The First Five Minutes:
#39 Kruse Lola-Mazda peeled off into the pits for gas. Odd strategy. Hope it works out for them. Never seen it before. Wait a sec, the stops not according to plan! They backed it into the garage! On the grid they tightened an oil pipe and this is probably their continuation of that.
McNish is passed in the middle of Mulsanne! Peugeot just reeled him in effortlessly! McNish is still defending against the Pescarolo Peugeot.
Frank Montagny leads after lap 1 with a broken leg. Pescarolo still in 4th!
Oh, I'll also be rooting for Team Seattle in GT2! I forgot about them.
At the start of Lap 2, on Mulsanne, McNish lost another place.
Let's hope Pescarolo can take him as well.
In GT1, the JLOC is pushed into the garage and the Aston Martin is as well. DAMN! That was quick. 1 lap to be precise.
End of the First Five Minutes.
Pedro Lamy is attacking Montagny. McNish has 1.5 seconds on Pescarolo.
On lap 3 an Audi works team car (#3) goes off at Indianapolis with Premat at the wheel!
One of the Ginetta-Zyteks and #97 BMS Ferrari both drop into the pits with issues.
First scheduled pit stops at 10 laps in! The Peugeot #7 hit the #17 Pescarolo Peugeot in the pits - the Peugeot #7 gets waved out of the pit box right in front of the oncoming Pescarolo #17! The best quote from John at Radio Le Mans so far is, "And this is why Peugeot can't win Le Mans - because they are incompetent in the pits!" HAHAHA So true!
McNish leads and Audi has not pitted yet, except the #3 after the wreck on lap 3.
41 minutes into it and the Peugeot #7 shed its tyre on Mulsannes, after skewering itself on an Aston Martin in the pits. Safety Car is out because the #7 is spreading debris.
McNish pits under safety car.
Here, the sun is just coming up over the Rockies, Le Mans is on, and I'm drinking a bear at 6:00 AM. Life is just good sometimes.
The safety car has dodged back into the pits. We're back to full speed coming into hour 2.
The damage to the #17 Pescarolo Peugeot seems to be more substantial than first thought. Even though it was pretty low-speed, the location appears to have damages the floor, ride height is off, or something is wanked and they're off pace. Damn. I wanted Henri to FINALLY take down Audi. I hope they can pull it off still.
The #17 is repaired fairly quickly.
With ten minutes left in hour two, the performance of the 007 and 008 has been fantastic so far. I hope they can begin to challenge the diesels, but even if they can't, they're running a good, clean race, and having a damn good fight between them for 5th place.
At the end of the hour there was fantastic footage of the Peugeot #8 forgetting to stop on its way into the pit box and almost killing the stop board man. Oh dear.
In the last second of the hour the #10 has a big off! Tetre Rouge claims another one. They are managing to limp it around the track without the rear wing.
Felbermayr lost one car.
Damn it's a good race out at the front this year!
So at the mid-point in the hour, everybody came in for pits, and everybody went out. Peugeot didn't spear anybody this time. Currently, Audi has 5 cars in the top ten, two generations worth.
The Japanese Lamborghini Owners Club Lambo has officially been retired after completing only 1 lap of the race.
I'm off for a bit to head over to Gaspain's house to smoke cigars, have steak, and watch the race.
So, we're all set up here and watching the race. Nothing much changed while I drove. Radio Le Mans guys are commentating on the Speed Chanel coverage, which just started.
The pace has slowed up a bit: over the last half hour, Audi has stayed at the same pace but Peugeot has slowed a couple of seconds. Perhaps realizing they don't need to go flat out when they have a four second per lap flat out advantage?
Team Endurance Asia is having issues on Mulsanne's Straight.
Pace is back up now for the Peugeots. Last was a 3:29. Must have just been traffic.
At the end of the 4th Hour, Audi has jumped back up to the #2 spot with Marco Werner in the #2.
Heading into the Fifth Hour I'm paying more attention to GT2 since the front runners seemed to have sorted themselves out a bit. Flying Lizard, from pole, is 18 seconds down off the IMSA Matmut. I'm happy with the performance of the GT2 Spyker Squadron - beautiful car, horrible paint job - and the GT2 Aston Martin: both are running pretty clean and only 3-4 seconds off pace. We all know, at Le Mans, that is sometimes enough.
Rinaldo Capello just turned in Audi's fastest lap at 71 laps with a 3:28.520, then a 3:28.556! Dindo is FLYING in the #1!
Sun is just starting to go down. Thunder & Lightning is forecast for the night.
#3 Audi locked up and went off at the first chicane on Mulsannes.
Hankook lost a tyre on Mulsannes.
009 just slammed the Radical #26 off at Ford Chicanes, hard hit, me and Gaspain were thinking it's out for the race, then they started it up again and drove it into the pits. AMAZING. The wheel was destroyed. Gaspain: "The wheel had a crumple zone." HAHA. Safety car is out and everybody jumps into the pits.
As the end of hour five, the safety cars dived into the pits and HOLY CRAP racing happened. That's why I watch Le Mans. Anyways, #3 Audi is having... issues. Lots of issues. In the garage as we go into hour 6.
LMP2 Big battle for the front! Team Goh has taken the lead from Essex! They're going around nose-to-tail. As a fan, God I love safety cars sometimes.
A friend remarked: “Dindo just went 3:27:192 in the 2 Audi, fastest lap for a Audi so far, the 8 was 3:26:436. The gap between the 908 and R15s is only a little more than half what it was last year in pure speed.” And last year Audi won.
The #17 Pescarolo Peugeot (or Poogot, for those so inclined) got up to 5th before diving in for a routine stop, dropping back to 7th but RIGHT on the tail of the 008 & 007 Aston Martins.
009 is back in the pits with electrical problems. Pushed out, tried, then sent back in.
Audi #3 is still in the garage, 15 laps down from where it was before. It's been there a LONG time.
007 has a flat on Mulsanne's Straight. It's being limped back around.
The Peugeot #8 is backed into the garage, from lead. Checked rear suspension, lost the lead, lost second, lost third, then took the rear suspension off and replaced it. Left the pits 9:26 minutes later.
1/4 Into the Race (After 6 Hours): We've got our first real leader change: the #9 now leads, 45 seconds ahead of the two Audis. The #3 is tied up in the pits getting a very significant rebuild. The two Porsche RS Spyders are still battling it out for the lead of LMP2. GT1 is Corvette, Corvette, Corvette, Corvette, and Aston Martin WAY back there. GT2 is Risi's to win right now. Flying Lizard is 6th. Spyker has held on and is still in 7th.
TK (Tom Kristiansen) just made his first appearance. Mister Le Mans steps into the second place car. The best driver ever around these parts.
Pescarolo #8 has taken 4th. It is 2 laps off the lead lap, but closing down at 3 seconds a lap.
The #2 Audi, in third, has a big off in the Porsche curves. This could result in an Audi retirement. Aparently something broke going into the corner and Luhr sent it into a tyre wall. He got it started while getting towed, then stalled it. Couldn't get it started after the tow rope came off and was oficially retired.
Battle between 008 and 17 is awesome. 17 takes the place.
As the sun sets, the 8 continues working its way back up the grid. Sebas (Sebastian Bourdais) is in, and ROCKING.
The Audi #3 is back out of the garage and in the race.
Only 4 cars have been retired so far today. Quite a safe race this year! Good to see that.
008 just went back into the pits.
#3 is back in the pits as well.
Spyker steps up a place. Consistent today!
Kolles has gone up to 6th overall in one of their Audi R10s.
LMP2 leaders are still just 6 seconds apart. The sun is down. We'll see if the lightning comes tonight.
And right at the end of the hour, Kristiansen gets wheeled back into the garage from second place! Short stop to blow crap out of the car. Audi's car is badly designed and picks shit up into the cockpit that they have to blow out every once in a while. Bourdais gets past.
TK sets Audi's fastest lap, at 3:27.192.
Top 7: Peugeot, Peugeot, TK, Pescarolo, Aston Martin, then the two Kolles R10s.
Spyker's consistent day just got less consistent with a stop-go penalty.
Goh racings LMP2 got pushed back into the pits. It takes them three laps to get the car back out there, ending the awesome LMP2 battle.
The Bruichladdich Radical #26 that was pushed into the wall by the 009 was fixed up after 5 hours, including “Mostly rebuilding an exhaust system.” It was fixed with duct tape, aluminum foil, and chicken wire.
The #92 JWW Ferrari had a problem with the door, at second place in GT2. Then got back out.
The IMSA #74 Porsche has retired with a clutch failure.
Midnight in Le Mans. The race at the front is mellow now, but the race for 7th is awesome: 7th-10th are all on the same lap to begin this hour, with 7th and 8th less than 9 seconds apart.
Power outage on parts of the track causing increased darkness.
009 driver Stuart Hall was asked to not compete any longer for the damage to the #26 Radical that went off in hour 5. That means the remaining two drivers, Harold Primat and Peter Cox, will have to finish the race without him.
Audi just cleaned out a car again. Apparently, speed detailing is all the rage at Le Mans this year.
Pescarolo just changed their tyre pressure.
Top 7 haven't changed. But the pace has increased a lot!
008 served a lengthy stop-n-go – 4 minutes lengthy, actually – for punting the #72 Lu Alphand car into the walls, ending the #72's chances today.
The #8 Peugeot ion third is close to the #1 Audi in second. The battle commences. The #8, with Serrazin inside, just turned in a 3:24.844 - fastest of the race so far.
The Audi #1, with McNish at the wheel, is back on the lead lap.
The 009 is wheeled back into the garage. Again. These guys can't catch a break today! They used this as a test car for their new engine all week, and it is worn out now.
The #8 Peugeot, and #1 Audi are nose-to-tail, battling for second.
At the end of the first half, we've got a big off between the #12 Signature Plus Oreca and the Team Modena #84 Ferrari around the Dunlop bridge. The gravel has trapped the Oreca. They get a tow.
1/2 Update - We're Halfway Through! In the last six hours we have seen a lot more retirements. We are down to 48 officially on the books now. Dear God this race never disappoints. Here's to continuing safety! *Cracks another beer*
The #7 Peugeot had a bit of trouble with the nose, again, and had to replace it, again, which seems to take a bunch of time every time they do it.
McNish came into the pits from second and the rear bodywork came off. Replaced brake pads. 2:49. Holy crap that's fast for a brake pad change and pit stop! They still lost a place though, and they're now in 3rd. Apparently by replacing a brake pad the pit stop only took 1:20 extra time. Astounding.
The #66 GT1 Aston Martin got stuck in some kitty litter. Got underway after a couple of minutes and a tow.
Peugeot had to clean out their radiators again too. They have the coolest invention this year: a replaceable filter in front of the radiators - like in a heating unit or AC unit at home. So when the radiator isn't sucking in enough air, they just yank out the filter, slide in a new one, and off they go. Audi, on the other hand, keeps having to get out the Hoover and the air compressor.
The #17 Pescarolo Peugeot has gone off in a big, scary way with Benoit Treluyer at the wheel. The safety cars are out, as are the ambulances. The driver is not moving. The esses just after the Dunlop was the scene. He had just come out of the pits and changed his nose and engine cover and not sure if he lost one of those under braking, causing massive loss of down force and the crash we see. Safety car has been out for half an hour so far and the driver is just getting loaded into the ambulance. The driver is extricated and placed in a vacuum splint, then hauled off in the ambulance. The just announced that he was conscious when extracted. That car just saved his life: the monocoque chassis and the driver are ALL that's left.
Pit strategies under this safety are interesting. Some came in right away, and with how long this is lasting, they're going to have to stop early after racing begins again. Corvette and Risi Competizione, on the other hand, pitted every time around filling up the fuel, and because of the safety car, didn't lose any place. Fantastic strategy. No wonder those two American teams are on top. After 47 minutes, the safety cars came off. Cars are back up and running full speed.
Another safety car is out for - it appears to be - fluid on the track. Dangerous stuff at night. Both the #30 Racing Box and Team Goh are wheeled back into the garage with contact damage. Team Goh is still running second in LMP2. The #80 Flying Lizard went off with the oil and wrecked big, spreading debris just before the safety car was to come back in. The safety car is staying out a long time now. Just to be on the safe side.
The #66 GT1 Aston Martin is hurting. Again. This time under safety. Still an awesome car though.
After a boring hour 15, we're back under green. As the sun rises at Le Mans, under green, it's the best racing there is. After both the long Safety Cars, #9 Peugeot is in the lead, then #8 Peugeot, then #1 Audi, 007 Aston Martin, then Kolles' two R10s. Fantastic race for Kolles so far.
The #80 Flying Lizard Porsche GT2 is officially retired after their off last hour. They were leading part of the race in GT2, but a series of minor issues had pushed them down the order until the crash under safety pushed them over the edge. That's a great, professional, progressive team from Silicon Valley, California. Sad to see them go.
TK is back in and lost a lap immediately coming out of the pits. So he's RIGHT up the tailpipe of the Peugeot.
#35 Mazda exits pit lane on fire.
Sun is up and bright in the eyes of the drivers as they drive beneath the Dunlop bridge.
The top three cars - 9, 8, and 1 respectively - are separated by a lap each. 007 is up in 4th. The Kolles guys have dropped down. The top two cars in LMP2 are now separated by 3 laps. And in GT2 we still have Risi on top, but the battle for 3rd is epic with a 1.9 second gap between the BMS and JMW Ferraris. Spyker is still running consistently at 7th.
Dr. Ulrich was just seen asleep! 7:13 AM Le Mans local time and Dr. Ulrich was asleep! At Le Mans!
Team Goh just pulled back a lap on Essex.
008 is in the pits and torn apart. Big fix. Could be preventative to see what might be happening on their 4th placed 007 car.
Big plume of smoke from the #15 Audi R10 at the second chicane, may have just been a tyre lock-up.
#35 Mazda on fire. Again.
Montagy is back in the #8 at second position and only 1:28 down from their sister car. We could have a Peugeot battle coming.
Such a fantastic battle coming as the cars tighten up. I forsee a #8 and #9 battle coming. Hopefully a battle for LMP2 lead as well. The 007 is performing well and if one of the three front-runners has a problem, 007 is only 6 laps back and COULD pick up a podium. The top two Corvettes in GT1 are separated by only 1:17. Battle on.
Team Seattle had an off at the second Mulsanne's chicane.
The JMW had a big off/spin/stall at the entry to the Porsche curves and could be out.
The #14 Kolles went straight off at Arnage. Got running again just fine.
The last remaining Pescarolo just got wheeled back into the garage from 6th place.
008 is having an engine problem. After being in the pits for about an hour, they went back out for a lap, then came back into the pits.
#13 Lola Aston Martin had a big off just after the Dunlop bridge. Got a tow, got passed by the Kolles #14, got it restarted, and the #13 is now battling for 6th place with the Kolles #14. Epic battle here.
The 3/4 Update: Six hours left and the race is on. People are pushing to try and gain that last couple of places and the race is always exciting here at the end. The big news is that rain should not show up this year! "There's always rain at Le Mans." But not this year. Yet. 14 retirements so far. And 1 driver.
The Oreca #11 is performing splendidly in 5th place.
ECU change in the Audi #1. TK: “I'm a driver, I don't know what they fixed.” HAHA
#82 Risi Ferrari, putting together a damn good race and solidly in first in GT2 for a long time now, just put a big plume of smoke into the French air with brake lock-up on his in-lap.
009 just went off into the tyre walls. Big hit at the first of the Porsche curves. Safety car out. The 009, I think, has finally given up the ghost. After Stuart Holl was excluded from the remainder of the competition, that cars two remaining drivers have been doing a fantastic job. Yep, driver is out and the 009 is done for the day.
The #11 Oreca just got wheeled out of the garage. Didn't see it go in, or hear why. Huh. That car is the highest placed privateer team. Hope they are alright. Must have just wanted to check a couple of things under safety.
Under safety still, the #9 Peugeot has an engine bay cover change.
The #15 Kolles has a spin on Mulsanne's straight and crashes while in tenth place. Will need repairs.
As the safety car dives back into pit lane, the two Peugeots are only 1:44 apart. But with the #15 spin, one of the two safety cars stays out. Odd.
Oh God! Almost two HUGE crashes with just one of the two safety cars out there – an ACO fuck up if I've ever seen one! On the straight right after Mulsannes, the #15 just about gets rear-ended by a gaggle of cars at speed while it tries to limp back to the pits. On the start finish line there is a stall of one of the black LMPs, not sure which one as it almost gets skewered as cars exit the Ford Chicanes at speed. Those were close!
Safety car also brought the #13 Lola-AM and the #14 Audi R10 up close to battle again. W00t!
#3 Audi has an off at Indianapolis, then gets back on quickly. That car is just hurting today.
At the start of the hour, the two Works Corvettes in GT1 are just 3.232 second apart! Corvette puts on a one-make show for their last GT1 race!
Rain is now forecast in the next hour! Looks like Jason Statham may turn out to be right: "It always rains at Le Mans." - Truth in 24
#64 Corvette took the lead from the sister #63 for the first time - for half a lap, then pitted.
Risi's Krohn car has a spin at Indianapolis.
The first glimpse of rain – more of a flirtation with a glimpse really. More rain expected in 10 minutes. And it never shows. Does the 10 seconds of rain count Statham?
Game on! 4 hours left.
#13 Lola Aston Martin is in 6th after taking the #14 Audi. The #7 Peugeot is reeling him in. And the #14 Audi is just behind Peugeot.
Spyker is running up in 6th again. They have been so consistent all day long.
The #1 Audi is in trouble! Looks like rear suspension! Aston Martin could get a podium with their 007! The Audi is wheeled back into the garage. It drops to 7 laps back due to rear suspension repairs. Dr. Ulrich says it's all fixed now. We'll see. 14 minutes of pit work doesn't help this late in the race. But they do get out of the pits just one lap in front of the 007. Audi better hope they got it all fixed!
Lots more #63 and #64 GT1 racing still going on. Beautiful racing in Corvette's last GT1 race.
Going into 3 hours left, the LMP2 battle I foresaw coming between Goh and Essex never happened and unless something goes wrong with Essex, it wont. There have now been 16 retirements.
Endurance Team Asia is still in it. The only other Porsche GT2 car still out there is the #76 IMSA.
#64 stopped on track just before pit entry. It has "lost drive." I guess it's a gearbox. Its nose is over the pit entry line but the marshals wont push it over and rules say the mechanics can't pull it over, so after eight years of GT1 dominance, the Corvette factory squad will finish the race with only one car, the #63.
Team Seattle just passed their $200,000 fund raising goal for Children's Hospital of Seattle. Being from those parts, that's good to hear.
LMP2 Goh Porsche has a spin at Playstation Chicane.
#76 IMSA Porsche, one of two remaining GT2 Porsches, has stopped at second chicane. They got back underway, but way off pace.
No! The Aston Martin #87 GT2 is pulled off track by the driver.
The #14 Audi R10 has locked up and threaded it's way through the tyres at the Playstation chicane. No damage.
Only two hours to go! Some interesting situations on track to open this hour: both the #64 GT1 Corvette and the #87 GT2 Aston Martin are stranded out on track. If the #64 is retired, then Luc Alphand is getting second and the GT1 DBR9 may get a podium!
The #13 Lola Aston Martin has trouble out on track. After being pushed off it's restarted and it has rejoined. It's still in sixth, behind the #11 Oreca. It goes into the pits.
The #24 Mazda has apparently caught flame, like it's sister car did way back in Hour 17.
The 007 spun and recovered under the Dunlop bridge on fresh tyres.
008, putting out a bit of smoke, is in the pits. Again.
Oh No! Team Goh's suspension popped under braking, slamming hard into the left hand wall then spinning through the Playstation chicane's tyres. That's a big, race-ending off and the safety car is back out. Driver is out and looks a bit shaken, but okay. He's walking on his own power. That's the chassis that won last year and was flipped in practice last year. Maybe it's finally a dead chassis? Well it gave it's life to save the driver's.
Meanwhile, another Mazda, this time the KSM, is not to be outdone and it dramatically bursts into flames in pit lane. They rolled it into the pit box. Poor Mazda this year!
The last hour here! The sun is coming up over here in Idaho and I'm getting pretty tired, but the last hour always gets me fired up again! We're still under safety from the Team Goh off at Playstation while they try and clean up the oil as quickly as possible. Those marshals and corner workers have been out there keeping everybody safe all day - they've got to be exhausted out there – but they're really busting their asses trying to get that oil cleaned up. Good for them. Great people, corner workers.
Team Essex is in the pits. Unsure what they're doing, either checking their suspension after the failure on the Goh car, or cleaning stuff off. Maybe they're just giving the car a rest now that it's main competitor has exited dramatically through the tyre at Playstation.
All but the LMP1 cars are pitted under safety and full up for the finish. Only problems or checkers should bring the back in now.
When this safety car comes off, the Audi will be just ahead of the two Peugeot's on track. Safety car is off! It's the 7, then Audi #1, then 9 on track behind one car, and the 8 and 3 together behind the other.
#1 – the leading Audi at third – is in the pits. It comes back out after a bit of extra attention and a REALLY close call with the hose getting hooked around the rear bodywork. Careful boys! You've got a podium, just don't lose it!
Race leader into the pits and out normally.
In GT2, the Spyker is in 5th, the highest non-Ferrari out there. Consistent, clean running has made the difference at Le Mans again! Way to go Spyker!
We're up to 20 retirements, including all the Porsche GT2 cars besides Asia Endurance, but I think they're short of the qualifying mark.
In LMP2 we've got Essex, Speedy, OAK, then Barazi-Epsilon.
In GT1 we've got #63, Luc Alphand's #73, and the Aston DBR9 as the only remaining cars.
LMP1 is Peugeot 1-2, Audi #1, Aston Martin 007, the #11 Oreca, Peugeot #7, Kolles' #14 R10, Pescarolo's Pescarolo #16, and Kolles' #15. 25 minutes to go.
Bourdais just slowed up to let the sister cars catch up. They're all on track but on different laps. The race pace has slowed dramatically as the leaders see the strength of their lead and this may turn out to be a 25 minute victory lap out there. All three Peugeots are now on the same stretch of race track in what I like to call "Sponsor Formation."
Oh no! The #63 has been pushed into the garage! They have to be running to win! Is Corvette finally going to make a mistake? Wait, what are they... HAHAHAHAHA They are polishing it! Corvette has just pulled the soon-to-win GT1 car into the pits to polish the shit out of it! Team owners, pit crew, drivers, mechanics – everybody is polishing this car up. It will win its final race today after eight years of power. God it looks good all polished! Fantastic race today for them, as usual. Bravo Corvette, bravo. I am entertained. And have been for a while!
The two Aston Martins are formed up on track in their sponsorship formation.
The two Audis have prepared their sponsorship formation as well.
This is shaping up to be a very photogenic finish! After almost 24 hours, these last couple of laps are really leisurely. Except in the #13 pits, where the car's finish is still in question. Those boys are FRANTIC down there.
The two remaining Corvettes, the freshly polished #63 and the #73 Lu Alphand, are formed up for their “Please GM don't kill us off, let us race in GT2!” shot.
Teams are all on the pit wall! This is it, the final lap!
OH MY GOD! As the Peugeot comes around the Ford Chicane to end the race, the #13 Aston Martin Lola just gets out of pit lane! You cannot cut it ANY closer than that. 5 or 10 seconds later and they would have been disqualified after having truly a fantastic race.
And Peugeot comes across the line 1-2 and the #7 car in sixth! It's Unofficial: Peugeot 1-2, Audi in Third. Le Mans 2009 is over, but the party has just begun at Le Sarthe.