Crash.Net Le Mans News
Audi leads after early dramas
11 June 2011
Audi leads the way after a dramatic start to the Le Mans 24 Hours, with the #2 car of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer holding top spot as the race reached the four hour mark.
The car ran towards the front of the field throughout the opening stages of the French classic having started from pole position but lost the lead in the opening round of pitstops before the deployment of the Safety Car following Allan McNish's huge accident shortly before the one hour mark.
With the entire second hour of the race being run behind the Safety Car as the barriers were repaired, Treluyer took the lead when the race resumed and then stayed out front as the #1 car was forced to pit for a new nose after Timo Bernhard ran over a kerb and damaged the front end.
The delay in the pits fitting the part has allowed the #7 Peugeot through into second place with Antony Davidson running less than half a minute behind the leader as the clock struck 7pm. The #9 Peugeot is more than a minute behind in third place while the #8 sits in fourth place having pitted with a brake balance problem while the race was under caution.
Stephane Sarrazin then suffered a scare when he nudged the tyres at Arnage when the car got slightly out of shape under braking, although the Frenchman was able to resume without losing position. Romain Dumas in the #1 Audi was closing in however, with the top five being the only cars still on the lead lap.
The Oreca-entered Peugeot 908 sits a lap behind the leader in sixth place having found itself battling with the leading petrol-powered cars in the opening stages. Rebellion Racing's #12 Lola Toyota is the top petrol-powered car at the four hour mark ahead of the Pescarolo Judd.
Aside from McNish, there were two other retirements amongst the LMP1 runners, with the #009 Aston Martin AMR-One lasting little more than ten minutes before a component failure forced Adrian Fernandez to park up on the side of the circuit, while the Quifel-ASM Zytek expired in a cloud of smoke through the Dunlop Curves.
The Hybrid entered by Hope Racing has been hit by a number of mechanical issues and sits well down the order, while the #007 Aston Martin spent more than two hours in the pits with similar problems to those that put the sister car out of the race.
LMP2 is headed by Oreca – with Alex Premat lapping quicker than the Oreca-Nissan managed in qualifying - while defending champions Strakka Racing are giving chase as they seek to take honours for a second straight year. Greaves Motorsport hold third place with the Signatech Nissan team losing time with a paddleshift problem.
GTE-Pro is headed by the #74 Corvette ahead of the #56 BMW; the sister car having dropped down the order after Jorg Muller picked up a right-rear puncture and was forced to return slowly to the pits. Muller's puncture was one of a number of tyre issues faced by drivers through the field.
AF Corse's #51 Ferrari sits third in GTE-Pro, putting three marques in the top three positions in class.
GTE-Am is topped by the Gulf AMR Middle East Aston Martin ahead of the Proton Competition Porsche and the Larbre-entered Corvette.