VLN: Lowndes/Luff rejoin Audi Race Experience for Nürburgring debut.

Lowndes & Luff celebrate their podium finish with fellow team mates following the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Bathurst12H.

Lowndes & Luff celebrate their podium finish with fellow team mates following the 2011 Bathurst 12 Hour. - Image courtesy Bathurst12H.

Following a highly successful showing at this year’s Bathurst 12 Hour event, V8SC regulars Craig Lowndes and Warren Luff are now set to etch another milestone to their already impressive list of achievements.

Having achieved a second-placed finish on their maiden appearance with Audi’s R8 GT3 chassis, the duo appear to have stamped quite an impression in the sportscar racing fraternity.

After successfully integrating with the AudiSport operation on their debut, both drivers have been selected for an additional appearance with the marque.

Despite originally being selected for the Bathurst 12 hour event on a standalone basis, the Australian pairing have now secured a further competitive outing with the AudiSport (Race Experience Team Joest) squad.

On this occasion the Australian duo will make their paired Nürburgring debut, competing in the SP9 (GT3) category within Germany’s highly-competitive VLN endurance series.

Despite Lowndes having never driven the Nürburgring, the event marks Luff’s third appearance at the legendary circuit. With Luff’s most recent, competitive outing having been with (the now down-scaled) Australian-based Juniper Racing, during the 2008 edition of the Nürburgring 24 hour event.

Lowndes and Luff will take command of the R8 LMS GT3 chassis once more, rejoining the Odenwald-based outfit for a four hour event at round four of the VLN (Langstreckenmeisterschaft) series this May (27/28).

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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AudiSport Team Joest Announces Bathurst 12 Hour Assault.

 

Audi Race Experience Team Joest completes a stop during the Merdeka Millenium 12H Race at Sepang, earlier this year. - Image Courtesy KahlilPhotography.com

AudiSport Team Joest have today announced plans for a 2011 assault on Australia’s Bathurst 12 Hour event. In a collaborative agreement with local team and regular AusGT competitors Penfold AudiSport, Joest confirmed its support for two Audi R8 LMS GT3 entries.

Following a second place finish at the emerging Sepang 12H event earlier this year, the announcement arrives at a time when Joest attempt to expand their customer sport portfolio, with the illustrious firm now offering its factory-support services to AudiSport customers around the world.

Driver lineups for the event were also unveiled. The squad’s first entry consisting entirely of locally-sourced drivers, with Penfold AudiSport team owner, Mark Eddy partnering reigning Bathurst 1000 champion Craig Lowndes, and V8SC endurance specialist, Warren Luff. Despite a lack of prior experience with Audi’s R8 LMS, both Lowndes/Luff are arguably the most suitable candidates for such an undertaking as a result of race miles alone, accrued on the legendary circuit.

Craig Lowndes responded to the announcement with the following statement:

“Team Joest and Audi Sport have a reputation for being the best in the business, much like Team Vodafone in V8 Supercars, so when they rang it was impossible to say no! I’m excited to be joining the works Audi team for this race and to be teaming up with some great drivers like Mark and Warren.

The R8 looks like a fantastic car and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel in February. Long distance racing is a great challenge, especially when you get to an amazing track like Bathurst, and it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to. It should be a great race.”

The team’s second entry will consist of an all-professional lineup, with German drivers Marc Basseng and 2009 FIA GT3 champion, Christopher Mies joining Canadian ace, Darryl O’Young. Although having never contested an event at the Mt. Panorama circuit the trio are no strangers to endurance, boasting collective starts at the Nürburgring 24H, Le Mans 24H, Sebring 12H, Spa 24H, and Sepang 12H events, in addition to GT1/GT3, ADAC, and VLN duties.

Bathurst 12H Event Director, James O’Brien made the following statement:

“Having a team of this calibre commit to the Armor All Bathurst 12 Hour with two cars is a fantastic show of support for the Event. I was fortunate enough to see the Audi team in action at Sepang (Malaysia) earlier this year and they are hugely professional as you would expect.

Their participation is sure to bring further international exposure to the Event and we look forward to welcoming the team and drivers to the Mountain in February.”

AudiSport Team Joest Technical Director, Ralf Jüttner issued the following statement in relation to the announcement:

“For the structure of our new customer sport programme, Bathurst is certainly the perfect place to begin the season. Seeing the Audi R8 LMS in operation will certainly be a great experience for the fans.”

Although in recent years the Bathurst 12 Hour had been relegated to the domain of primarily amateur and gentlemen driver entries, organisers have openly expressed an intent to lure further international interest and, with the adoption of new regulations, aim to expand the depth of the field with additional factory-supported and professional entries in future years.

Up until recently the 12 Hour event had been restricted to a production-based field of Saloon and Touring entries. Only in recent times have organisers modified event regulations, allowing the inclusion of GT3 class machinery.

The 2011 rendition of the event will run from Februrary 4-6 and, for the first time, will see the 6.2KM circuit play host to a variety of world-class GT machinery, in addition to a thriving support field of production-based saloon and touring entries.

Penfold AudiSport's R8 LMS during an AustralianGT meet at Sandown.

Penfold AudiSport's R8 LMS during an AustralianGT meet at Sandown.

LM24: Audi Unveils R18 TDi LMP1 Challenger.

Audi's R18 TDi.

Audi's new R18 TDi LMP1 Coupe. - Images Courtesy AudiUSA.

Following months of rumours and intense speculation within the sportscar racing community, AudiSport today revealed its next generation LMP1 chassis, the R18 TDi.

After achieving nine victories utilising the advantages afforded by open-top roadsters, Audi’s launch of the R18 TDi marks the manufacturer’s second foray into the use of closed-cockpit prototypes, following the use (and subsequent shelving) of the R8C Coupe in 1999.

Manufactured by Dallara, Audi’s latest LMP chassis is quite clearly a product of evolution, utilising a similarly radical (albeit simplified), raised-nose flow design pioneered by its predecessor.

With 2011 LMP1 regulations stipulating the use of both smaller chassis and engines, the R18 arrives sporting a variety of improvements from shortened wheelbase to new engine package. As had been suggested by numerous sources, Audi has confirmed the use of a 3.7L V6 TDi powerplant and, although the nature of the cooling system would suggest the use of a twin-turbo system, this has not been officially confirmed.

Although finer design details were at first overshadowed by the mere revelation of an Audi coupe, a closer observation reveals the effort invested thus far, with updates having taken place on virtually all of the chassis’ viewable surface.

Sidewall height has been reduced, with rear wheel-archs now extended forward, protruding over what was previously occupied air-intake real estate. Due to the demand for increased mechanical grip, front tyre width has increased and, as a result wheel archs are now heightened and much more pronounced.

The expected addition of the now mandatory ‘sharkfin’ concept can be seen adorning the cars’ rear bodywork. Some form of additional practicality appears to have been achieved, with the fin attached to a now roof-mounted air intake system. The purpose of this modification is not yet known.

Adding to the growing list of overhauled components, halogen headlights have been removed in favour of LED lighting. Despite this, the LED-strip lighting that once adorned the surrounding area of any Audi’s headlights (a feature which became synonymous with the marque’s racing machinery) is no longer evident.

Despite the likely presence of an R18 in Florida during March, Audi has ruled out any possibility of a Sebring debut for its latest LMP. Electing to participate regardless, the team will utilise a modified version of its current R15+ chassis for the 12 hour event.

The R18 will instead make its first public track appearance at the reinstated Le Mans test day on April 24, its maiden competitive debut following shortly after at the 6H Spa on May 8, 2011.

ILMC: Zhuhai Entry List.

 

Intercontinental Le Mans Cup Logo.

 

Provisional entry listings for the third and final round of the 2010 Intercontinental Le Mans Cup have are now available. What began as a field of 27 runners has now been reduced to a mere 24, after the withdrawal of the Atlas E-FX Saleen, and MIK Racing’s two Lola-Judd coupes. Although now sporting a slightly diminished field, the event is by no means short of quality contenders.

The Audi vs Peugeot battle continues in LMP1, although the French marque need only finish the race with both entries in order to seal the maiden ILMC LMP1 teams and manufacturers title. Both factories approach the race bearing slightly altered driver lineups as a result of differing driver commitments. Privateer flavour will be provided by fan favourites, Drayson Racing and Tokai University.

Having been the only P2 team to confirm participation in all three rounds of the ILMC, OAK Racing is only required to complete the race to confirm its P2 title. After the surprise forfeit of MIK’s two Lola-Judd entries, the French outfit will be left to run it’s own race alongside the sole Formula Le Mans entry of Hope Polevision.

The battle of the factories continues in GT2, the now dominant GT category yielding works entries from Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, and Jaguar teams. Porsche’s reputation will be defended by two-time Le Mans series champions, Felbermayr-Proton, with assistance from ProSpeed Competition. Regular LMS rivals AF-Corse and CRS will provide Ferrari presence and, flying the sole BMW flag, Schnitzer will field a single entry. After a surprise appearance at the 1000KM of Silverstone,  the Lamborghini Gallardo of Gulf Team First will also be in attendance.

Although Ferrari possess a points advantage in the race for the GT2 manufacturers title, the battle for honours is still very much alive. With a slim possibility remaining for Porsche or BMW teams to seize the first ILMC accolades for their respective marques.

Having successfully completed over nine hours under race conditions during the Petit Le Mans event, Porsche’s GT3R Hybrid will make the trip to Zhuhai for its second ILMC appearance. Capable of competing with GT2 runners, the GT3R Hybrid will compete in a class of its own once more (GT-Exp.), setting out demonstrate the advantages of Hybrid technology alongside regular GT counterparts. Porsche has committed the services of factory drivers (and recently crowned ALMS GT2 series champions) Jörg Bergmeister and Pat Long to provide the Hybrid its Chinese debut.

In addition to the inclusion of Porsche’s GT3R Hybrid, the ACO has also allowed the inclusion of GT3 homologated chassis on a strictly one-off basis, in order to increase grid numbers. The presence of both United AutoSports and KK Performance squads will mark the Audi R8 LMS’ debut appearance in an ACO sanctioned event. Team Hong Kong Racing has also committed an Aston Martin DBRS9 entry.

Entry listings can be seen in full below:

LMP1

  • 1 Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP – Sébastien Bourdais / Simon Pagenaud
  • 2 Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP – Stéphane Sarrazin / Franck Montagny
  • 7 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15+ – Tom Kristensen / Allan McNish
  • 8 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15+ – Rinaldo Capello / Romain Dumas
  • 11 Drayson Racing – Lola-Judd Coupe – Paul Drayson / Jonny Cocker
  • 23 Tokai University – Courage Oreca-YGK – Shigekazu Wakisaka / Shogo Mitsuyama

LMP2

  • 24 OAK Racing – Pescarolo Judd – Jacques Nicolet / Frédéric Da Rocha / Patrice Lafargue

Formula Le Mans

  • 47 Hope Polevision Racing – Oreca-FLM – Luca MORO / TBA

GT1

  • 50 Larbre Competition – Saleen S7R – Roland Berville / Julien Canal
  • 69 JLOC – Lamborghini Murcielago – Iiri HIROYUKI / TBA

GT2

  • 75 ProSpeed Competition – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (997) – Richard Westbrook / Darryl O’Young
  • 77 Team Felbermayr-Proton – Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (997) Marc Lieb / Richard Lietz
  • 78 BMW Team Schnitzer – BMW E92 M3 – Jörg Müller / Dirk Werner
  • 81 JaguarRSR – Jaguar XKRS – Marc Goossens / Tommi Drissi / Paul Gentilozzi
  • 82 JaguarRSR – Jaguar XKRS – TBA / TBA
  • 88 Team Felbermayr-Proton – PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR (997) – Gianluca Roda / Christian Ried / Martin Ragginger
  • 90 CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT – Pierre Ehret / Phil Quaife / Andrew Kirkaldy
  • 95 AF Corse – Ferrari F430 GT – Giancarlo Fisichella / Gianmaria Bruni
  • 99 Gulf Team First – Lamborghini Gallardo – Fabien Giroix / Roald Goethe / Frédéric Fatien

GT-Experimental

  • 92 Porsche AG – Porsche GT3R Hybrid – Jörg Bergmeister / Patrick Long

GTC

  • 91 Team Hong Kong Racing – Aston Martin DBRS9 – Philippe Ma / Marchy Lee
  • 96 United AutoSports – Audi R8 LMS – Danny Watts / Richard Meins
  • 97 United AutoSports – Audi R8 LMS –  Alain Li / Henri Richard
  • 98 KK Performance – Audi R8 LMS – Marchy Li / Alexander Yoong / Matthew Marsh

ILMC AsLMS Zhuhai Poster - Features R15+/908 in foreground. Background featres GT3R Hybrid and CRS F430.

LMS: Silverstone Entry List.

LMS_Tag_Tab

Round five of the Le Mans Series sees the championship head to the Silverstone circuit for the final race of the season. Rounding off at a healthy 47 entries, the event will also play host to the opening round of the Intercontinental Cup.

Notable additions to the field include factory LMP1 entries from Audi, Peugeot, and AMR squads. GT2 sees the return of Schnitzer/BMW Motorsport and the appearance of the Gulf Team First Lamborghini LP560.

LMP1

  • 007 Aston Martin Racing – Lola Aston Martin – Adrian Fernandez / Harold Primat / Andrew Meyrick
  • 008 Signature – Lola Aston Martin – Pierre Ragues / Franck Mailleux  / Vanina Ickx
  • 009 Aston Martin Racing – Lola Aston Martin – Juan Barazi / Sam Hancock
  • 1 Team Peugeot Total – Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP – Anthony Davidson / Nicolas Minassian
  • 11 Drayson Racing – Lola B10/60 Coupé-Judd – Paul Drayson / Jonny Cocker
  • 20 Team LNT – Ginetta-Zytek 09S – Tony Burgess / Johnny Mowlem / Chris McMurry
  • 4 Team Oreca Matmut – Peugeot 908 HDi FAP – Nicolas Lapierre / Stéphane Sarrazin
  • 7 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15 TDI – Tom Kristensen / Allan McNish
  • 8 Audi Sport Team Joest – Audi R15 TDI – Timo Bernhard / Dindo Capello
  • 5 Beechdean Mansell – Ginetta-Zytek 09S – Nigel Mansell / Leo Mansell  / Greg Mansell
  • 12 Rebellion Racing – Lola B10/60 Coupé-Rebellion – Nicolas Prost / Neel Jani
  • 13 Rebellion Racing – Lola B10/60 Coupé-Rebellion – Andrea Belicchi / Jean-Christophe Boullion

LMP2

  • 24 Oak Racing – Pescarolo-Judd – Mathieu Lahaye / Jacques Nicolet
  • 25 RML – Lola-HPD Coupé – Tommy Erdos / Mike Newton / Ben Collins
  • 27 Race Performance – Radical SR9-Judd – Michel Frey / Chris Buncombe
  • 29 Racing Box – Lola B09 Coupé-Judd – Piergiuseppe Perazzini / Marco Cioci / Luca Pirri
  • 30 Racing Box – Lola B09 Coupé-Judd – Fabio Babini / Ferdinando Geri / Federico Leo
  • 31 RLR msport – MG-Lola EX265-AER – Barry Gates / Rob Garofall / Simon Phillips
  • 35 Oak Racing – Pescarolo-Judd – Richard Hein / Guillaume Moreau
  • 36 Pegasus Racing – Courage-Oreca LC75-AER – Julien Schell /Frederic Da Rocha
  • 39 KSM – Lola B08/47-Judd – Jean De Pourtales / Hideki Noda / Jonathan Kennard
  • 40 Quifel – ASM Team – Ginetta-Zytek 09S – Miguel Amaral / Olivier Pla
  • 41 Team Bruichladdich – Ginetta-Zytek 09S – Karim Ojjeh / Tim Greaves / Thor-Christian Ebbesvik
  • 42 Strakka Racing – HPD ARX-01 – Nick Leventis / Danny Watts / Jonny Kane
  • 43 Dams – Formula Le Mans-Oreca 09 – Andrea Barlesi / Alessandro Cicognani / Gary Chalandon
  • 44 Dams – Formula Le Mans-Oreca 09 – Jody Firth / Warren Hughes
  • 45 Boutsen Energy Racing – Formula le Mans-Oreca 09 – Dominik Kraihamer / Nicolas De Crem / Bernard Delhez
  • 46 JMB Racing – Formula Le Mans-Oreca-10 – Peter Kutemann / Maurice Basso / John Hartshorne
  • 47 Hope Polevision Racing – Formula Le Mans – Luca Moro / Steve Zacchia / Olivier Lombard
  • 48 Hope Polevision Racing – Formula Le Mans – Christophe Pillon / Vincent Capillaire / Nico Verdonck
  • 49 Applewood Seven – Formula Le Mans-Oreca 09 – Damien Toulemonde / Mathias Beche

GT1

  • 50 Larbre Competition – Saleen S7-R – Gabriele Gardel / Patrice Goueslard / Fernando Rees
  • 66 Atlas FX-Team FS – Saleen S7-R – Carlo Van Dam / Zsolt Baumgartner / James Winslow

GT2

  • 75 Prospeed Competition – Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Marco Holzer / Richard Westbrook
  • 76 IMSA Performance Matmut – Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Raymond Narac / Patrick Pilet
  • 77 Team Felbermayr Proton – Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Marc Lieb / Richard Lietz
  • 78 BMW Team Schnitzer – BMW M3 – Jörg Müller / Dirk Werner
  • 85 Spyker Squadron – Spyker C8 Laviolette GT2-R – Peter Dumbreck / Tom Coronel
  • 88 Team Felbermayr Proton – Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Martin Ragginger / Christian Ried / Romain Dumas
  • 89 Hankook Team Farnbacher – Ferrari F430 GT – Dominik Farnbacher / Allan Simonsen
  • 90 CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT – Pierre Ehret / Phil Quaife / Pierre Kaffer
  • 91 CRS Racing – Ferrari F430 GT – Andrew Kirkaldy / Tim Mullen
  • 92 JMW Motorsport – Aston Martin V8 Vantage – Robert Bell / Darren Turner
  • 94 AF Corse – Ferrari F430 GT – Luis Perez Companc / Matias Russo
  • 95 AF Corse – Ferrari F430 GT – Giancarlo Fisichella / Toni Vilander / Jean Alesi
  • 96 AF Corse – Ferrari F430 GT – Gianmaria Bruni / Jaime Melo
  • 99 Gulf Team First –  Lamborghini LP560 – Fabien Giroix / Roald Goethe

LMP1: 12  LMP2: 19  GT1: 2  GT2: 14  Total: 47

ILMC: Audi Confirms Driver Lineups.

#8 R15 TDi + entering Porsche Curves, LM24 2010 - Image Courtesy John Dagys / Speedtv.com

#8 Audi of Fässler, Lotterer, and Treluyer during the 2010 Le Mans 24H. - Image Courtesy John Dagys / Speedtv.com

With only several weeks remaining until the inaugural running of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, AudiSport has revealed its driver lineups for a planned two car attack on the new manufacturer-focused challenge.

Due to a combination of varying driver obligations and changed sporting regulations, Audi has opted against static lineups and will alter driver combinations on a per event basis.

Eight time-Le Mans winner, Tom Kristensen will partner Alan McNish at both Silverstone and Zuhai rounds of the challenge. While Dindo Capello will join Timo Bernhard in the #8 at Silverstone.

The Petit Le Mans event will see the squad return to a traditional endurance lineup of three drivers per car. With Capello joining Kristensen/McNish in the #7, and Fässler, Lotterer, and Treluyer reuniting in the #8 entry.

Returning to two drivers per chassis once more in Zuhai, Kristensen/McNish will remain in the #7, with Capello returning to the #8 now alongside Romain Dumas.

Audi Motorsport Director, Wolfgang Ullrich had the following to say regarding the lineups:

“Because there’s only a make and team but no driver classification we’re using the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup as an opportunity to integrate the drivers who haven’t competed for us very often, even better with our team. Our aim is to compete at Le Mans in 2011 with the same drivers as this year.”

Driver lineup listings can be seen on a per event basis below:

  • 1000KM Silverstone (UK) – 12 September.
    – #7 Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish
    – #8 Timo Bernhard/Dindo Capello
  • Petit Le Mans, Road Atlanta (USA) – 02 October.
    – #7 Dindo Capello/Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish
    – #9 Marcel Fässler/André Lotterer/Benoît Treluyer
  • 6 Hours of Zhuhai (CN) – 07 November.
    – #7 Tom Kristensen/Allan McNish
    – #8 Dindo Capello/Romain Dumas

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

LMS: Post Spa Race Wrap.

Spa start

The #1 Peugeot of Gene leads the field approaching La Source, moments before a spin. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

Round two of the 2010 Le Mans Series took place under unusual circumstances. The combined effect of wild weather conditions, regional power outages, resulting carnage, and red flag period/race stoppage occurring during the first three hours of the 1000km event made for what turned out to be an eventful afternoon in the Ardennes.

As the first in a string of many incidents, Audi’s Andre Lotterer would fall victim to greasy track conditions in, damaging the #9 R15+ during pre-race warmup. Despite sustaining damage to to the rear of the chassis, Lotterer later rejoined the race (albeit ten laps behind overall leaders).

Spinning at La Source during the opening lap, Peugeot’s #3 entry became the second victim of the day. The Oreca-entered Peugeot met a similar fate shortly after, with Panis suffering a race a ending shunt at Radion as a result of the dampened conditions. Peugeot’s charge at the head of the filed continued unhampered, cars 1/2 running in tandem, closely followed by the #7 Audi of McNish.

#8 Audi of Fassler, Lotterer, Treluyer.

Lotterer defends from Lamy after rejoining the race. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

By the close hour one, Peugeot had maintained positions 1-3.  Clever pit strategy by the Audi crew saw McNish utilise a brief caution period to take the race lead momentarily, before the race was red flagged due to a region-wide power outage. Racing resumed under green shortly after 2.5 hours. Both marques shared the lead at separate points throughout hour three, with Capello seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the Audi’s performance during rain soaked conditions.

The remaining hours of the race saw an intense chase to the flag. Pit strategy once again played a crucial role in deciding the victor. In a late race gamble, Audi would opt to return for intermediate tyres during the #7 car’s final pit stop. A move that allowed Kristensen to minimise the margin to race leader Simon Pagenaud to a mere 26 seconds before losing pace due to rapidly drying track surface.

Pagenaud pilots the #3 Peugeot during the final hour of the race. - Image courtesy Endurance-Magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

The seven time LM24 champion was left with little choice but to surrender to the pace of Sarrazin during the final laps of the race, relegating the #7 Audi to third overall. Pagenaud would cross the line in first to secure a 1-2 finish for the French marque.

Having commenced the day several laps down on its competitors (due to damage sustained during qualifying) the Strakka entry would be unable to regain time lost to competitors, and would later retire as a result of insufficient spare chassis supplies. RML was left to fly the remaining HPD flag.

Facing constant competition from OAK, and Quifel entries, the British team maintained a steady pace throughout the duration of the race that would see them take second in class.

OAK 3/4 positions.

OAK Racing's #35/24 Pescarolo-Judd entries running third/fourth. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

OAK’s Pescarolo-Judd package would again be outclassed by its competitors in terms of overall speed. Despite this, the teams’ #35/24 entries would secure third and fourth position in class. 2009 LMP2 series champions, Quifel regained their status as the team to beat after taking class victory.

Mathias Beche Matech Ford GT

Matech's Mathias Beche navigating a chicane between Le Combes and Malmedy. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

GT1 saw an influx of entrants fulfilling minimum (pre-LM24) series participation requirements. Despite speed and reliability issues, the presence of the classic supercar machinery was a notable addition to an already stellar field of GT runners. Having achieved an all-Ford front row in qualifying,  MarcVDS and Matech would continue to dominate throughout the event.

Despite the (short lived) presence of seasoned Le Mans Series competitors Luc Alphand Adventures, and a pseudo-AMR factory squad (YD-AMR). MarcVDS achieved its maiden LMS class victory, with Matech finishing a close second to round out a Ford dominated weekend in the category.

#96 AF Corse entry

Bruni pilots the #96 AF-Corse F430 to victory. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

Having taken pole position during Saturday’s qualifying session, the AF-Corse entry of Melo/Bruni looked set to be the Italian marque’s best hope of taking the fight to closest rivals, Porsche and BMW. The #96 maintained the class lead for most of hour one. Before a region-wide power failure, resulting in a prolonged red flag period, saw the Felbermayr entry of Lieb/Lietz inherit first position.

Melo would later take part in a lengthy battle for second position with AF-Corse sister car of Fisichella, Alesi and Vilander in the dying stages of the race. With the Schnitzer BMW of Andy Priaulx in close pursuit.

Lieb/Lietz Felbermayr Win

Felbermayr #77 of Lieb and Lietz take their second victory of the season. - Image courtesy Endurance-magazine.fr/Geoffroy Barre.

Following the restoration of power to the circuit and its facilities, racing resumed. The #77 Felbermayr crew (having been gifted a one lap buffer on their nearest rivals) later went on to battle with both CRS and Schnitzer entries during the remaining hours. In a flawless display by Porsche factory drivers Lieb and Lietz, the reigning LMS series champions secured their second victory of the season.

While their participation at Paul Ricard yielded less than desirable results, the Schnitzer BMW Motorsport crew were able to leave Spa with a more promising outlook. Both #78/79 cars displayed vastly improved pace over the course of the event, running as high as second and third during the race. Priaulx brought the #79 chassis to the checkered in fourth position to round out a vastly improved showing for the squad.

Punching above their weight once more, Formula Le Mans class participants provided fantastic viewing for onlookers. Hope PoleVision would run as high as fourth in category (that’s LMP2) at one point of the race, taking victory over fellow FLM participants Boutsen Energy Racing, and JMB Racing, taking second and third respectively.

Images courtesy Endurance-Magazine.fr // Geoffroy Barre