So, the first race of the Le Mans Series is upon us. In many ways, with the mass-exodus from the ALMS series, this is now the most important endurance series. This will be the first battle of the year for Audi and Peugeot. Audi have brought a factory works team with their revision of last years losing new car, Dindo and McNish driving, to try and take down the Peugeot 908 customer Oreca team. Peugeot lent Oreca Sarrazin, their factory works driver that I want to be: he's raced Formula 1, Formula 3000, ALMS, LMES, WRC, IRC, WSR, won LMS, and has come in 2nd at Le Mans. That is variety! And to tack on even more, he's driven in two different classes for endurance racing: GT1 and LMP1.
Prediction: Audi qualified 2nd, but I pick them.
Hope: Oreca Peugeot is on pole, but it's their first race in a new car. That spells trouble in the pits.
Hope Beyond Hope: There's some really cool cars this time. It would be nice to see Aston Martin beat both the big guys. Nigel Mansell is there with two other Mansells in a Ginetta. The other Oreca is doing quite well. But I'm going to be rooting for cars 12 & 13 of Rebellion Racing: a pair of beautiful Lola B10/60s that have stolen my heart with their amazingly garish paint job. Is that gold leaf? Why yes, yes it is in fact.
Prediction: Strakka's Acura is on pole, and it's got a damn good shot.
Hope: The Pescarolo-Judd of Oak Racing.
Hope Beyond Hope: Racing Box or RML. Sexy, sexy Lolas. Stealing my hearts again.
GT1: Oreca Saleen. So yes, I am obsessed with the racing Saleen GT1s. But they're the only car which showed up. Which means they get the win if they finish!!! YES!!! For once it's not embarrassing to root for Saleen again! Oh, except for the fact that they're not much quicker than the GT2 cars.
Prediction: AF Corse Ferrari F430.
Hope: JMW Aston Martin Vantage (Not going to happen)
Hope Beyond Hope: SPYKER. Fucking love SPYKER. Like rooting for Saleen usually though: exercise in emotional hopelessness.
This looks to be a VERY exciting race. These drivers spent a two day test weekend on this track, now they've run another four hours on it this weekend alone, and that's just this year. This track gets a lot of use, these drivers are pretty familiar with it, but it's still the first race of the year, and that means excitement. Lots of it. This will also start to flush out the picture for Le Mans, though Audi didn't bring their new car. Looks to be an interesting weekend.
Results of Practices & Qualifying.
Results of the Test Session.
Result: Man can I pick 'em. I either need to start gambling, or become a racing journalist.
LMP1: Audi won, Aston Martin and Racing box took second and third, Peugeot had trouble in the pits and ended up fourth. Now I'm going to finally post a gorgeous picture of the Racing Box cars. Get ready for shiny gold leaf paint job on a Lola. Are you prepared for this? This is their press shot cropped down a bit:
And one more of the car in action at the 2010 Test at the same course this 8 Hour ran over, all dolled up in stickers now, but still gorgeous:
I could not help but root for them. And they got 3rd and 11th. Not bad, gods of gold leaf, not bad.
In LMP2 I called the Podium: Strakka, Oak, RML. That's right: I called the podium. However, what surprised me very much, was Oak finishing on the same lap as Strakka, 33 seconds back. But, we can chalk that up to the Acura's mechanical problems, as usual. No wonder they got out of the racing game - it's not good advertising if your car breaks down every bloody race that lasts more than 3 hours.
GT1: Bear with me here - I've been waiting years to say this and I just might explode from my excitement. SALEEN WINS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Enough Exclamation points? Well, you know, they were the only car to show up, and they still got beat by the top five GT2 cars, but still, SALEEN WINS!!! (I held myself back on the exclamation points that time. Better?) Here's a sexy picture of the Saleen that won:
GT2: Insanity, as always. Did I get anything right here? Nope. JMW Aston Martin dropped out of the race early - 65 laps in. Spyker finished well, 8th in class, but that was dead last of the GT2 cars that finished though. AF Corse was the leading Ferrari, but surprise or surprises, a Porsche 1-2 again. How many years since we've seen one of those? Nice work to Felbermeyr Proton Racing, taking home 1st and 2nd in the same team in front of a pack of Ferraris has got to feel good at the end of the day. AF Corse took 3rd and 5th with the only other surviving Ferrari in 4th. The BMW actually finished, which is nice, taking home a 6th place, while the IMSA Porsche fit into the slot between BMW and Spyker. All in all, a LOT of retirements: Half of the Ferraris retired, three of them, my Aston Martin retired too quickly, and a single Porsche fell. Does this signal the return to dominance of the Porsche? I mean they've been doing quite well over in the Nurburgring Long Distance Championship with their new Hybrid race car. We'll see how they stack up when they come to the ALMS later this year.
Looking Towards Le Mans: Anyways, it's hard to tell from one race alone how good the R15+ is going to be this year, especially since Audi always treats the first race of the season as an extended test, rather than a race. But they did set the fastest lap of the race on lap 221: 1:42.541. The fastest Peugeot lap was 1:43.166. But does that really tell us anything? It's the first outing for this customer car and this team. Peugeot, on the other hand, beat Aston Martin by three laps in the 12 hours of Sebring and Audi beat them by five here. This though, means nothing as these are two very different tracks and racing events. We'll have to wait and see which of the big boys can pull it out.