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Le Mans, June 12 - 13, 2010

After the Lord of the Rings was soundly trounced by the Lion in the 2009 running of the Le Mans 24 Hour Race, the tables were turned in the 2010 edition, with Audi filling the podium, and all the Peugeots failing. The Peugeots were certainly the fastest cars on the track, both through the qualifying sessions and during the race, with Sebastian Bourdais claiming pole position with a lap in 3mins 19.711secs, in the # 3 Peugeot 908 HDi that he shared with Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud. In fact the Peugeots locked out the top four places on the starting grid, comprising of the three works cars and the Team ORECA Matmut entry. The quickest of the Audis in qualifying was the # 9 R15-plus TDI of Mike Rockenfeller, who was still just over 2secs off the benchmark time set by the # 3 Peugeot. The quickest of the petrol engine runners was the # 007 Lola-Aston Martin B09/60 driven by Stefan Mucke, just ahead of the sister # 009 example in the hands of Darren Turner, but they were over 6secs off the pole sitter’s pace, so unless the diesels failed things didn’t look too promising for the petrol engine entries.

In the LMP2 class the battle for pole position was between the pair of HPD ARX-01c cars of Highcroft Racing and Strakka Racing, with Danny Watts taking the class pole for Strakka. This surprised many in the pit lane, as the Highcroft Team is the Honda Performance Development’s works development team in the ALMS series, and has plenty of experience with car, plus a strong driver line-up of David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner. The small LMGT1 category comprising of only eight cars, was headed by the Aston Martin DBR9 of the Young Driver AMR team, which was fractionally quicker than the Marc VDS Racing Ford GT and the similar car of Matech Competition. It was announced prior to the race that there wouldn’t be a class for GT1 cars in 2011, so this was to be their last outing at La Sarthe. The initial LMGT2 class pole sitter was the # 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GTC of Bruni/Melo/Kaffer, but in post qualifying scrutineering the gurney plate on the rear wing was found to be 13mm instead of 15mm in height, and it was relegated to the back of the grid. This elevated the pair of Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1s to the front of the LMGT2 qualifiers, with the # 96 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT of Alesi/Fisichella/Vilander next quickest. The second AF Corse Ferrari made it no further than qualifying, when Matias Russo had a big accident that demolished the right rear of the car, rendering it hors de combat!

Come 3 O’clock on a clear and dry Saturday afternoon and the 54 car field screamed across the start line with the Peugeot quartet leading the way through the Dunlop Curves and under the famed Dunlop Bridge. The race was only fifteen minutes old when the safety car came out for the first time, due to Nigel Mansell having a high speed accident due to a slow puncture. After this had been cleared the Peugeots relentlessly went about their business of pulling away from their pursuers. All was going fine for them for the first two hours, then the # 3 car of Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud pitted with a suspension problem, and it was found that the a front wishbone mounting plate had pulled out of the carbon fibre monocoque, which was irreparable, so the car was retired. Their next problem was with their # 1 car which suffered an alternator failure in the seventh hour, then the Team ORECA Matmut example suffered a drive shaft failure in the early hours of Sunday morning. These problems were repaired and the cars sent on their way, but it did let Audi back at them with a fighting chance. However, Audi had their own heart stopping moment when their # 7 car of McNish/Capello/Kristensen, in the hands of the latter, came across the BMW M3 GT2 “Art Car” driven by Andy Priaulx in the Porsche Curves, which was travelling slowly on the racing line with a puncture, and he was left with the choice of hitting it or taking to the gravel trap. He chose the latter and ended up spinning into the wall, damaging the tail. He was extricated and made it back to the pts for a new rear body section, losing three laps in the process, which effectively ruined their race strategy.

The next major assault on Peugeots stranglehold on the race came in the 17th hour, when their # 2 car of Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian suddenly emitted a wall of flame from the right side, promptly expiring with a blown engine, two down and two still running! It wasn’t only the Peugeots that were having problems, as there was quite a high rate of attrition through the field, the normally bulletproof Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GTs both retired, the # 82 example with gearbox problems, and the # 83 one not long afterwards with engine failure. One of the Kolles Audis crashed out, as did the Signature Plus Lola-Aston Martin BD09/60, the JMW Aston Martin Vantage, the # 13 Rebellion Racing Lola-Judd B10/60 and the Marc VDS Ford GT. Others fell foul of various engine and transmission problems, including the much fancied contenders for GT2 honours, the pair of Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvettes, which both retired with engine failure. When the chequered flag fell at 3.00pm on Sunday there were only 28 out of the original 54 starters still running, and the last of these, the # 11 Dyson Racing Lola-Judd B09/60 of Drayson/Cocker/Pirro was unclassified as it had covered insufficient laps after having to resolve numerous time consuming problems.

The # 1 Peugeot, having been delayed by its alternator change, was coming back hard on the Audis when the team suffered its second engine failure of the race, the same fate as the # 2 car some 96 laps earlier. The only Peugeot now remaining was the Team ORECA Matmut entry, and almost unbelievably that only lasted 9 laps more than the last works entry, before that also suffered an engine failure, handing the race to Audi on a plate. The # 009 Aston Martin was running 4th as the best of the petrol engine cars with just 50mins to go when its engine let go, handing the “petrol division” spoils to AIM Team ORECA Matmut’s ORECA-AIM-01, driven by Ayari/Andre/Meyrick. In the LMP2 class the Strakka Racing HPD ARX-01c of Watts/Leventis/Kane maintained its qualifying form to take a strong class win, and also to finish 5th overall, a full six laps ahead of the next finisher in the class. The GT1 class’ eight car entry was decimated to two finishers, with the Larbre Competition Saleen S7R of Gardel/Canal/Berville taking the last ever LMGT1 class spoils at Le Mans. After the retirement of the Risi Ferraris and the Corvettes, and a Sunday morning accident for the AF Corse Ferrari due to brake problems, the LMGT2 class win was taken by the # 77 Team FelbermayrProton Porsche 911 GT3-RSR of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler, who finished two laps clear of the Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari F430 GTC driven by Farnbacher/Simonsen/Keen.

Keith Bluemel


Race # Model Chassis # Entrant Driver Position GT2 Class O/A   Cl.
89 F430 GTC 2630 Hankook-Team Farnbacher D.Farnbacher A.Simonsen L. Keen 12th   2nd
95 F430 GT 2464 AF Corse G.Fisichella T.Vilander J.Alesi 16th 4th
83 F430 GTC 2646  Risi Competizione T. Krohn  N. Jonsson E. van de Poele DNF  DNF
82 F430 GTC 2656 Risi Competizione J. Melo G. Bruni  P. Kaffer DNF  DNF
96 F430 GTC 2624 AF Corse L.Perez Companc M.Russo  M. Salo DNS  DNS