times with the race set-up.”
The top six cars this evening were covered by less than three seconds around the 13.629km circuit, which suggests that spectators can look forward to an exciting show when the classic race kicks off at 11pm (AEST) on Saturday night.
One HD will begin its live coverage of the event from 10:30pm (AEST) â€“ check your local guides for further details.
Qualifying â€“ final positions:
1. Bourdais/Montagny/Sarrazin (Peugeot No.8) â€“ 3m22.888s
2. Capello/Kristensen/McNish (Audi No.1) â€“ 3m23.650s
3. Klien/Lamy/Minassian (Peugeot No.7) â€“ 3m24.860s
4. Boullion/Pagenaud/TrÃ©luyer (Peugeot No.17) â€“ 3m25.062s
5. Brabham/GenÃ©/Wurz (Peugeot No.9) â€“ 3m25.252s
Audi R15 TDI on Front Row for Le Mans DÃ©but
- Allan McNish claims second on the grid for Audi
- All three Audi R15 TDI on first four rows
- Audi Sport Team Joest uses qualifying to prepare for race
Ingolstadt/Le Mans â€“ Although Audi Sport Team Joest concentrated exclusively on preparing for the race throughout qualifying for the 77th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the three Audi R15 TDI starts from the front row for the French endurance classic on Saturday at 3:00pm (Northern Hemisphere).
After it rained during free practice on Wednesday, the Audi team used Thursday eveningâ€™s qualifying solely for car set-up and tyre testing. During the four hour session last yearâ€™s winners Dindo Capello (Italy), Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland) completed a quadruple stint on a single set of Michelin tyres in the Audi R15 TDI with the start number “1” and collected important findings about tyre wear.
Only in the dying seconds towards the end of the first part of qualifying did Allan McNish make an attempt on fresh tyres. In doing so he recorded a 3m 23.650s lap which proved to be almost unbreakable for the competition for the majority of the second qualifying session.
â€œFor us, today was all about finding the optimum race set-up and to collect as much data as possible with our new car around the Le Mans race track,” explained Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich.
â€œThe grid positions for a 24-hour race do not directly affect the final result. That Allan (McNish) managed to secure a position on the front row while working through the program demonstrates just how much potential the R15 TDI has.”
Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner also only undertook a single qualifying attempt. Around midnight Marco Werner posted a time of 3m 25.780s which secured sixth place on the grid for the Audi R15 TDI with the start number “2”.
The three Germans were assigned the task of comparing different aerodynamic configurations in the first part of qualifying. For this purpose their Audi R15 TDI was equipped with special data-logging suspension, which was changed as scheduled between the two qualifying sessions. Since the break was reduced from 60 to 35 minutes because the schedule was changed at short notice, Luhr Rockenfeller and Werner could only continue qualifying later. Changing a turbocharger cost further time.
The third Audi team with German Timo Bernhard and the two Frenchmen Romain Dumas and Alexandre PrÃ©mat made no qualifying attempt whatsoever. They concentrated on tyre tests and will start the race on Saturday from seventh on the grid. Alexandre PrÃ©mat set the fastest time of 3m 27.106 s immediately at the beginning of qualifying.
The fastest ten cars on Thursday evening were all within about five seconds.
The two Audi R10 TDI fielded by the privateer team Kolles qualified in 13th and 14th positions.
This weekend Audi has the chance of taking a ninth overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Comments about the retirement of Audi R15 TDI #2
Ingolstadt/Le Mans â€“ At 9:30 p.m. the race at Le Mans for the Audi R15 TDI with start number two ended. Lucas Luhr left the track entering the Porsche Curves and slammed heavily backwards into the tire wall. Although the German still tried to bring the car back to the pits, the stewards, however, prohibited Luhr, who shared the cockpit of the diesel sportscar with Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner, to return to the track for safety reasons because the car was losing oil. A technical defect can be excluded.
Lucas Luhr: “I still canâ€™t exactly explain the reason for the accident. I braked normally for the Porsche Curves when the rear suddenly stepped out of line. I tried to correct and collect the car, but the sector is simply too fast for this. The car spun around before slamming into the tire barrier very hard. Even though the Audi was still running the corner workers didnâ€™t allow me to return to the track. We now have to analyze just exactly what happened there. Iâ€™m bitterly sorry for everybody who has worked so hard for this race, and of course especially my team mates.â€
Mike Rockenfeller: “First and foremost it is important that Lucas (Luhr) is okay. I couldnâ€™t believe it at first when I saw the pictures of the accident on the screen. After losing a car myself in difficult conditions during my first Le Mans race for Audi I had hoped that such a thing would never happen to us again. I was just getting ready for my next stint. We are all extremely disappointed since not reaching the finish at Le Mans is the worst possible scenario for a racing driver.â€
Marco Werner: “Le Mans is the worldâ€™s toughest race â€“ as many people have unfortunately found out today. Le Mans has given me a great deal, but sometimes it makes you pay a high price. Just like today. The guys from Audi and the team have worked incredibly hard throughout the whole week, they never got to bed early once and have invested so much passion in this project. It hurts now to just see how many mechanics are standing here with tears in their eyes. For Lucas (Luhr) and I Le Mans was the race of the year since we no longer race in the American Le Mans Series. Weâ€™ve had some fantastic years here and had as good as assumed that all the cars would reach the finish in one piece. Today showed us painfully that you just simply shouldnâ€™t think like this.â€