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

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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