Simonsen, Farnbacher to command Ferrari assault on 2012 Bathurst 12 hour.

Hankook Team Farnbacher's Ferrari 458 of Simonsen/Farnbacher at the 2011 Nürburgring 24 Hour event. - Image courtesy HankookTire.

Hankook Team Farnbacher’s Ferrari 458 of Simonsen/Farnbacher at the 2011 Nürburgring 24 Hour event. – Image courtesy HankookTire.

Following the confirmation of multiple high-profile teams and driver lineups in recent weeks, the 2012 running of Australia’s Bathurst 12 hour event has received a further addition to its growing number of provisional entries.

In an interview with Australia’s Speedcafe.com, Danish driver/endurance regular, Alan Simonsen has revealed details of his planned return to the 2012 event with Australian team, Maranello Motorsport. Simonsen also provided information regarding the team’s planned driver lineup.

On this occasion Simonsen will be partnered by regular Le Mans series driving partner, Dominik Farnbacher. In addition to Le Mans series duties, Farnbacher’s current portfolio sees the young German compete in the ADAC championship, and select endurance events in both the US and Europe.

Having achieved podiums at both Le Mans and Nürburgring 24 hour events in recent years, the duo are well-versed in the art of endurance. The pairing will be partnered by Australian drivers John Bowe (past V8 Supercar driver/multiple Bathurst 1000 champion), and local gentleman driver, Peter Edwards.

Following a sixth-placed finish in the 2011 edition of the race with Ferrari’s aging, Kessel-built F430 GT3, Maranello Motorsport will field a 2011-spec, Ferrari 458 GT3 chassis in the 2012 running of the event.

The Melbourne-based squad will compete against factory entries of Audi, and potentially other marques, in a bid to secure outright honours amongst a small, but highly-competitive field of GT3 runners.

Providing further testament to the event’s increasing international allure, confirmation of the talented duo’s planned Bathurst assault affords greater substance to a growing list of both local and international entries for the 2012 edition of the race.

Simonsen provided the following statement regarding the announcement to Speedcafe.com: 

“It’s clear that this year, the teams going for the win pretty well ran three professional drivers, so you’ve got to put a strong team together to be in with a shot.

The 458 is a new spec GT3 car, so it should match the Audis that were there this year – I certainly don’t think you’ll see them running away with it again.

Audi is obviously strongly behind it, and we’re expecting Mercedes to give a fair bit of support to next year’s race. I think it’ll grow and grow – I think it’s going to be a big thing.”

ILMC: 2011 entry list revealed.

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

Entries for the 2011 running of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup were today revealed. Announced during the lead up to the ACO’s unveiling ceremony for Le Mans 24 Hour entries, the 2011 ILMC entry list boasts a healthy field of 26 competitors, yielding both factory and privateer representation from eleven auto manufacturers.

Entry listings can be seen in full below.

LMP1

  • AudiSport Team Joest – Audi R18 – Timo Bernhard/Marcel Fässler.
  • AudiSport Team Joest – Audi R18 – Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish.
  • Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 – Anthony Davidson/TBA.
  • Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 – Stephane Sarrazin/Franck Montagny.
  • Hope Racing – Oreca 01-Lehmann – Steve Sacchia/Olivier Lombard.
  • Rebellion Racing – Lola B10/60-Toyota – Nicolas Prost/Neel Jani.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Matthieu Lahaye/Guillaume Moreau.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Richard Hein/Jacques Nicolet.
  • Aston Martin Racing – AMR-ONE – Stefan Mücke/Darren Turner.
  • Oreca-Matmut – Peugeot 908 HDI-FAP – Nicolas Lapierre/Loic Duval.

LMP2

  • SignaTech-Nissan – Oreca03-Nissan – Franck Mailleux/TBA.
  • OAK Racing – OAK Pescarolo-Judd – Frederich Da Rocha/Patrice Lafarque.
  • Level5 Motorsports – Lola B10/80-HPD Coupe – Scott Tucker/Christophe Bouchut.

GTE-PRO

  • AF-Corse – Ferrari 458 Italia – Giancarlo Fisichella/Gianmaria Bruni.
  • BMW Motorsport – BMW M3 E92 – Augusto Farfus/TBA.
  • BMW Motorsport – BMW M3 E92 – Andy Priaulx/TBA.
  • Luxury Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia – Francois Jakubowski/Anthony Beltoise.
  • Luxury Racing – Ferrari 458 Italia – Stephane Ortelli/Frederic Makowiecki.
  • Lotus Jet Alliance – Lotus Evora GT2 – Vitus Eckbert/TBA.
  • Lotus Jet Alliance – Lotus Evora GT2 – Lukas Lichtner Hoyer/TBA.

GTE-AM

  • Larbre Competition – Chevrolet Corvette C6.R – Patrick Bornhauser/Julien Canal.
  • Krohn Racing – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Tracy Krohn/Nicolas Jönsson.
  • Gulf AMR Middle-East – Aston Martin Vantage – Fabien Giroix/Roald Goethe.
  • AF-Corse – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Piergiuseppe Perazzini/Marco Cioci.
  • CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT2 – Pierre Ehret/Shaun Lynn.
  • Proton Competition – Porsche 997 GT3-RSR – Richard Lietz/Horst Felbermayr.

LMP1: 10  LMP2: 3   GTE-PRO: 7   GTE-AM: 6   Total: 26

Audi Race Experience Team Joest secures 1-2 Bathurst 12 Hour finish.

O'Young/Lowndes take 1-2 finish for Audi Race Experience Team Joest on Bathurst 12 Hour debut. - Image Courtesy Audi Motorsport

The inaugural running of the overhauled Bathurst 12 Hour event concluded late Sunday afternoon and, despite initial negativity from the event’s touring car stalwarts, the mixed field of 27 GT and Touring competitors failed to disappoint.

With many fans claiming this year’s rendition of the event was ‘the best so far’, the subsequent influx of praise received from both local and global viewers is as good a sign as any event organisers may have struck the note its audience believe is worth expanding on.

Without the support and presence of Audi Race Experience Team Joest, the inaugural running of the overhauled event could arguably have turned out much differently.

After rounding out their 2010 season with a second-placed finish at the emerging Sepang 12 Hour event in Malaysia, the German squad, based in Odenwald, had committed two entries in the lead up the event and, like most factory outfits, brought with it an entourage of drivers and crew personnel, along with an armory of equipment and famous AudiSport hospitality for their Bathurst debut.

Although arriving at the event with what can be considered a venerable arsenal of driving talent in the crew of Mies, Basseng, O’Young, Lowndes, Luff and Eddy, the outfit faced a battle against both time and preparation.

Despite Joest’s factory driver contingent (Mies/Basseng/O’Young) having never driven the circuit, and Australian drivers Lowndes and Luff having never tested the R8 LMS GT3 before the event’s first practice session, the already seasoned Joest squad faced little difficulty acclimatising  to their surroundings.

The team managed to achieve fastest times in both practice and qualifying sessions. Due to the abstract qualifying format used by event organisers to determine qualifying times (aggregated times) the #7 entry of Lowndes/Luff/Eddy secured outright pole, followed closely by the #8 sister entry of Basseng/Mies/O’Young taking second on the grid, leaving a gaggle of Porsche entries in their wake, lead by the #29 VIP PetFoods GT3-R entry of Craig Baird and Tony/Klark Quinn. The #29 would later be revealed as the sole thorn in the side of Joest’s efforts throughout the race.

Joest's pair of R8 LMS entries lead the field into turn one. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

Joest's pair of R8 LMS entries lead the field into turn one. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

Commencing at 6.15am local time (AEDST), both Joest entries soared to an early lead as many had expected. With the #7 car of Lowndes leading the field during the opening laps of the event before yielding to Basseng in the #8 sister car. Both drivers would run single stints on their first outing.

Joest would opt to return Lowndes and Basseng to pitlane for driver changes early during the second hour, ceding driving duties to Luff and Mies in what would later turn out to be a mammoth opening stint of over two hours for both drivers.

The opening stint for Mies and Luff saw both drivers adapt to their surroundings early, as anticipated. The duo often turning times seconds faster than their closest competitors.

Both Mies/Luff would achieve fastest overall times during the later stages of their stints. The 21 year old German and 2009 FIA-GT3 champion, Mies particularly impressing with his consistently aggressive driving style.

Audis #7/8 traverse the downhill esses in tandem; A scene repeated throughout much of the 12 Hour race. - Image courtesy AusMotive.com

Audis #7/8 traverse the downhill esses in tandem; A scene repeated throughout much of the 12 Hour race. - Image courtesy AusMotive.com

Mies and Luff would later pass control to Canadian ace, Darryl O’Young and Penfold AudiSport team owner, Mark Eddy, in their respective entries to complete the final change of hands in the first cycle of driver changes.

The event now in it’s fourth hour, the #8 of O’Young continued in the lead with Eddy in its wake. With the VIP GT3R entry of Baird in rapid pursuit, Eddy would later relinquish second position, allowing the 41-year old New Zealand national and local Porsche Motorsport stalwart to pursue the leading sister car of O’Young.

Despite O’Young still possessing a commanding lead, the VIP Porsche GT3R of Baird was able to gain significant ground on the Cananadian as both time, and double-stinted tyres wore on.

Baird was later able to capitalise on Joest’s rigidly defined pit strategy, placing the #29 in the overall lead. This pattern of changes would continue for much of the race.

HallMarc Racing engineers work feverishly to repair damage sustained to their #12 GT3 Cup S entry. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

HallMarc Racing engineers work feverishly to repair damage sustained to their #12 GT3 Cup S entry. - Image courtesy Bathurst 12 Hour.

The closing hours of the event saw tension rise across the paddock as several teams aimed to secure well-placed finishes or, in some cases maintain an on-track presence, in the case of both Freestone Corvette and EagleOne Lotus squads.

British GT regulars Lester/Simonsen experienced their fair share of misfortune throughout the day, encountering difficulties with their F430 entry on several occasions.

Racing incidents also plagued the efforts of locally entered contenders SupaBarn and  Hallmarc Racing. With the #69 SupaBarn Porsche GT3 Cup S entry of J.Koundouris/T.Koundouris, and V8SC regular Steve Owen experiencing an early race altercation amongst several other incidents throughout the course of the 12 hour event.

The #12 HallMarc entry of local professionals Cini/Reynolds/Fiore suffered issues on multiple occasions throughout the race, including tyre blowouts and, during the later stages of the event, a race ending shunt on the hill-top section of the circuit known as ‘Skyline.’

Although remaining on the lead lap for over eleven hours and sharing the overall lead on occasion, the efforts of the #29 VIP GT3R entry would ultimately be undone as a result of an unfortunate oversight on the team’s behalf.

Craig Baird positions the VIP PetFoods GT3R for a downhill descent through the esses. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

Craig Baird positions the VIP PetFoods GT3R for a downhill descent through the esses. - Image courtesy GraphicDakPhotos / Dirk Klynsmith

Having not served mandatory pit requirements (minimum of 12x 90sec+ stops for 2010+ GT3-spec machinery) the team would be forced to complete a final stop before taking the flag. The stop leading to the loss of a single lap against both Joest entries. Despite this, #29 VIP PetFoods squad would go on to round out a valiant effort by securing a well deserved third.

Following fault-free outings from both Eddy/Luff in the #7, and the #8 crew of Basseng/Mies, Joest delegated driving duties to Lowndes and O’Young for the closing stages of the race. During the final change over stop both Audis entered pitlane in 1-2 tandem, with Mies having maintained the lead up until the final stop.

After what had been a near infallible showing, O’Young would be cleared for exit before the sister car, with Lowndes now seated at the helm and, in an unfortunate turn of events vaguely reminiscent of Minassian’s Le Mans 2009 spin (within view of the Peugeot pit and hospitality area), the Canadian driver lost control of the #8, faltering at pitlane exit.

The #8 Joest entry of Mies changes hands to O'Young for the final stint of the race. - Image courtesy Audi Motorsport.

The #8 Joest entry of Mies changes hands to O'Young for the final stint of the race. - Image courtesy Audi Motorsport.

This incident saw Lowndes assume the race lead with less than one hour remaining. During this period, the five-time Bathurst 1000 winner would go on to set not only the fastest lap of the race, but of all sessions combined in the form of a 2:09.0861 (lap 267). Sending a clear message to both his team mates, and primary competition.

At this stage many had assumed the #8 (having served its pit requirements) would cruise to the finish. This however, would not be the case. With only fifteen minutes remaining, O’Young would be required to take more fuel in order to see the checkered.

Entering pitlane with only a 50sec margin over the #7 sister car, the #8 crew could spare only minimal time refueling. Fortunately for O’Young, this would prove to be a sufficient margin. Allowing the Canadian to re-enter the race with a ten second margin still in hand.

With less then ten minutes and the race more or less decided, both entries began winding down the remaining laps toward the checkered. As is customary for such finishes, O’Young and Lowndes assembled for a factory formation cruise to the checkered flag.

The victory not only marking Audi’s entry to the winners circle on their Bathurst debut, but as the first winners under new regulations. Etching another milestone to the marque’s already impressive list of achievements and laying down the gauntlet for potential vying manufacturers in future years.

The Joest driving crew of Mies, Basseng, O'Young, Luff, Lowndes, and Eddy celebrate following the podium presentation. - Image courtesy AusMotive.com

The Joest driving crew of Mies, Basseng, O'Young, Luff, Lowndes, and Eddy celebrate their 1-2 victory. - Image courtesy AusMotive.com

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ALMS: Round04 Miller Results (Final).

ALMS Logo

Final result listings for round four of the 2010 ALMS series can be seen below.

Pos. No. Cat. Drivers No. Laps Diff. Total Time Best time Make
1 1 P Brabham/ Pagenaud 91 2:45:43.162 1:36.482 HPD ARX 01c
2 8 P Cocker/ Pirro 91 19.116 2:46:02.278 1:36.291 Lola B09 60
3 6 P Pickett/   Graf 91 1:30.374 2:47:13.536 1:36.558 Porsche RS Spyder
4 37 P J. Field/     C. Field 88 3 Laps 2:47:12.417 1:37.379 Lola B06 10
5 55 PC Tucker/ Bouchut 86 5 Laps 2:46:52.423 1:45.170 Oreca FLM09*
6 99 PC Jeanette/ Zugel 85 6 Laps 2:46:02.126 1:43.881 Oreca FLM09
7 52 PC Figge/   Hyatt 85 6 Laps 2:46:02.126 1:43.881 Oreca FLM09
8 95 PC Tucker/ Wallace 85 6 Laps 2:47:05.272 1:45.868 Oreca FLM09
9 62 GT Melo/Bruni 85 6 Laps 2:47:12.299 1:48.756 Ferrari 430 GT
10 92 GT Auberlen/ Milner 85 6 Laps 2:47:33.478 1:48.937 BMW M3 GT
11 3 GT Magnussen/ O’Connell 84 7 Laps 2:46:05.056 1:49.244 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
12 90 GT Mueller/ Hand 84 7 Laps 2:46:11.695 1:48.937 BMW M3 GT
13 45 GT Bergmeister/Long 84 7 Laps 2:46:14.842 1:48.787 Porsche 911 RSR
14 61 GT Fisichella/ Vilander 84 7 Laps 2:46:28.464 1:48.977 Ferrari 430 GT
15 01 GT Sharp/ Van Overbeek 83 8 Laps 2:46:31.610 1:48.677 Ferrari 430 GT
16 02 GT Brown/ Cosmo 83 8 Laps 2:47:04.837 1:49.944 Ferrari 430 GT
17 17 GT Sellers/ Henzler 83 8 Laps 2:47:32.639 1:49.901 Porsche 911 RSR
18 12 P Willman/ Burgess 82 9 Laps 2:47:00.705 1:40.970 Lola B06 10
19 4 GT Beretta/ Gavin 82 9 Laps 2:47:23.430 1:48.801 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
20 44 GT Law/ Neiman 81 10 Laps 2:45:51.873 1:50.281 Porsche 911 RSR
21 54 GTC Pappas/ Bleekemolen 80 11 Laps 2:46:39.628 1:54.717 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
22 63 GTC Richard/ Lally 80 11 Laps 2:47:37.581 1:55.612 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
23 69 GTC Rodriguez/ Bieker 79 12 Laps 2:45:51.699 1:56.140 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
24 88 GTC Lewis/Vento 79 12 Laps 2:46:00.724 1:56.516 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
25 48 GTC Miller/Hines 78 13 Laps 2:46:43.478 1:54.434 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
26 28 GTC Beggs/ Baron 78 13 Laps 2:46:53.195 1:57.975 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
27 40 GT D. Robertson/ A. Robertson/ Murry 78 13 Laps 2:47:27.043 1:51.399 Doran Ford GT-R
28 32 GTC Curtis/ Safronas 78 13 Laps 2:47:27.540 1:56.052 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
29 23 GTC Sweedler/ Kapudija 77 14 Laps 2:46:36.283 1:56.642 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
30 166 P Dyson/ Smith 73 18 Laps 2:17:44.701 1:37.220 Lola B09 86 Mazda
31 75 GT Dalziel/ Goossens 57 34 Laps 2:46:13.858 1:53.195 Jaguar XKRS
32 89 PC Marcelli/ Wong 21 70 Laps 45:15.632 1:48.269 Oreca FLM09
33 80 GTC Gonzalez/ Diaz 5 86 Laps 11:22.336 1:59.195 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
34 81 GTC Gonzalez/ Leitzinger Porsche 911 GT3 Cup

24 Heures Du Mans 2010 – Post Race Wrap.

Bourdais leads Peugeot's assault into turn one. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

Bourdais leads Peugeot's assault into turn one. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

A brutal display of style, glamour, and speed, the Le Mans 24 Hour manages to provide an atmospheric roller coaster ride of raw emotion unable to be matched by any other event the world over on a yearly basis.

This year’s edition of the event bore a special significance for many reasons. For both fans and competitors, 2010 would provide the swan song for a once titanic GT category now left stagnant as a result of lacking manufacturer interest. For GT1 class competitors it’s the end of an era. After providing a worthy stomping ground for a selection of the world’s greatest supercars for the better part of the last decade, the GT1 category will see its last year of competition at the 24 Hour.

LMP categories would also see the final running of current-spec machinery before a major regulations change is enforced for the 2011 season. Although fraught with attrition, the 2010 running of the 24 hour classic delivered one of the more bizarre, yet mesmerising renditions of the race in recent years.

Hour one of the event saw the use of several, extended caution periods resulting in multiple safety car deployments. The first of which would be caused by the retirement of both Autocon and Beechdean Mansell entries. Several laps later the premature (yet highly anticipated) return of Jaguar (in the form of US-based, JaguarRSR) would succumb to a similar fate as a result of electrical difficulties. An innocent casualty of the events, Joest would lose over 60sec to the overall leading Peugeots. The disparity due to a difference in running pace between two of the circuit’s safety cars.

Peugeot #2 of Sarrazin/Minassian/Montagny. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Peugeot #2 of Sarrazin/Minassian/Montagny. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Having set the benchmark for single-lap pace, Peugeot had stamped its dominance early in both practice and qualifying sessions. The reigning LMP1 champions would commence from positions one through four, tailed by the trio of Audi entries, and the petrol-engined LMP field (lead of course by AMR). Despite possessing an obvious performance advantage during the first half of the race, the Peugeot squad would again be haunted by reliability issues.

Drama would strike late in the third hour for the #3 Peugeot of Bourdais, Pagenaud, and Lamy. Having been swiftly summoned to pitlane, the French squad would set to work furiously, with idle team members and spare bodywork to maintain any means of disguising the nature of repair efforts taking place. The pole-setting chassis was officially retired as a result of a front suspension failure.

Peugeot maintained a 1-2-3 formation at the front of the field and, with three factory Audis now only a small margin behind, the goose chase for the overall lead was well underway. Frustration would set in over the next several hours for both Peugeot and Audi squads. Peugeot #1 would be forced to pitlane courtesy of a failed alternator late during the seventh hour. With maintenance costing the French team over 12 minutes, ultimately taking the reigning champions out of contention for victory.

Peugeot would continue to hold positions 1-2, Audi remaining in close pursuit with cars #9/8 only a small margin behind. All the while AMR cars continued to turn consistent laps without error in positions 7/8 to maintaining their lead over fellow petrol-powered LMP1 counterparts. By mid race distance it was the Oreca Peugeot to suffer issues.

The Peugeot #2 squad completes one of the more successful pit stops of the day. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The Peugeot #2 squad completes one of the more successful pit stops of the day. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The team’s #4 entry being forced to pitlane, leaking oil as a result of engine faults. The #4 later returned to the race, losing thirteen minutes as a result of the repairs. Only some four hours later, the race leading #2 Peugeot would suffer a dramatic engine blowout on the approach to Tertre Rouge, resulting in a second factory Peugeot retirement.

This occurrence would prove to be a turning point for the Audi squad, inheriting the lead as a result of the #2 Peugeot’s retirement. With cars #9/8 now running in positions 1/2 respectively, the Joest cars would begin to increase pace as Peugeot opted for an all or nothing approach to victory. Despite being over a lap down on the leaders, the #1 car (at at the time driven by Davidson) had been instructed to take necessary action in order to ensure Peugeot victory (even at the cost of lower class participant’s safety).

Peugeot’s problems would only worsen throughout the remaining hours. While managing to reduce the margin to the leading Audi to under a lap, the sole factory #1 Peugeot would ultimately suffer a similar fate as its sister cars. Retiring in the dying hours of the race as a result of an engine blowout (now thought to have been caused by a faulty turbo).

With all factory cars now out of the running, the responsibility of flying the French marque’s flag would be left to the Oreca squad, and the hands of talented rookie, Loic Duval. Had Duval’s pace been maintained a podium position would have been possible for the local team. Unfortunately for the Oreca team the #4 would suffer a similar fate to it’s factory cousins. The car failing midway through the 22nd hour of the race, taking with it any chance of a face saving finish for the French manufacturer.

The race winning #9 Audi of Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

The race winning #9 Audi of Rockenfeller/Dumas/Bernhard. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Having not been able to compete with the single-pace set by their Peugeot rivals, the goal of would be to endure the imminent storm. Normally the fastest entry in the Joest camp, the #7 squad had suffered setup difficulties throughout practice and qualifying sessions, placing the car slightly off the pace of its #8/#9 sister cars.

The #7 would later suffer a delay early in the race as a result of a damaged BMW straying across the Porsche curves. Although not suffering any major damage, the #7 would be pitted for preventative maintenance. This unfortunate turn of events would shift the balance of power to the #9/8 Joest entries. Both of which would now be tasked with maintaining the chase for victory. The #9 crew had maintained consistent pace through the event, focusing on sustainable speed. The distinguished trio of Rockenfeller/Bernhard/Dumas would lead home cars #8/7 to secure an Audi 1-2-3 finish.

#42 ARX01c of Strakka racing. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

#42 ARX01c of Strakka racing. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Setting a pace bordering on cruelty, LMP2 had promised to be an HPD dominated affair from the outset.

With HPD-powered entries qualifying 1-2-3, and managing average lap times over four seconds faster than the nearest class competitors, P2 regulars were in for a tough day at the office. Having beaten race favourites Highcroft to the class pole, Strakka had immediately stamped their position as the team to beat.

Having lead the race for 356 laps (to Highcrofts 11 laps-lead) the Strakka trio of Danny Watts/Jonny Kane/Nick Leventis would finish first in category, placing an excellent fifth overall (only laps behind first-home petrol LMP1 team Oreca) to take their maiden 24 hour victory and, in doing so, handing the ARX01c a victory on its LM24 debut. In addition to this, the teams HPD package also won Michelin’s GreenX challenge.

Highcroft's Marco Werner navigates the Ralentisseur chicane. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Highcroft's Marco Werner navigates the Ralentisseur chicane. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Overshadowed by a myriad of technical difficulties, from shrapnel induced tyre punctures, to oil leaks and water pressure issues, the Danbury, Connecticut-based squad managed a semi-successful 24 Hour debut. Despite the presence of reigning champion David Brabham, multiple Le Mans overall winner Marco Werner, and up and coming endurance star Marino Franchitti, the Highcroft team were unable to match the speed and reliability of their Trans-Atlantic cousins. Plagued by misfortunes throughout the event, Highcroft would minimise the gap to their Strakka counterparts to less than two laps on several occasions. A margin which would unfortunately never be regained

OAK racing, and RML would round off the LMP2 podium finishing second and third respectively. In the unexpected absence of the Highcroft team, RML’s position would secure HPD’s second debut podium finish.

YoungDriver AMR leads the GT1 field through the Dunlop Esses. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

YoungDriver AMR leads the GT1 field through the Dunlop Esses. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

Contesting their final year of Le Mans competition, the GT1 swansong was, at times trying and, although well and truly outclassed by their GT2 counterparts the once mighty supercar category managed to produce a fitting outcome.

Dominated in its early stages by Matech and MarcVDS entries (both teams suffering race ending mechanical failures during the first half of the race) the ailing eight car category (consisting of six GT1WC entries) saw the lead shared by no less than six different entries throughout duration the race.

Despite the obvious pace of the Ford, Corvette, and Aston Martin entries, reliability would once again prove to be a deciding factor. Although not the fastest car in its category (or the category below it), Le Mans veterans and fan favourites Larbre Competition would finish the race with minimal error to take first in class, in a fitting tribute to both the category and machinery.

#82 Risi entry enters the Mulsanne. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

#82 Risi entry enters the Mulsanne. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Widely proclaimed as the new manufacturer stomping ground, and with seven marques present the GT2 category was set for a cracking battle. In typical Le Mans fashion, the Risi squad managed the surge to an early lead in the opening hours (despite having been relegated to the rear of the starting grid).

The team would go on to endure an intense battle with the P&M squad throughout hours six/seven. In an unfortunate twist, Risi would later suffer tranmission issues, forcing the #82 to pitlane for lengthy repairs, ruling them out of the chase for victory.

#63 Corvette of O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

#63 Corvette of O'Connell/Magnussen/Garcia. - Image courtesy of Geoffroy Barre / leblogauto.com

The #82 would later go on to retire as a result of the persisting difficulties. Leaving the P&M Corvette squad to dominate the category for what seemed like the majority of the event.

Running in 1/2 tandem for several hours, everything seemed to be going right for the American outfit. During a two hour period, disaster struck for the P&M team. The departure of the #63 P&M entry as a result of engine issues would leave the #64 to fly the remaining Corvette flag.

In a controversial incident, an impatient Anthony Davidson would attempt to pass the #64 Corvette entry of endurance veteran Emmanuelle Collard through the tight Porsche curves while on a late race charge for victory. This would cause Collard to lose control of the Corvette, sending the car spinning into nearby barriers. Suffering massive rear damage as a result of the impact, Collard would be forced to limp the severely damaged #64 back to pitlane where the team would furiously attempt a repair operation.

Davidson later commented on the incident in a bid to plead his innocence, only managing to insinuate Collard (amongst other GT competitors) had made intentional efforts to cause difficulty for the (then chasing) PeugeotSport team. Davidson retracted the statement/s in a later interview.

While the #64 did manage to return to the field, it would later retire as a result of engine issues similar to those suffered by the #63 car, leaving the justifiably distraught American team without any result.

A victim of late regulation changes, the #79 BMW Motorsport entry during the early hours of the race. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

A victim of late regulation changes, the #79 BMW Motorsport entry during the early hours of the race. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

A contender in its class, a fan favourite, and like many others, an unfortunate casualty. BMW’s return to La Sarthe was not as triumphant as many had originally hoped.

Having been hit with an increase in restrictor size (resulting in the loss of 10-15hp) upon arrival to La Sarthe, the manufacturer’s bid for victory would suffer a major setback from the outset. While down on single-lap pace, the aim of the Schnitzer squad was no doubt to endure the storm of inevitable attrition. A strategy adopted by the team during both Le Mans Series rounds.

Unfortunately for the Bavarians, sparks of promise were shown but reliable performance was not forthcoming. Suffering multiple tyre punctures (amongst other difficulties), the #79 would return to pitlane on several occasions during the opening hours of the race. The entry being officially retired after the eighth hour. The remaining #78 entry of Müller/Alzen/Farfus also experienced its fair share of difficulties but, despite tyre and engine difficulties would go on to finish sixth in category.

Felbermayr-Proton's class winning #77 entry of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Felbermayr-Proton's class winning #77 entry of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre / endurance-magazine.fr

Maintaining a sustainable pace throughout the race and opting to focus on reliability, the #77 Felbermayr squad would inherit the class lead shortly after the late race departure of Corvette #64. Having run a flawless race to edge out Risi,P&M, and BMW entries, the #77 crew found themselves with a two lap lead over nearest placed rivals, Hankook Farnbacher #89, and BMS Scuderia Italia #97 with several hours still remaining.

The trio of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler would continue to lead for the remaining hours to finish a phenomenal eleventh overall, taking Felbermayr’s maiden 24 Hour victory and, after years of Ferrari domination, reclaiming the LM24 GT2 crown for Porsche. A fitting triumph for Le Mans most successful marque.

With the curtains now drawn and the race now run and won for another year, the Sportscar world sits back to ponder…only another 12 months until the madness begins all over again.

Images courtesy Geoffroy Barre // Endurance-Magazine.fr // leblogauto.com

leblogauto.com

Le Mans 2010 Post Qualifying Wrap.

#2 Peugeot of Sarrazin during qualifying session02.

#2 Peugeot of Sarrazin during qualifying session02. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Being that time of the year again, proceedings for the 2010 running of the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (the 78th rendition of the event) are well underway. With qualifying now completed we see some familiar trends emerging. Namely the continued dominance of Peugeot and Ferrari camps in their respective categories.

Despite the presence of strong works supported entries in all classes, the appearance of new challengers in HPD and BMW-powered entries in both LMP2 and GT2 has caught many by surprise.

The first qualifying session of the week saw Peugeot surge to an early lead on the timesheets. With both the Oreca and factory entries securing the top four positions on provisional listings.

Most onlookers were eagerly awaiting some (or any) form of response in pace from Audi. The Ingolstadt-based squad managed to breach the margin to the leading #3 Peugeot to 3.867 by the end of the first session. With Mike Rockenfeller setting a time of 3:23.578 to place the #9 car in fifth position.

 

Audi #7 during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Kristensen on board the#7 Audi during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Peugeot’s dominance would continue during the second qualifying session. Bourdais’ early time of 3:19.711 would weather the ensuing storm of pace throughout the session, Peugeots #2 and 3 securing second and third, respectively.

Audi’s #9 squad again remained the highest placed contender for the team, with on-loan Porsche factory driver Romain Dumas managing a 3:21.981. Decreasing the margin to the leading #3 Peugeot to a mere 1.481sec to secure fifth position on the grid. Cars #7/8 will start from sixth and seventh position on Sunday afternoon.

Forever the dark horse, AMR would complete both qualifying sessions without difficulties. Stefan Mücke setting a time of 3:26.680 to secure eighth position for the #007 entry, relegating the #009 sister car of Turner/Hancock/Barazi to ninth starting position by a margin of .067sec.

Danny Watts takes the #42 Strakka HPD ARX01c to pole. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Danny Watts takes the #42 Strakka HPD ARX01c to pole. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Having set and maintained pace early during practice,  HPD-powered entries continued to dominate both LMP2 qualifying sessions. Strakka’s Danny Watts would seize pole for the team with a time of 3:36.168, narrowly edging out their trans-Atlantic cousins, Highcroft by a margin of .466sec. Reigning Le Mans Series LMP2 champions Quifel-ASM snared third position with Olivier Pla’s lap of 3:41.968, besting the OAK Racing outfit by a minimal margin.

Affirming what had long been suspected, the ACO has confirmed the removal of the GT1 category from future competition in both the 24 Hour, and Le Mans Series, during a press conference regarding the much hyped future regulations earlier today.

Combining  a selection of seasoned Le Mans and LMS veterans, and current GT1 World Championship entries, the GT1 category looks set to deliver a fitting send off for the class of high-powered supercar machinery.

Stamping their presence early, YoungDriver AMR would combine successful showings in sessions 1/2 to achieve class pole, marginally outpacing  the #70 Ford GT of recent Spa 1000km winners, Marc VDS Racing.

Despite dramas during practice the #60 Matech Ford GT entry of Grosjean/Mutsch/Hirschi would secure third, ahead of both #72/73 entries of past LMS runners, Luc Alphand Adventures.

 

Oliver Gavin takes the #63 Corvette C6R to an initial second position during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Oliver Gavin takes the #63 Corvette C6R to an initial second position during qualifying. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

With seventeen entries and more than half of which factory supported and equally capable of victory, GT2 is looking set to provide a clash of the marques to be remembered for years to come.

In what is becoming a 24H tradition the #82 Risi entry surged to the front of the class early but, in unfortunate turn of events, the team would later be relegated to the rear of the grid. The squad penalised as a result of semantics regarding the legality of aerodynamic components in use during the qualifying session.

Risi driver Jaime Melo provided a brief summary of his thoughts on the matter –  “It’s where you finish that is important.” Having benefited from the misfortunes of Risi, the #63/64 P&M entries line up in positions one and two, securing an all Corvette front row.

Felbermayr-Proton maintained their reputation as the top performing Porsche outfit. The #77 of Lieb/Lietz/Henzler moving to fourth position after Risi’s post-qualifying penalty.

 

The Jeff Koons' designed, BMW Motorsport #79 'art car' entry. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

The Jeff Koons' designed, BMW Motorsport #79 'art car' entry. - Image courtesy Geoffroy Barre.

Having recently conquered the Nürburgring 24 Hour after a five year absence, BMW Motorsport now has a new challenge. After an eleven year Le Mans sabbatical (following the closure of the V12-LMR programme) the Charly Lamm-lead squad returns to La Sarthe with an almost palpable hunger for victory.

Having received a balance of performance adjustment upon their arrival to the circuit (enforcing a decrease in air-restrictor size, and the subsequent loss of 10-15HP) the outfit must now alter their race strategy.

Despite suffering as a result of the penalty during early sessions, the team managed to greatly improve single lap pace during qualifying. The #78 entry of Müller/Farfus/Alzen taking fifth position.

Images courtesy Geoffroy Barre // leblogauto.com