Peugeot has taken a step closer to securing victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours after further problems for rivals Audi left the #9 and #8 cars holding a healthy lead out front.
Both the front-runners continue to run without problems, with Alex Wurz extending the advantage of the #9 car during the 19th hour of the race after Franck Montagny in the #8 had earlier closed in during his stint prior to handing the second placed machine to Stephane Sarrazin.
With Wurz and Sarrazin then settling into their stints, the difference between the leaders remained more or less static, with Allan McNish in the third placed Audi doing his best to make up lost time.
The Scot was lapping quicker than the cars ahead and managed to make up one of his lost laps but, with the R15 having already been hit by turbo problems there were more issues in the 21st hour. After making a schedule stop, McNish returned to the pits with an electrical issue on the steering wheel and then came back for a third time with a suspension problem.
Dindo Capello returned to the track at the wheel of the #1 but suffered a spin on his outlap and the Audi has now slipped well back from the two Peugeots going into the final three hours. What's more, the #007 Aston Martin Racing entry is now only a matter of laps behind and ready to pounce should the Audi require more time in the pits.
Should the Aston Martin crew secure a podium finish, it would make up for the disappointment suffered by the #009 crew, which became the latest high-profile retirement after Harold Primat shunted his Lola Aston Martin at the entrance of the Porsche Curves and was forced to retire.
Elsewhere in the top ten, Team ORECA remains fifth, while the #7 Peugeot has now climbed back into the top six – lapping quicker than the majority of the field with nothing to lose. The Speedy Racing Lola Aston Martin now sits seventh having got ahead of the #14 Kolles car in the 20th hour, while the Pescarolo-Judd sits ninth.
The leading LMP2 runner, still the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder, continues to sail serenely on and is now inside the top ten overall with a two lap advantage over the NAVI Team Goh car. The two LMP2 front-runners are split in the overall standings by the second of the Kolles Audis, which suffered a spin into the barriers towards the end of the Safety Car period when Primat suffered his accident.
That Safety Car period also allowed the two Corvette Racing cars to close up, with the two cars running nose-to-tail and swapping positions as the race enters its final three hours.
In GT2, Risi Competizione remains two laps clear of the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari while AF Corse now sits in third. That comes after the IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche ran into gearbox problems and the JMW Ferrari suffered a suspension issue which led to a slow return to the oits and the loss of time on track.
The JMB Racing team, running further down the order, was also lucky after Christophe Bouchut lost a wheel on track but managed to nurse the car back to the pits.