Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Philosophy of Masamune Shirow's Ghost in the Shell Manga, Volume 1

(Spoilers abound. If you haven't read it and want to read it cold, do so. It's been out in the West since 1995. Get on that. Actually, this will probably make little sense without first reading the book. Or you could read this wikipedia page and it might begin to make sense. This one might help too. But just read the comic book – that's the easiest way, and the most fun.)


Ghost in the Shell is both a movie and a manga. Well, technically two movies, two mangas, two video games, and three TV shows, but I'm only interested in the original manga, Volume 1 (1989-1990), on which the first movie (1995) is based. It became an important touchstone for cyberpunk and the anime boom. I argue that it should become an important touchstone for our cultural, philosophical history. Existing right at the rise of personal computers, the internet, and electronic gaming, this manga catalogs the philosophical influences during this changing period.


Masamune Shirow allows me to say something I've never understood before: Major Mutako Kusanagi is an existential hero in a post-modern world. Let me explain. The world itself, the technology, questions the primacy of the individual and individual experience through incidents like hacking into another human's brain and shared sensory inputs. Taking the individual experience and distilling it to information which can be shared questions a basic tenant of existentialism: that one's self exists before being distilled to an essence. This questioning of this existentialist tenant characterizes post-modernism still today. Post-modernism postulates that a togetherness, a community, a societal contract or construct gives subjective perspectives and experiences meaning, rather than existentialism's emphasis on the individual. Chief Daisuke Aramaki gives this post-modern tendency a voice in the manga. At the end of chapter three, when Kusanagi changes from the fun-loving girl to the brooding woman, the catalyst is Aramaki explaining: “Whether it is a simulated experience or a dream, the information that exists is all real... and an illusion at the same time.” Kusanagi responds with a question: “You mean in the same way novels and films change people?” Aramaki replies, “Most people will never know.” In this exposition, the idea that truth and illusion are distinguishable solely by perspective reveals the post-modern tendencies of Kusanagi's context, her world. To follow this up and ensure that the reader understands, Shirow begins chapter four with robots debating the difference between simulations and “real-time events”, concluding “no matter how we interpret the situation, it's the same.” In other words, situations don't give meaning – if they did we would all experience everything the same. Perspective and interpretation bring meaning to the table. This post-modernism underscores Kusanagi's experience. From “Ape Face” Aramaki's comments to Kusanagi's job as a mind hacker, her entire world shoves post-modernism down her throat.


Kusanagi doesn't really accept it though. She retains a belief in the primacy of the individual. And when Aramaki points out the sameness of simulations and dreams at the end of chapter three, Kusanagi falls into a classic existential angst. Shirow exposes Kusanagi's textbook reaction most blatantly in chapter five through her musing, “Sometimes I wonder if I've really already died, and what I think of as 'me' isn't really just an artificial personality comprised of a prosthetic body and cyberbrain.” After two chapters of Kusanagi obviously depressed, this musing illuminates the cause for her unrest. She maintains that she cannot be distilled to an essence, but that belief doesn't mesh with her world – especially as she questions even her existence. This disparity between belief and experience launches her into the existential angst that she experiences throughout the rest of the book. But she confronts her angst actively and head-on – a tactic which makes her an existential hero. She actively questions her own experiences, existence, and everybody around her. Her state identifies a common theme in the history of philosophy during this time period: neither post-modernism nor existentialism explain human experience. It seems that some people retreat to a syncretic dose of both.

But then Shirow pulls a masterful move and introduces the Puppeteer – a hyper-rational being. When the Puppeteer first appears in chapter nine, it espouses a commonly known Descartes quote: “What you witness here is my will as a self-aware life-form.” This paraphrase of “cogito ergo sum” immediately explains the Puppeteer's position as the rationalist. Like Descartes, it turns within itself to find the basis of knowledge: its self-awareness proves its existence independent of any sensory experience. However, it uses the experience of its will acting on the world to attempt to communicate its own knowledge of its existence to the people around it. This syncretic blending of rationalism and empiricism paraphrases what I think of as Kant's ideas. To further drive the point home, a bystander accuses the Puppeteer of being “only a program designed for self-preservation.” It responds with, “I cannot prove it to you. Modern science, after all, still cannot define life.” This comment enforces the Puppeteer's philosophy: it knows that it exists but because the other people do not have its own self-awareness they can doubt its existence. In other words, a being can only know its own existence, not that of anybody around it. However, the scientific process it alludes to allows theories of knowledge based on rigorous examination of experiences. The Puppeteer's initial words appeal to Kusanagi, who clings to her individuality while attempting to understand the world around her.


The stage is then set for the finale. The lines drawn between the proponents of the three major philosophies of the late twentieth century. Aramaki is the poster boy of post-modernism, Kusanagi the poster girl of existentialism, and the Puppeteer is the poster being of rationalism. The Puppeteer attempts to find a human to “fuse” with – to create a syncretic being between the two. It is the only one of its kind and needs diversity to both continue existing and to create more of its kind. This desire hearkens back to Aristotle's basis of humanity: “Humans, having the gift of speech and the sense of right and wrong, are by nature a political animal.” (Politics I.2) The word “political” here means two things: we need to be a part of a society larger than ourselves, and we need to have discourse. As the only one of its kind, the Puppeteer has neither, and realizes that it needs both to continue existing. To the Puppeteer, fusing consciousness with another being is the easiest way to attain discourse and a part in a society larger than itself.



Kusanagi agrees to its plan at the end. But she asks the Puppeteer, among other similar questions, “Any guarantee I could continue to be me?” She clings to her individuality in the face of fusing. It is based in a fear of the unknown for her – evident through another of her questions, “So what happens if I die?” Her incessant questioning since chapter three finds its match in the Puppeteer though. To every question Kusanagi poses, it responds with either rational approximations of “I don't know”, or actual answers. In the end, though, Kusanagi agrees for one simple reason: her existential angst is predicated on losing her identity in chapter three, and the offer to fuse is an offer of a new identity. In other words, when she began to question even her own experience, her experience offered two answers: post-modernism's understanding of “reality” as possible of illusion, or creating another existence for herself. The Puppeteer offered the easiest path to another existence for her, and she took it.


This melding of rationalism and existentialism creates a new type of being. Kusanagi explains it by saying, “This is the cosmic species – the seed.” The evolutionary step that Kusanagi takes allows her new identity to gain permanence, but she is changed. She is neither Kusanagi, nor the Puppeteer. Her evolution is based in rationalism and existentialism, while being permanent.


This is an allegorical manga through and through. Yes, there are boobs and guns and computer geekery, but Ghost in the Shell Volume 1 is Masamune Shirow attempting to find a path between these three philosophical ideas so important in the late twentieth century. It entertains and illuminates the specifics of our philosophical situation. As such, it should remain a cultural touchstone for generations – not because of the anime boom or cyberpunk, but because of its nature as an allegory of the philosophical quandary that resulted from the twentieth century.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Digital Cigar Journal #1: California


I spent two and a half weeks in an area where cigars are plentiful – California. I used my time appropriately and tried many cigars that I had not before. I decided before I left to try only new cigars on the trip, to never buy a cigar I have had before, and to try only one of each cigar. I only failed four or five times. Of course, one cannot understand a cigar based on just one smoke, but here are the results of those single-cigar tasting sessions:

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Mild Cigars:
Alec Bradley American Classic Blend:
This was a brilliant Connecticut cigar. It forgoes the recent fascination with spicy cigars wrapped in America's best wrappers and sticks to what Connecticuts do best: smooth, creamy, flavorful, satisfying. I will buy some more, both to let my wife – who loves creamy, smooth, mild cigars – try them, and to have some more myself. $3.50-$5 per cigar in a box.

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Medium Cigars: There are a lot here

Alec Bradley Family Blend:
We'll start the mediums with the best cigar I had on the trip, the Alec Bradley Family Blend. A delicious and inviting scent on the nose was followed up by a lit flavor that tasted of tasty, excellent, and alluring flavors. This was Honduras at its finest. Complex, subtle, and delicious while remaining balanced and focused. The Criollo wrapper was perfect and luscious. I want a number of boxes of these. And I want that number to be large. It was so so so good. If I had to compare it to a cigar it would be a more balanced, subtle, nuanced, and smooth Man of War. It is also similar to Punch. That was my impression. I had 2, on a trip when I told myself I would never smoke the same cigar twice or smoke something I had tried before. $5-$6 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Tempus:
This was spicy. This wasn't spicy. This overwhelmed my palette with pepper and leather, then left an aftertaste of nuts and sweetness on the tongue. The mix was odd, like sweet and sour sauce, but like the Northwest weather, it works – sunny one minute, thunder the next, and sunny the one after. This was a fantastic journey, this cigar. This tasted like a spicy Medium cigar should, and like a smooth medium cigar should. This is a mix of Honduran smoothness and sweet with Nicaraguan spice and spirit. I heard Cigar Afficianado rated it a 94, and you know what? I would agree. At least a 94, if not more. I did not try the Tempus Maduro. $6-$9 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Maxx:
If you're looking for complexity, this fits the bill. I'll be honest, it confused me. There are tobaccos from four countries inside the cigar, a fifth country provides the binder, and it's all wrapped up by a Maduro leaf from Nicaragua. With that much going on in my mouth, I couldn't separate flavors very well. My overall impression was that the Maxx was great and I wanted more. Flavor wise, the Maduro wrapper was quite dominant in my experience, and that wasn't a bad thing at all. I will try this one again because there is more for me to explore there, and I think I'll be quite pleased. I did not try the Brazilian or Connecticut Maxx, just the Honduran. $5.55 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Black Market:
Half of this cigar's leaves are from the fabled Jamastran valley in Honduras – and it shows through in delicious smoothness and a quintessential Honduran flavor profile. But, this Honduran masterpiece is modified by the addition of Panamanian tobacco. Yes, Panamanian. I cannot remember ever smoking or even hearing about Panamanian tobacco before. But after smoking this, it is unfortunate that America had to give up Panama. This ties with the Tempus as my second favorite Alec Bradley cigar, but I'm more likely to buy another one of these because it was a flavor profile that I am less used to. There were notes of tea and peat to pair with the Alec Bradley preferences of leather and a touch of pepper. Delicious, intriguing, and smooth. Not as smooth as the Family Blend, but not as bipolar as the Tempus. The Black Market, to me, fit right in between the two perfectly. $6-$7 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley Prensado:
I had two on this trip, and had one months before. The first one I had was good, but I was intoxicated and outside surrounded by ten other cigars, so I was looking forward to trying this one with a little less going on around me. I tried it and liked it less than the first time. Then I tried it a third time, being surprised that a cigar with such universal acclaim didn't interest me at all, and concluded that it was a good cigar, but not worth the money. Every other Alec Bradley blend that I tried was more interesting and pleasing to me than the Prensado. It is a good cigar, but it isn't for me. Especially not at that price point. I missed this bus. $7.50-$10 per cigar in a box.

Alec Bradley New York:
To me, this tasted like a Family Blend crossed with an American Blend. It was good, but amongst the Tempus, Family Blend, American Blend, and Black Market, this didn't seem to fit. It was smoky in the mouth and the room note was sweet, but without the Alec Bradley contrasting pepper, I wasn't able to catch the magic of this cigar. There was an oakiness that is also a Bradley characteristic, but like the Prensado, I came away scratching my head. This is certainly a good cigar, but I do not plan on buying another one. Only available in New York, supposedly. $5.50-$7 per cigar in a box online.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Habano:
The wrapper let this cigar down. It was thin and didn't quite converse with the filler and binder the way that I felt it should – leaving a lack of balance that wasn't as enjoyable as I had hoped. It was a tasty cigar, and I enjoyed my experience, but I felt that a higher quality wrapper could have really made this cigar amazing. And it detracts from the experience when I'm smoking it thinking, “This is so close, it could be so much better.” I do not plan on ever purchasing a box of these, but a five pack sounds about right. $4-$6 per cigar in a box.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Sumatra:
A friend gave me this, and it wasn't my favorite. I got an odd aftertaste throughout the whole cigar – something like pencil shavings with a bitter, oily taste. I think, honestly, that the cigar was just not smoked at the right time. There was potential here. I could sense some things happening around the edges that really wanted to resolve into interesting discourses, but they may not have been mature enough to have those discussions yet. Anyways, I might get a couple of these and age them a year to see how they turn out. They were sold out of these at Sequoia Cigar Company for the whole two weeks I was there – they must be popular with somebody. $4-$6 per cigar in a box.

Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary:
This was good. It is a Nicaraguan binder and filler wrapped in an Ecuadorian wrapper and it is good. I don't quite know how to explain it. Maybe it is like a full-bodied cigar on a diet. It looks and smells oily and dark, but smokes decidedly medium and smooth. Perhaps a touch more spice or flavor or body could've really made this cigar one of my favorites of the trip, but as it sits, I do not plan on another. It isn't exciting enough. Rocky Patel makes so many good cigars, and so many bad cigars. This, to me, might be his first cigar between the two extremes. It's good, and I'd like to try another, but I'll be unlikely to because there are so many other good cigars out there. $8 per cigar in a box.

Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon Sixty:
I had tried this cigar before, but not this size. It came out in 2011 and, up until this trip, was my top new cigar tried in 2012. However, this size, the 6” by 60 ring gauge "Sixty", was bad. It lacked what makes the sizes with smaller ring guages so good – the focus of the cigar on the pristine Cameroon wrapper. It says it right on the label – Cameroon. But in this size, the filler overpowered the perfect wrapper and made the smoke lackluster and bland. Not at all what I expected or wanted. I will certainly buy many more Vintage 2003 Cameroons, but never again the big Sixty: there is too much filler for this specific wrapper to keep up with. $9.75 per cigar in a box.

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Full Bodied Cigars:

Oliva Series V:
Delightful. It was exactly what I expected it to be: a Nicuraguan Puro wrapped in a thick, Sun-Grown Habano wrapper that delivers spice in spades. It's not all one-sided though: notes of oil and earth blended into the first third before resolving into a slight coffee and chocolate in the second third. The third third also saw the introduction of a welcome leather undertone and a pine flavor that provided a needed freshness on the tongue after all that oil. In all, this is a perfectly balanced cigar and a true pleasure. I understand, when smoking it, why it costs so much – and as a consumer, I guess that's the most I can ask for. $6-$8.50 per cigar in a box.

Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Mexico:
This blew me away. My second favorite cigar from the trip. This was full and spicy and, with the Mexican wrapper, even a touch salty – but nothing compared to the usual Mexican tobacco experience of smoking a salt lick. I got some flavors out of it that were recognizable, but it was hard to notice over the chorus of rejoicing in my mouth. In my mind, Don Pepin Garcia has such consistency and quality in full-bodied cigars that he is the best full-bodied blender around. This cigar is another piece of evidence for my opinion. It is perfect. I want a lot more of these right now. $3-$4 per cigar in a box.

Drew Estates Liga Privada T52:
I hate flavored cigars. What I like about cigars is the tobacco flavor. If I wanted to taste grape or brandy I would eat a grape or drink some brandy. That said, Drew Estates are the most popular flavored cigars in the world. They have tried unsuccessfully to make unflavored cigars before and have failed every time. Until now. They released three cigars that people like me like, and on this trip I tried my first, and I loved every second of it. There was that tinge of regret when I put it out that means I will be back for more. It was complex, nuanced, and full of rich flavors. It was like a symphony in my mouth with many movements that I could almost catch. I adored my first experience with the Liga Privada/Undercrown line and can't wait for more. $9.75-$12.50 per cigar in a box.

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So if I have to rate these, here are the eight I hope to purchase more of:
1. Alec Bradley Family Blend – Astoundingly smooth and flavorful
2. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Mexico – The perfect Mexican cigar
3. Alec Bradley Black Market – Interesting and delectable
3. Alec Bradley Tempus – Bipolar and alluringly rewarding
5. Oliva Series V – Delightfully balanced and nuanced
6. Alec Bradley American Classic Blend – Creamy and smooth nailed
7. Drew Estated Liga Privada T52 – Deliciously meaty
8. Alec Bradley Maxx – Perhaps over complex, but needs more exploration

These ones I probably will not buy again:
9. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Habano – Lacks flavor
9. Don Pepin Garcia My Father Cigars La Reloba Seleccion Sumatra – Probably not aged long enough
9. Rocky Patel Vintage 2003 Cameroon Sixty – Overpowers an amazing wrapper
12. Rocky Patel 15th Anniversary – Can't decide whether it wants to be full or medium
13. Alec Bradley Prensado – I missed the bus
14. Alec Bradley New York – Doesn't fill a niche flavor profile or offer a strong enough case to create its own

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Where I live, there are no cigar stores that sell Alec Bradley. The nearest I know of is too far away for me to have tried anything of his but for a single Prensado given to me by a friend. When I walked into Sequoia Cigar Company (above) and saw all of their Alec Bradleys, I decided to try all they had. And I did.


Alec Bradley makes amazing sticks. He is quickly starting to rival Punch in defining Honduran tobacco in my mind. His cigars are often contradictory – sweet and spicy simultaneously – and that makes them fascinating to me. His flavor preferences are pepper, leather, nuts, oak, and an odd sweetness that I can't pin down. Almost mango-ish, but also sort of like a pine needle tea or, or, um... I don't know. It's a sweetness. That's all I can say. Anyways, I was quite pleased with my Alec Bradley exploration and will return to the American Blend, Maxx, Tempus, Black Market, and Family Blend as many times as possible in the future. I did not get to try his Occidental Reserve, Tempus Maduro, Select Cabinet Reserve, Harvest, Maxx Brazilian, Vice Press, Spirit of Cuba, Special Blends, or Kensington Connecticut Reserve. Based on the strength of what I have tried though, I look forward to more Alec Bradley in my future.


Meanwhile, Rocky Patel still seems to be making hundreds of new blends a year. You think he would've noticed that the larger Vintage 2003 lacks what makes the blend so great. Or that he would've realized that a bit more spice or body would've made the 15th Anniversary exciting. However, his inconsistent path has brought us so many gems – the Edge Corojo, the Vintage 1999, the Vintage 2003, the Vintage 1992, the 2011 Winter Blend, and the Decade – that his many, many misses are more humorous than annoying today.


Don Jose Pepin Garcia is a full-bodied master. His foray into a medium cigar with the Habano and Sumatra wrapped La Relobas failed for me, but his Mexican wrapped La Reloba was stunning and the best Mexican cigar I have ever had. He continues to blend most of my favorite full-bodied and spicy cigars, and I'm glad to add another to the list.


Jonathan Drew Estates finally made a successful foray into the unflavored cigar world with the Liga Privada T9, T52, and Undercrown. It was an immensely pleasant experience to smoke the T52, and one I want to repeat soon. I will be actively looking for the T9 and Undercrown to try.


Oliva, of course, is still shooting par, like they seem to do with every cigar. So consistent and tasty. Will they ever make a misstep? The V may be their best, and if it isn't, it's close to it.


All in all, a few weeks like this, trying a bunch of new cigars, is an unmeasurable blessing to a smoker like me, who was getting bored of the boxes I had left in the humidor. I would like to sincerely thank both Sequoia Cigar Company and Santa Barbara Cigar and Tobacco (above) for their selection, smoking lounges, and patience with a curious smoker like myself. I hope also to see both establishments again.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Revised Tour de France: Top 10 Clean Riders Since 1994

I love cycling. Well, watching it. Doing it is another story -- last time I cycled on the road I was hit by a car. That was a few years ago and I've stuck to Mountain Biking since. The problem with professional cycling is doping. All sports have a lot of doping going on, but cycling seems to get more press for some very high profile athletes who have doped. This means that cycling fans are cynical. Seeing Wiggins and Froome doing so well this year as opposed to Cadel and van Garderen, fans are accusing Wiggins of doping and not Cadel of being ill-prepared for this year's Tour, this year's course not favoring Cadel's riding strengths, or any other non-cheating reason -- there's a big mat that says "CHEATING" and fans jump to it. This is sad, but natural with the doping scandals that have come far too often over the past two decades of cycling. Simultaneously, Lance Armstrong appears to be losing his battle of convincing everybody that he didn't dope. So this leads me to one question: if Lance is forced to give back all of his wins, who gets them? The assumption being that most of his major competitors were doped too: Hamilton, Ulrich, Vinokurov, et cetera. I want so badly to believe that Armstrong didn't dope, but it is very difficult to keep that faith these days. I, personally, believe Armstrong doped. I have no proof, but based on that belief, here are the top ten likely non-cheaters since 1994, and their original standings (Sources after the list):

Last Revised 30 January 2012 thanks to Eri E-B. If there are any mistakes, please leave a comment or email me.

1994: Indurain's 4th consecutive victory.
1. Roberto Conti, 6th Place: he won the Alpe d'Huez -- video.
2. Vladimir Poulnikov, 10th Place, +12:59
3. Oscar Pelliccioli, 15th Place, +22:26
4. Nelson Rodriguez, 16th Place, +22:49
5. Jean-François Bernard, 17th Place, +24:15
6. Federico Muñoz, 23rd Place, +36:04
7. Jim Van De Laer, 24th Place, +48:35
8. Beat Zberg, 27th Place, +44:37
9. Gerd Audehm, 28th Place, +45:15
10. Erik Breukink, 29th Place, +47:26

1995: Indurain's 5th win consecutively. All but three of the top 20 doped -- 85% of the top 20 riders doped in their careers.
1. Melchor Mauri, 6th Place
2. Álvaro Mejía, 16th Place, +18:20
3. Erik Breukink, 20th Place, +32:07
4. Vicente Aparicio, 21st Place, +37:34
5. Jean-Cyril Robin, 22nd Place, +40:41
6. Arsenio Gonzalez, 23rd Place, +40:58
7. Federico Muñoz, 24th Place, +45:43
8. Vladimir Poulnikov, 25th Place, +46:11
9. Massimo Podenzana, 26th Place, +46:34
10. Laudelino Cubino, 27th Place, +47:07
11. Beat Zberg, 29th Place, +51:48
1996: Bjarne Riis won, confessed to doping and was stripped of his title in 2007, then written back into the books in 2008. What a battle for 8th this could've been!
1. Patrick Jonker, 12th Place, +11:51
2. Manuel Fernandez, 16th Place, +19:21
3. Stefano Cattai, 22nd Place, +40:56
4. Arsenio Gonzalez, 24th Place, +51:20
5. Giuseppe Guerini, 27th, +61:04: he who won the Alpe d'Huez in 1999 after getting sent off his bike by a collision with a fan.
6. Erik Breukink, 34th, +75:55
7. Aitor Garmendia, 35th, +76:34
8. Claudio Chiappucci, 37th, +83:15
9. Melchor Mauri, 38th, +83:18
10. Chris Boardman, 39th, +83:34

1997: What a great battle this would've been for first!
1. José María Jiménez, 8th Place: brother-in-law of Carlos Sastre
2. Roberto Conti, 10th Place, +1:09
3. Beat Zberg, 11th Place, +4:24
4. Jean-Cyril Robin, 15th Place, +27:18
5. Daniele Nardello, 18th Place, +30:13
6. Stéphane Heulot, 20th Place, +34:56
7. Hernán Buenahora, 22nd Place, +42:31
8. Massimo Podenzana, 24th Place, +49:39
9. Pascal Chanteur, 26th Place, +55:31
10. Santiago Blanco, 27th Place, +59:01

1998:
1. Christophe Rinero, 4th Place, +5:08
2. Jean-Cyril Robin, 6th Place, +10:49
3. Daniele Nardello, 8th Place, +11:59
4. Stéphane Heulot, 13th Place, +16:49
5. Kurt van de Wouwer, 16th Place, +23:62
6. Andrei Teteriouk, 20th Place, +32:55
7. Geert Verheyen, 23rd Place, +37:15
8. Thierry Bourguignon, 26th Place, +39:45
9.
10.

1999: This was Armstrong's first winning year. If Armstrong cheated and all the dopers were dropped from the books, then rider 41 would've been in tenth: Steve de Wolf. Awesome name, Steve.
1. Daniele Nardello, 7th Place
2. Kurt van de Wouwer, 11th Place, +6:30
3. Stephane Heulot, 14th Place, +10:56
4. Benoit Salmon, 16th Place, +11:57
5. Carlos Alberto Contreras, 19th Place, +17:51
6. Giuseppe Guerini, 22nd Place, +22:27: beat Armstrong on the Alpe d'Huez after getting sent off his bike by a collision with a fan.
7. Francisco Tomas García, 26th Place, +28:29
8. Luis Pérez Rodríguez, 29th Place, +35:51
9. François Simon, 30th Place, +36:19
10. Steve de Wolf, 41st Place, +44:52

2000: Armstrong's second win.
1. Daniele Nardello, 10th Place
2. Felix Manuel Garcia, 14th Place, +13:39
3. Roberto Conti, 16th Place, +15:53
4. Kurt van de Wouwer, 17th Place, +16:04
5. Guido Trentin, 18th Place, +17:32
6. Jean-Cyril Robin, 19th Place, +24:47
7. Geert Verheyen, 20th Place, +27:59
8. José María Jiménez, 23rd Place, +33:20
9. Grischa Niermann, 24th Place, +33:41
10.

2001: Armstrong's third win. Three clean riders finished within the top ten.
1. Andre Kivilev, 4th Place: Kivilev died in March 2003 after a wreck while leading the Paris-Nice. His death led to helmets being required by the rules.
2. François Simon, 6th Place, +7:29
3. Iñigo Chaurreau, 12th Place, +18:16
4. Alexandre Botcharov, 17th Place, +31:22
5. Carlos Sastre, 20th Place, +40:27
6. Tomasz Brożyna, 21st Place, +43:42
7. Roberto Laiseka, 28th Place, +52:22
8.
9.
10.

2002: Armstrong's fourth. The Tour featured shorter stages, allegedly in an attempt to discourage doping by making the race less challenging.
1. José Azevedo, 6th Place: Armstrong's favorite domestique.
2. Carlos Sastre, 10th Place, +3:21
3. David Moncoutié, 13th Place, +5:24
4. Stéphane Goubert, 17th Place, +14:07
5. Nicolas Vogondy, 19th Place, +17:00
6. Nicki Sørensen, 20th Place, +17:12
7. Andre Kivilev, 21st Place, +17:57
8. José-Luis Rubiera, 22nd Place, +20:59
9. Beat Zberg, 27th Place, +28:45
10.

2003: Armstrong says that out of his seven wins, this one, his fifth, was his weakest.
1. Haimar Zubeldia, 5th Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 9th Place, +11:58
3. Roberto Laiseka, 18th Place, +22:24
4. José-Luis Rubiera, 19th Place, +22:46
5. David Plaza, 22nd Place, +39:04
6. Felix Manuel Garcia, 23rd Place, +40:16
7. Alexandre Botcharov, 24th Place, +42:56
8. Danielle Nardello, 25th Place, +46:23
9. José Azevedo, 26th Place, +47:40
10.

2004: Armstrong's sixth win would've featured a great battle for 8th place -- less than a minute at the end. As it was, they battled instead for 25th.
1. José Azevedo, 5th Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 8th Place, +5:21
3. Sandy Casar, 16th Place, +14:23
4. Thomas Voeckler, 18th Place, +16:42
5. José-Luis Rubiera, 19th Place, +18:20
6. Stéphane Goubert, 20th Place, +22:41
7. Michael Rogers, 22nd Place, +27:09
8. Giuseppe Guerini, 25th Place, +32:37
9. Iker Camaño, 26th Place, +32:44
10. Jérôme Pineau, 27th Place, +33:13

2005: Armstrong's final win.
1. Cadel Evans, 8th Place: in his rookie year of the Tour.
2. Haimar Zubeldia, 14th Place, +11:48
3. Giuseppe Guerini, 19th Place, +21:07
4. Carlos Sastre, 20th Place, +22:31
5. Xabier Zandio, 21st Place, +24:25
6. Sandy Casar, 28th Place, +44:52
7. José Azevedo, 29th Place, +47:53
8. Chris Horner, 32nd Place, +56:02
9. Stéphane Goubert, 33rd Place, +58:58
10. José-Luis Rubiera, 34th Place, +59:53

2006: Armstrong was gone, and Floyd Landis stepped in, won, and got stripped of his title for doping. The title was handed to Óscar Pereiro, who is another doper. The original places column in my list takes into account Landis' crooked victory: Sastre is listed as 3rd if Landis is off the books, but I'll leave Landis in because the ASO left all the other dopers with their places in the books. Evans would've been beat by less than two minutes. Wiggins' first Tour and he finished 124th originally.
1. Carlos Sastre, 4th Place
2. Cadel Evans, 5th Place, +1:55
3. Cyril Dessel, 7th Place, +5:28
4. Haimar Zubeldia, 9th Place, +8:52
5. Michael Rogers, 10th Place, +11:54
6. Markus Fothen, 15th Place, +16:44
7. José Azevedo, 19th Place, +34:55
8. David Arroyo, 21st Place, +40:47
9. Francisco Javier Vila, 22nd Place, +41:15
10. Christian Vande Velde, 24th Place, +47:06: who got second on Stage 15 of the 2012 Tour after a brilliant breakaway.

2007: Including the cheaters, this was a close race. Cadel Evans almost beat the cheater Contador -- finishing 23 second back with cheater-Leipheimer 8 seconds back on Evans. Wiggins was on the Cofidis team that was disqualified from the Tour due to doping and he spoke out in disgust against doping immediately and he is still speaking against it today.
1. Cadel Evans, 2nd Place
2. Carlos Sastre, 4th Place, +6:45
3. Haimar Zubeldia, 5th Place, +7:54
4. Kim Kirchen, 7th Place, +11:55
5. Mauricio Soler, 11th Place, +16:28
6. David Arroyo, 13th Place, +21:26
7. Chris Horner, 15th Place, +24:56
8. Juan José Cobo, 20th Place, +36:51
9. Juan Manuel Garate, 21st Place, +37:53
10.

2008: A non-doper won the Tour! And another got second! And third place went to Bernhard Kohl, who was caught doping and stripped of the Polka Dot jersey and his third place. Second in line for the Polka Dot was Sastre, but for third place was another doper. Sigh. Again, the original standings column assumes Kohl's third didn't get stripped. Wiggins didn't race in this Tour.
1. Carlos Sastre, 1st Place
2. Cadel Evans, 2nd Place, +0:58
3. Christian Vande Velde, 5th Place, +3:05
4. Samuel Sánchez, 6th Place, +6:25
5. Kim Kirchen, 8th Place, +6:55
6. Vladimir Efimkin, 11th Place, +9:55
7. Andy Schleck, 12th Place, +11:32
8. Sandy Casar, 14th Place, +19:23
9. Amaël Moinard, 15th Place, +23:31
10. Kanstantsin Sivtsov, 17th Place, +24:55

2009: Armstrong was back, and he ended up third originally. Contador won. Evans had massive mechanical issues and a poor team performance, finishing 30th originally.
1. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place: he broke his pelvis before the 2012 Tour
2. Bradley Wiggins, 4th Place, +1:50
3. Vincenzo Nibali, 7th Place, +3:24
4. Christian Vande Velde, 8th Place, +7:53
5. Roman Kreuziger, 9th Place, +10:05
6. Christophe Le Mével, 10th Place, +10:14
7. Sandy Casar, 12th Place, +13:08
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 15th Place, +16:39
9. Stéphane Goubert, 16th Place, +18:18
10. Carlos Sastre, 17th Place, +22:10

2010: Contador won again, but this time he was disqualified and Schleck was officially given the win. Evans broke his elbow in stage 8 and finished 25th. Sastre finished 19th. Wiggins finished 23rd after a bad start -- which is what Evans got in 2012: a bad start. This was the first year Wiggins' Sky team was a team. This list will use the original results with Contador still in there.
1. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place
2. Samuel Sánchez, 4th Place, +3:40
3. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 5th Place, +6:54
4. Robert Gesink, 6th Place, +9:31
5. Ryder Hesjedal, 7th Place, +10:15
6. Joaquim Rodríguez, 8th Place, +11:37
7. Roman Kreuziger, 9th Place, +11:54
8. Chris Horner, 10th Place, +12:02
9. Luis Leon Sánchez, 11th Place, +14:21
10. Nicolas Roche, 15th Place, +16:59

2011: The Voeckler, Schleck, Evans battle to the end was wonderful -- what this sport should be about: that close of a battle after three weeks of racing. Wiggins broke his collar bone on Stage 7 and did not finish.
1. Cadel Evans, 1st Place
2. Andy Schleck, 2nd Place, +1:34
3. Thomas Voeckler, 4th Place, +3:20
4. Samuel Sánchez, 5th Place, +4:55
5. Tom Danielson, 8th Place, +8:15
6. Jean-Christophe Péraud, 9th Place, +10:11
7. Pierre Rolland, 10th Place, +10:43
8. Rein Taaramae, 11th Place, +11:29
9. Kevin De Weert, 12th Place, +16:29
10. Jérôme Coppel, 13th Place, +18:36

2012:What a great race. Perhaps after so many years being hard on dopers, the race is cleaning up? All ten top ten riders make it into my list here. We'll see what the future holds, but for now, rejoicing!
1. Bradley Wiggins, 1st Place
2. Chris Froome, 2nd Place, +3:21
3. Vincenzo Nibali, 3rd Place, +6:19
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, 4th Place, +10:15
5. Tejay van Garderen, 5th Place, +11:04
6. Haimar Zubeldia, 6th Place, +15:41
7. Cadel Evans, 7th Place, +15:49
8. Pierre Rolland, 8th Place, +16:26
9. Janez Brajkovič, 9th Place, +16:33
10. Thibaut Pinot, 10th Place, +17:17


+++

Of course, this type of list is obviously fundamentally flawed for at least six reasons, and probably more than six:
1. it's the past and these races can never be recreated and run clean;
2. so many specific circumstances happen over a three-week race that there's no way this list is perfectly accurate: flat tyres, sicknesses, mistakes, et cetera;
3. detecting doping isn't a perfect science;
4. the cyclists left off this list may not have always been doping;
5. the teams would've had different captains and domestiques if the dopers weren't around;
6. and cycling is such a psychological pursuit. For instance, if Nardello had been leading in 1999 and 2000, he would probably have utilized different tactics that could've affected his results for the worse. Cycling is psychological above all, and different positions and developments would've affected the contenders differently.

But if you simply drop all the riders who have probably doped from the list of Tour finishers you get the above list. The average non-dope winner from 1996-2011 placed 5th, and from 1996 through 2006, the average winner placed 6th.

It's an interesting problem to look at, though putting this list together was rather depressing for a cycling fan like myself. For 1999 I had to search 41 riders names on Dopeology (See sources below) to find ten unequivocally clean. This creates a very different picture of cycling's best in the last sixteen years. I now want to read interviews of Nardello and Julich, Guerini and Boogerd -- to name a few.

We'll never know the full truth about this era, which is really a dark era in all sports. Marion Jones and 61% of Track and Field stars at the 1984 Olympics, Manny Ramirez and Mark McGwire, 1 in 10 ex-NFL players as of 1990 which includes 67% of Offensive Linemen, Diego Maradona -- no sport is free from dope. Kayakers, Water Polo players, Greco-Roman wrestlers, Fencers, Judo, Rugby, Basketball, Field Hockey -- every sport has a doping problem. Cycling, Track, and Baseball get a lot more press about it. Maybe that is because those regulatory bodies go after doping much more rabidly than association football does. After all, Operación Puerto implicated only 50 cyclists out of 200 athletes. Some of the names not given suspensions were supposedly big association football names. Real Madrid was certainly mentioned, as was the 2010 World Cup winning Spanish National team.

Anyways, this whole post got off topic of Tour doping because doping is so widespread, but this Armstrong case does leave me with one major question: If Armstrong was doped and he beat a bunch of other doped riders, why take his trophies away? If his trophies are taken, then shouldn't the rest of the doping field also be disqualified and written from the books? Not disqualified, erased, and then written back into the registry a year later like Bjarne Riis. If doping is to stop, I think there needs to be real repercussions to dopers' actions, not slap-on-the-wrist temporary suspensions and monetary fines. The monetary reward for doping and getting away with it is just too big for the fines to work. But real repercussions could lead to less confessions, which is also a negative in my view. Cycling should be commended for pursuing dopers more than any other sport, no matter their status within the sport and irregardless of the publicity repercussions for the sport as a whole. "All clean at all costs", seems to be their mantra, most of the time (Except with Riis and some other cases like his). But in order for the fans to not have the nagging question in their heads, a balance needs to be struck between deterring new cyclists from doping, encouraging past and current cyclists to confess, and providing repercussions significant enough to satisfy fans' desire for clean racing. After all, no fans, no races.

+++

This list is merely my best guess. If I made a mistake, which is likely, feel free to correct me. For instance, Levi Leipheimer took some Claratin in 1996 and got busted for the ephedrine in it. I still think he's a clean racer, but a doping conviction is a doping conviction, so I didn't include him on the lists above because of it. Sorry, Levi. I'm still cheering for you. Was Escartin clean or not? I certainly don't know. Nobody does. But he seems to be implicated in the Giardini Margherita raid in Bologna. Many of the riders still on this list may have doped, sure. But at some point, to stay a fan, I need to trust the UCI's testing methods, or assume they're all doping.

There is one thing I do know though: if any team makes any of these guys who are probably clean their team captain and GC contender for the Tour, I will root for them. Go BMC! Go Sky! I also wish I knew these riders' stories better. For instance, why did Giuseppe Guerini have those dry spells between his good finishes? Mechanical failures? Illnesses? Fitness? Sick of losing to cheaters, but pulled back to the Tour for the romance of it?

+++

This list is also fun for making up statistics. For instance, take the original finishing position of the 10th placed clean rider and subtract ten from it to get x. Then divide x by the original finishing position of the 10th placed clean rider to get a rough, unscientific approximation of how many riders cheated that year:

1995: 66%
1996: 73%
1997: 55%
1998: 62%
1999: 76%
2000: 58%
2001: 64%
2002: 63%
2003: 62%
2004: 63%
2005: 69%
2006: 55%
2007: 52%
2008: 41%
2009: 41%
2010: 33%
2011: 23%

Is this cycling getting cleaner or will another Operation Puerto-esque raid expose a bunch of these riders as dopers too?

+++

Factors:
1. Fans want a clean, fair, challenging race.
2. Cyclists want to win.
3. Cycling teams need to win in order to get monetary support in order to race.

Questions Concerning Discouraging Doping:
1. Should the Tour be easier? Would that discourage doping?
2. Should the punishments be stricter? Would that discourage doping?
3. Should the regulatory body purchase as much of the rare banned substances as possible to drive demand and prices up while simultaneously denying access?
4. Should sponsors monetarily reward cyclists for staying clean? Should sponsors insist on blood and urine testing more often? It's their money that is at stake here, after all.
5. Does "any news is good news" apply to cycling? Are fans leaving it or coming to it more because of doping?

+++

I used the following sources:
My main source: http://www.dopeology.org/
http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-300685.html
http://www.brettluelling.com/post/3435612945/armstrongs-tdf-victories
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_doping_cases_in_sport (Wikipedia Source)

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What did I miss?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Le mans 2012

The cars are lining up, Radio Le Mans is on, my first beer of the day is being downed. Let's talk Le Mans!

80th anniversary this year.

Predictions:
LMP1: Audi #1, Toyota #8, Audi #3. All 6 Audis and Toyotas are within 2.6 seconds of each other at the top of the list. Strakka racing, after their brilliant finish last year, picked up a Honda ARX 03a and qualified ahead of everybody but the four Audis and two Toyotas -- but a full 3.2 seconds down and followed closely by the two Rebellion Racing Lolas. Toyota brought their old F1 team down, and let's see if they can beat Audi.

LMP2:  Oak Morgan-Judd #24, 2 Oreca Nissan's to finish out the podium. There are 6 of the Oreca-Nissan's on the track today in LMP2, and five are in the top 6. That's domination. Morgan's two cars are the two fastest chassis that are not Oreca.

GTE Pro: Corvette, Ferrari, Aston Martin. Nine cars this year. 4 Ferraris, 2 Corvettes, 2 Porsches, 1 Aston Martin.

GTE Am: Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche. Thirteen cars this year. 2 Corvettes, 5 Ferraris, 5 Porsches, 1 Aston Martin.

Let's go Racing!

+++

Rooting Schedule:

Online Stream and Live Timing: http://live.lemans-tv.com/

Spotter's Guide: http://www.spotterguides.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/2012_LM_V1_M.pdf

Qualifying: http://www.lemans.org/wpphpFichiers/1/1/ressources/Pdf/2012/24-heures-du-mans/classification/24-heures-du-mans-2012-qualifying-practice-combined.pdf

And, as always, Radio Le Mans: http://www.radiolemans.com/

LMP1: After last year, Strakka stole my heart, but Dome is back and teamed up with Pescarolo, Rebellion's two Lolas are also gorgeous on the grid. Overall, got anybody but Audi.

LMP2: Morgan. Duh. My favorite cars in the year, and they brought two Chassis to Le Mans. Also, the Nissan Delta Wing: bringing a 1.6 litre to a race of V12s, V10s, and V8s is ballsy. Future of racing or not? Also, #42 Zytek Nissan with Lucas Ordonez at the wheel. You're living the dream man, good luck out there.

GTE Pro: Aston Martin, Flying Lizard, Corvette.

GTE Am: Aston Martin, Flying Lizard, Corvette.

+++

Start:
McNish took the #8 at the start, making it Audi 1, 2, 3, going onto Mulsanne. Rain starting in the first lap.Strakka in the pits already with problems. Pescarolo starting from the pits, putting full wets on due to sudden squall of rain. But the rain never dampened the track fully.

0:14: These GTE cars are brilliant. Long line of cars, battles everywhere.
0:18: Status LMP2 took a pit stop.
0:19: McNish off heading into Tetra Rouge, pulled back on still in third.
0:30: Dome in, leaving a brilliant battle out on the track. Pushed back into the garage with the engine cover coming off.
0:32: Both Toyotas come in at the same time. Why crowd their pit boxes like that? What're they thinking? #4 Audi in the pits too. There is an issue with it! #4 Audi pushed backwards into the garage after losing ten seconds in the last lap.
0:35: #2 McNish into the pits, being held up by a slow car. #4 pushed back out into the pit box -- it was a rear right suspension issue that took 2.5 minutes. Not a full change, just tightening stuff up. #1 also into the pits, leaving #3 in the lead.
0:39: #3 pits from lead, almost gets hit in pit-lane by Rebellion.
0:44: #3 back in again for another change of tires? What's happening to Audi this year? Oh, okay, a slow puncture. But that is two unscheduled stops for them this year so far.
0:49: So far, Aston and Corvette have been duking it out the whole race. What a battle. #97 vs #74. #97 pits and the battle is on pause for not.
0:53: #74 pitting. Are they going to come out with the #97 to continue the battle? Yes, yes they will. Continue.
0:55: Let's rundown the order: #1, #2, #7, #8, #3. LMP2: #24, #46, #49, #35, #48. So Morgan running first and fourth. Sweet. GTEPro: #59, #51, #71, #97, #74. GTEAm: #81, #71, #99, #75, #80. Flying Lizard and Aston Martin running second and third. 9 cars still on the lead lap.
0:59: #16 backwards in the pits. The driver is out. Problems for Pescarolo with both cars, I guess. The Dome is out there driving around though.

Hour 2:
1:02: #59 being pushed by marshals down pit lane towards their box from the lead in GTE Pro. #51 in too.
1:10: After pits, GTEPro: #74, #97, #71, #77, #51. GTEAm: #79, #99, #75, #67, #58.
1:11: #8 in, then #7. They finally got them off the same pit strategy.
1:13: #29 crashed. First of the race. Just after the Porsche Curves. Not a huge accident. Local yellow on track.
1:18: #1 pits from lead. #2 right behind him.
1:23: #99 Aston Martin in the pits... Drivers says they may be out... Intermittent misfiring.
1:25: Deltawing pushed into garage with gearbox issues.
1:26: #24 Morgan pitting from LMP2 lead.
1:27: #71 spin at Dunlop, local yellow.
1:33: Lap 27. Toyota Hybrids average lap time quicker than the Audi Hybrids.
1:40: Battle for fourth in LMP2 is mesmerizingly close.  #35, #48, #46.
1:42: #80, Patrick Long, having a problem. Limping back to pits. Suspension damage?
1:43: #73 Porsche pitting slowly from 3rd in Am. Rear left puncture. Rear left wheel-arch getting taped back on.
1:45: #25 spun at Dunlop.
1:48: 42 seconds between #1 and #6 in LMP2, including that great battle for #4, which is still going strong. Nose to tail.
1:49: #8 in the pits.
1:51: #7 and #74 both in the pits.
1:57: #16 finally going out on track. Let's go Pescarolo!
1:58: #2 in the pits. 11 lap stint? What's going on? Audis should be 12 laps, Toyotas 11 laps. What's going on with Audi? They're getting tricksy again. McNish climbing out for a driver change. And TK goes into the car. The winningest driver in Le Mans history has climbed into his car for his first sting of the day!

Hour 3:
2:00:  GTPro battle still going on between #74 and #97. #51, which is leading both of those, is a car that was built last night from scratch.
2:02: #1 Audi pits from lead.
2:06: #51 finally pits. #74 and #97 are battling for lead now! Corvette retakes the lead! Oh man, now #51 is in third, right behind the Corvette and the Aston! #51 got 16 laps out of it between pits. Jeez. That's insane. How're they so efficient?
2:10: In LMP2 Morgan is running 1 and 3. Yay!
2:13: I must say, there haven't been any serious incidents this year. A few spins, McNish getting a few tyres off, and that's it. No carbon fibre geysers yet. Stay safe out there, drivers.
2:14: #24 Morgan pits from lead in LMP2.
2:15: #74, #97, #51 within 4.78 seconds of each other. What a battle for lead. It's been the whole race so far too.
2:20: #97 takes #74 again. 3.97 seconds back to the #51.
2:21: Toyota #7 put in a 3:28.006 in third place. Dang. They are at the speed of the Audis, but have they fixed their 1990s reliability issues?
2:22: #99 misfire still frustrating.
2:22: #74 takes #97 again.
2:25: 1:16 separates the top 6 in LMP2, after pits, Morgan is #1 and #5.
2:26: 3.243 seconds between #74, #97, #51.
2:27: #97 took #74 again. #51 is RIGHT there. See this screenshot:

2:29: #8 in for pits.
2:30: #97 goes wide at Mulsanne and gets passed by #74 and #51!
2:33: #7 in the pits. Routine.
2:34: #51 runs wide in the second chicane, Aston catches up, they run side by side up to 200mph, then Aston lets #51 have his line through the Mulsanne Corner.
2:35: #97 in the pits.
2:41: Strakka being interviewed. They had an oil leak in the gearbox. Significant fix. They're back out there and racing. Currently in... 45 overall, but, as always, they got the best attitudes and a lot of heart.
2:42: On pace for 400 laps. #2 into the pits with TK driving. AND HE IS PUSHED BACK INTO THE GARAGE!!! Second place car backwards in the garage! 3rd Audi with an unscheduled stop. Toyota hasn't had one yet.
2:45: #1 in pits. #2 still in garage -- Vibration and Drag issues? Nope. Car picking up too many marbles.
2:47: #2 back out on track. #4 pits. Now running #1, #3, #7, #8, #2, #4, #12, #13.
2:49: #15 Oak racing across the sand into the pits.
2:50: #17 Dome in the pits again. Engine cover comes off. Pushed back into the garage.
2:54: #35 Morgan-Nissan in the pit. #3 pits as well.
2:57 #43 Norma appears to be on fire in their pitbox.

Hour 4:
3:00: #24 Morgan-Judd pits from LMP2 lead.
LMP1: Audi, Toyota, Toyota, Audi, Audi, Audi, Rebellion, Rebellion, Honda, Oak-Pescarolo-Judd, Honda (Strakka), Dome.
LMP2: Morgan-Judd, Morgan-Nissan, Honda HPD, Oreca-Nissan, Zytek-Nissan, Oreca-Nissan, Oreca-Nissan, Oreca-Nissan, Oreca-Nissan, Oreca-Nissan, Lola-Judd.
GTE Pro: Ferrari, Corvette, Aston Martin, Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, Ferrari.
GTE Am: Porsche (Flying Lizard), Porsche, Porsche, Ferrari, Ferrari, Corvette, Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari, Corvette, Porsche.
3:08: #8 pits from third. Scheduled Toyota stop.
3:10: #51 finally pits, putting the nose-to-tail #74 and #97 back in first and second.
3:12: #7 pits from second overall.
3:21: LMP2: Top seven cars still on the same lap. Morgan Judd is running one extra lap than anybody else. Battle for 5th is nose to tail.
3:25: #29, which has been in the pits forever, having only done one lap, is the first official retirement.
3:28: #97 in the pits. Splash and Dash.
3:29: #1 and #2 pitting nose-to-tail. #4 pitted right after them.
3:31: #99 Aston off in GTE Am.
3:32: 15.15 seconds between first and second, thirty seconds between first and fourth. #1, #8, #3, #7, #2, #4.
3:36: Evening spreads out against the sky.
3:38: #3 pitting from third and #74 pitting as well. Did they get two extra laps over the #97?
3:42: Reports are that when Toyota hit scrutineering they exclaimed:"We're really excited: we can't wait to see what breaks first!" And yet, they've proven themselves more reliable than Audi so far in their debut race. Incredible. Strakka is still coming and coming and coming.
3:45: LMP2 Battle for 5th is four cars within 18 seconds, Morgan running first and second.
3:47: #24 Morgan pits from LMP2 lead.
3:48: #7 rear wing end plate split in half. Flapping in the breeze. #8 into pitstop.
3:52: #7 pitting. Comes out 6 seconds behind the #8. Toyota in second and third.
3:56: 4.6 seconds between #8 in second and #7 in third. 1:10 down off the leading Audi.

Hour 5: 
4:08: Before pitting, #51 is up by a minute over #97 which is a couple of seconds over #74.
4:09: #2 in the pits.
4:12: 2.2 seconds between the two Toyotas.
4:13: #1 in the pits. Comes out 10 seconds ahead of the Toyota.
4:14: #4 Audi in the pits from sixth. Which team is holding their cards closest? Audi or Toyota? Due to Toyota getting one less lap per, Audi only needs to keep pace with Toyota and they'll win. Or will they?
4:17: Audi is only ahead by 9.000 seconds! Go Toyota go! And the second Toyota is only down off them by 2.5 seconds ish.
4:21: Gap down to seven seconds, Toyotas are nose-to-tail, .8 seconds apart. #3 car in pit. Both managers for Toyota called to race control...
4:22: #97 pitting.
4:24: 2.972 first to second, and third is on his tail:
 
4:28: #8 pitting.
4:29: Lucas Ordonez in the #42 in thirtieth place.
4:31: #7 into the pits. And pulls out with just a splash and dash! Firth stint for both driver and tyres. Who is holding what back? Who will speed up at night?
4:36: #1, #7 a minute back, #3 Audi 3.5 seconds back, #8 44 seconds back. The rest are laps down.
4:37: #3 off!!!Off at the first Chicane. Dumas is ripping body panels off, desperate to get the car back to the pits after screwing up and running wide:

4:39: #3 back on, barely. Front Right wheel scraping sideways. #79 Flying Lizard also went off. limping around on fire.
4:42: #3 limping around, already lapped once.
4:43: #79 finally makes it back to the pits.
4:44: #3 just making it to Indianapolis.
4:47: #3 finally makes it back to the pits, now in seventh. Pushed back into the garage. He lost a total of 7:42 before he got to the pits.
4:51: #2 pitting for a standard stop. Dindo Capello takes the wheel from TK.
4:56: #1 pits from lead. #4 too. #1 pulls out JUST infront of #7. Nose to tail for the overall lead of the race.
4:59: Toyota takes the lead. Then gives it back. Then takes it again. Then...

Hour 6:
5:00: Toyota in the lead. #8 into the wall at Mulsanne. Safety car will come out with two cars flipping. Both drivers are out and okay. #81 Ferrari speared the Toyota at 200mph going into Mulsanne corner. Those Armco barriers are going to need some fixing. That was a big, big crash. Here are some pictures of the Toyota flipping:





5:13: #3 Audi back out onto the race track, still under safety car.
5:15: #7 pits under safety. As does #4 and
5:23: #31 spins into wall on first chicane.
5:45: 30 minutes until anticipated green (6:15ish). 

Second Quarter:
6:00: 1/4 done with the race.
6:10: #42 spins under safety with Ordonez at the wheel.
6:15: Safety car is off. 1:15 under safety car.
6:15: Toyota hits the Delta Wing at the end of Porsche curves. Toyota into the garage with rear right damage. Delta Wing shunted into the wall hard...
6:18: Toyota out of the pits after a good crowbarring.
6:23: Contact between Delta Wing and Toyota under investigation by race stewards.
6:25: Delta Wing doesn't make it back to the garage. "Aye, she's a tough wee thing."
6:28: #2 into the pits.
6:31: After the safety car, race lead is #1, #2, #7, #4, #12, #22, #13. LMP2: #24 Morgan-Judd, #48 Oreca-Nissan, #35 Morgan-Nissan, #44 Honda. GTE Pro: #74 Corvette, #51 Ferrari, #77 Porsche, #59 Ferrari, #73 Corvette. GTE Am: #67 Porsche, #50 Corvette, #61 Ferrari, #88 Porsche, #57 Ferrari.
6:38: #7 fuelled, then wheeled back into the garage. Replacing the floor and double checking the mechanics underneath.
6:44: #1 in for fuel. Splash and dash. #4 as well.

Hour 8:
7:03: Delta Wing driver attempting to repair the car on course and limp it back to pits to let the mechanics fix his stuff. That's Le Mans spirit right there.
7:08: #2 in the pits.
7:11: The sun is going down and the lights are mesmerizing... This is the #1 car:

7:16: Driver climbs into Toyota. Getting closer to getting back out there? 12 laps down so far.
7:21: LMP2: Morgan in 1 and 2. Yay! Within 15 seconds of each other.
7:22: #3 in the pits again.
7:24: #1 in the pits.
7:30: Toyota still in the pits. Questions concerning the offending driver being ejected from the race.
7:41: Nighttime begins.
7:44: Toyota back on track, 20 laps down -- oh wait, never mind. It didn't make it out of pit lane. Pit crew sprints down to the very other end of pit lane to push it back.
7:47: Dindo Capello pits the #2. McNish back in.
7:49: Toyota back in their pitbox, and the garage.
7:50: #35 Morgan-Nissan in for an unscheduled stop to repair front left after pitting last lap. #48 takes the lead.
7:51: #3 finally back up into the top 10 again. Running 8th for now.
7:53: #13 Rebellion in for pits. #12 and #13 Rebellion Lolas are 4 laps down on the lead, 3 laps off second and third. Ready to pounce once Audi gets to crashing. I haven't mentioned them too much yet because, well, they've been drama free and solid -- which is how one wins Le Mans. Both powered by Toyota.
7:59: #51 Ferrari pit stop. Still running their economy strategy. 40 seconds behind #74 before the pit.

Hour 9:
8:03: #35 Morgan-Nissan in again.
8:03: #1 Audi pitting from lead. Audis are down to doing 11 lap stints. Do they not have to do 12 laps now that Toyota is more than 20 laps down?
8:05: #3 in to pits as well. Still getting closer to the top LMP1 cars.
8:10: #35 back into pits again. #74 pits as well as #4.
8:19: Delta Wing told it can't go back out after getting towed to the pits, so it is out.
8:20: Toyota left the pits, 23 laps down.
8:28: Strakka in the gravel at Ford Chicanes. Decides to come into pit.
8:31: 130 laps completed so far.
LMP1: #1, #2, #4 (#2 in pits), #12, #13, #3. Strakka is climbing.
LMP2: #48 Oreca-Nissan, #24 Morgan-Judd, #26 Oreca-Nissan, #44 Honda (9 seconds behind the #26), #49 Oreca-Nissan.
GTE Pro: #74 Corvette, #51 Ferrari eighteen seconds down, #73 Corvette, #59 Ferrari, #77 Porsche, #97 Aston Martin -- slowly coming back up, 2 laps down off the Corvettes.
GTE Am: #67 Porsche, #50 Corvette is 1.5 minutes back, #57 Ferrari, #61 Ferrari, #70 Corvette.
8:39: #67 and #13 both pitting.
8:40: #61 just spun twice.
8:43: #1 in the pits. They're looking relaxed knowing their only competition now is Rebellion, attrition, and themselves.
8:48: #3 is in the pits for another standard stop as they continue their amazing climb up back to the top.
8:51: #7 spun at Dunlop. They're pushing. Make sure the car can go all 24 hours. He's done 8 laps since the stop.
8:55: #4 pitting from third.

Midnight:

9:00: Strakka got a 1 minute stop-and-go penalty.
9:01: #7 in the pits. Routine.
9:03: #4 in for an unscheduled pit stop -- oil on the windscreen.
9:04: #35 back in, in the garage, and back out on track.
9:08: #74 in on a routine stop. Norma spun after lockup at second chicane.
9:11: #48 in unscheduled. Right rear is damaged from a flailing punctured tire. Backwards into the garage. #24 Morgan-Judd back in first. It was reeling in the #48 anyways, but the work helped.
9:15: #2 in for a pit stop.
9:15: #7 in the pits.
9:18: 3 cars off. #28, #80, #57, and another LMP2 unidentified. #80 Flying Lizard in the gravel at second chicane. Track getting dirty and slick and cold at night.
9:25: #13 is in the pits for a routine stop.
9:27: #1 in the pits for a routine stop.
9:32: #3 into the pits. Routine.
9:36: #24 in the pit, backwards into the garage!
9:40: #41 off in the gravel. Right back on. That track has to be amazingly slick out there.
9:42: There have been 6 retirements so far: #29 had an accident an hour thirteen into the race, Pescarolo #16 engine blew in the morning warmup and bruised a driver's ribs, Aston Martin #99 GTE Am was doing great before it hit gravel and tires on the Porsche curves, #81 Ferrari speared Toyota and ended on its roof, #8 Toyota flipped through the air after being speared by #81, and finally, #0 Delta Wing speared by Toyota.
9:47: #4 into the pits. Routine.
9:48: #12 into the pits. Routine.
9:49: #35 also backed into the garage, smoking.
9:52: #13 in the pits. Driver change.
9:57: #7 in for pits.
9:58: #2 into the pits.

Hour 11:
10:06: #74 pits from lead of GTE Pro, #51 Ferrari pits from second in GTE Pro, #50 pits from second in GTE Am, #26 pits from third in LMP2. #74 wheel fell off coming down from Dunlop. Smoke and flames everywhere. Limping it back around to the pits, which puts #51 in lead with the car they built yesterday.

10:10: #1 pitting from lead.
10:15: #74 finally limps all the way back around. Into the garage backwards to see what went wrong. Here is their missing wheel:
  

10:19: Corvette #74 appears to be replacing the brake discs.
10:22: Corvette getting a new floor.
10:25: #70 Corvette spun at the end of Porsche curves.
10:27: #74 back out on track. But it appears to be smoking and sparking...
10:29: #24 getting its engine taken off:

10:31: #4 into the pits.
10:33: #12 in the pits. Routine. That means #13 should be next lap, I think.
10:35: #7 in the pits, pushed back into the garage backwards.
10:36: #24 said they broke the oil pump and they did a lap without oil, so... We can hope they come back, right? Here's where the engine goes:
  

10:40: #7 Toyota is done for the day -- didn't even last 12 hours. Engine problem. Lasted past midnight though. I hope they will win next year, or the year after. Fantastic speed for them, but unfortunately the 030 seemed to have performed like the 020.Here's the thing though, they led Le Mans in their first ever race.

10:49: Anthony Davidson announces that he broke his back earlier, whilst flipping through the air.Or, more appropriately, when he landed.
10:55: #1 in the pits routinely. #15 backed into the garage.
10:56: #74 off at a chicane. Pulled out, restarted, back on track.
10:59: 9 cars posted as retired so far.

Hour 12:
11:02: #74 in the pits, pushed forwards into the garage. #24 officially listed as retired.
11:08: #51 in the pits.
11:17: Fog forecast for the morning. #58 spins and limps back to the pits, missing most of the left side.
11:25: #13 in the pits for a standard stop. #2 as well. Top three in GTE Pro are separated by 45 seconds.
11:31: #58 is out.
11:33: #22 backed into the garage with clutch problems.
11:38: #1 pits, #3 spins (Dumas at the wheel) after being tapped by the #70 at Ford.
11:40: #3 started back up, in the pits.
11:43: #30 puncture, spin, off, and pulled behind the wall.
11:44: #49 pits from LMP2 second place.
11:59: #59 pulled off the track.

Halfway Through and Audi only have to worry about themselves and accidents now.
12:02: Rear Left side of the #74 is looking rough as it is wheeled back into the garage. #73 is wheeled back in for some new brakes.
12:03: #59 made it back to pits.
12:17: #13 in for an unscheduled pit stop. In the last two laps that is 4 minutes in the pits after a standard stop last lap. Oil temperature problems.
12:21: Looking like the real fights are going to be in the GT classes and LMP2 for the rest of the race. Except for #3 trying to take both the Rebellions. This'll be a good finish to a great, clean race so far. #73 & #74 in the pits still, or again. I've lost count.
12:58: #97 back up to third in class -- great work for the Aston Martin after problems. Dome in the garage.

Hour 14:
13:00: 11 retired. I'm off to a meeting. Be back soon.
 While I was away:
13:05: Lucas Ordonez spins, #74 finally gets underway again.
13:18: #23 bounces off the Mulsanne corner barrier, limps back around. Solid car.
13:23: #1 spun!!! #1 spun in the Porsche curves and glanced off the wall. Heads to the pits.
13:26: #2 gets into the lead by 52 seconds after #1 hits the pits for a minute and a half for no repairs yet. If Audi has to win, I hope it's the #2 of McNish, Capello, and Kristenson.
13:42: Murphy's #48, in Irish Green, breaks its suspension just before the pit entry. The crew sprintsing down there is turned back by the track marshals.
13:46: Interval between #2 in the lead and #1 in second is ten seconds.
13:52: The #75 Porsche has a big off and the safety car comes out for the second time at Porsche Curves.
13:57: #2 pits, #1 retakes the lead.

Hour 15:
14:10: Dindo Capello walks into an Audi garage as a driver at Le Mans for the last time after his nightly sleep. The team give him a standing ovation in the middle of the night.
14:28: Safety car comes in with the two leading Audis 3 seconds apart, but #2 pits again for a driver change, and the 49 year old Capello gets in on his 49th birthday. If they win, I think he'll be the oldest driver to ever win.
14:34: #13 spins from #6 at Porsche curves without hitting anything. Attempts to get going in the right direction, gets a push from the marshals, pits to check for damage, and rejoins still in sixth.
14:59: Sun peaks over the edge of the world.

Hour 16:
15:06: 33 seconds between #1 and #2.
15:30: Lucas Ordonez backs the car into the garage.
15:40: #97 has an off! They go off at Indianapolis, but limp it back to the garage for lots of repairs.

Hour 17:
16:00: #97 back out still in third! Amazing garage work.
16:10: Dome gets back out on track after 3:12 in the garage.
16:55: Duval sets the fastest lap so far at 3:25.671 while the #61 catches fire and the marshals hose it down. Driver bravely get back to the pits and they refuel it. While it's still smoking.

Hour 18:
17:05: #74 spins, bounces off the tyres, and rejoins. #1 almost gets speared by a GT car, but escapes unscathed.
17:15: #74 finally makes it back to the pits.
17:22: TK in the #2 spins the #55 trying to catch up to the leading #1.
17:33: Duval sets fastest lap again with a 3:25.124.
17:36: #1 in the pits needing rear bodywork.
17:42: Duval with a 3:24.740.
17:43: #1 back out on track after 2:16 in the pits, while Duval posts a 3:24.189.
17:56: TK takes the #1 barely when exiting the pits, but #1, with a lighter load and better heat in the tyres, has a go at the first chicane, goes off onto the gravel, overcorrects, and ends up in second still.

Final Quarter:
18:18: #49 spins from second in LMP2, and after pits, rejoins in fourth.
18:37: Strakka has a puncture and a spin.
18:46: #13 comes in to change the clutch while precious few laps ahead of the Strakka and the #22.

Hour 20:
19:15: #40 catches air and continues while the #35 gets towed out of the gravel at Arnage.
19:35: #4 Audi slow on track. #38 spins at the exit of Porsche curves and hits the wall hard. Looks like their day is close to over.
19:42: Unbelievable. #38 got going again and is attempting to make it to the pits.
19:59: Audi battle for lead is back to three seconds.

Hour 21:
20:33: Strakka in the pits for high temperatures and some coolant.
20:40: #1 retakes the lead as #2 pits.
20:55: GTE Am battle for the lead is 1.2 seconds between the #50 Corvette in first and the #67 Porsche.
20:56: #1 spins after lockup at the pit entrance.

Hour 22:
21:00: #67 takes #60 for the GTE Am lead.
21:05: #3 spears into the same part of the first chicane, with Gene at the wheel instead of Dumas.
21:10: Safety car comes out as the #2 goes off at Porsche Curves at the hands of Allan McNish, trying to not hit a GTE car. That's probably the race unless the #1 gets up to hijinks or breaking down.
21:15: Ha. Toyota announced their press conference for thirty minutes before Audi takes the win this year. Funny.
21:16: Amazingly, McNish is away again in the #2. That Audi pit team worked blisteringly fast.
21:35: Safety car comes in, but because they were behind different cars, the GTE Am leaders are separated by a third of the track with the #67 behind. But #50 pits right at green and comes out 7 seconds behind the #67. That'll be a battle to the end. Speaking of GTE, #51 still leads after building their car yesterday. I know I've said that a ton this year, but that's astounding.
21:45: After the safety car, #1 is ahead by two laps over #2, who has two laps over #4, who has seven laps over #12, who has a lap over a freshly repaired #3. LMP2: #44 Honda 2.5 minutes ahead of #46 Oreca-Nissan, which is 2.5 minutes ahead of the #49 Oreca-Nissan, and the #26 Oreca-Nissan is two laps back. GTE Pro: #51 has two laps over the #59 Ferrari, who has one lap over the #97 Aston Martin. Aston is in striking range still.


Hour 23: And I'm back.
22:00: Fresh tyres, fresh driver (Lotterer), and gas for #1. They'll only need one more pit stop it they keep a clean rest of the race.
22:10: GTE Am still battling with 30 seconds between them.
22:46: #1 in the pits for second to last stop.
22:54: #12 in for a splash and dash. McNish is really pushing out there. Desperate to get his 1.5 laps back and win this one.
22:57: #2 and #4 in the pits. McNish getting out, TK gets in, new tyres. We'll see what he can do.

Hour 24:
23:00: 1 hour to go. Battles still out there: LMP1: Of course, the battle for overall lead. If the #1 does anything wrong, the #2 is right there with TK at the wheel. Farther back, #3 is a lap down on the Rebellion #12. LMP2: 2:16 between lead and second, #44 and #46. Battle for 7th in LMP2 is the #35 Morgan Nissan being chased by the #23 Oreca-Nissan. GTE Pro: #73 Corvette, in fourth, only has thirty seconds over the #71 Ferrari. GTE Am: #67 has 28 seconds over #50 for the lead.
23:09: Here is the #1 lapping, with a Ferrari and a Corvette behind just short of the first chicane:

23:10: #74 is being fired up to take the finish, if it'll last. Here they are lining up for Mulsanne with a Rebellion passing him:

23:25: #1 in for his last pit stop. And #2 is on his tail!!! Look at this from the second chicane:

23:30: #2 got his lap back from the #1 at the start-finish line with a half hour to go. The gap at lap 370 is 3:31. TK's speed is incredible:

23:37: #2 in the pits for their last stop. Will they come out on the same lap as the #1 or not? Oh jeez. They held TK until the #1 got back around. This isn't going to be a race at the end because Dr. Ulrich doesn't want it to be.
23:39: Dome is being fired back up to try and make it to the finish.
23:42: #50 took back the lead by less than a second from the #67! Reports coming in that Toyota apologized to the Delta Wing crew.
23:46: #50, in less than a lap, has pulled out 7 or eight seconds on the #67. This'll be a close finish.
23:48: The Audi's have lined up on the track, as usual.

23:50: #50 may need a splash and dash...
23:51: Here is one of the classic Le Mans shots:

23:54: Here is the Dome underway:

23:56: #67 gets a flat! Right at the end!!! My oh my that is such an indication of the quality of racing this year that the GTE Am goes down to the last few seconds. They need to get that car back to pits and change the tires before Audi finishes in order to get their qualification.
24:00: Pedro Lamy just drove into pits and lept out, getting close to his time limit. Another driver dove into the #50 and got it out just before the Audis crossed the line, dodging the crowds inundating pit lane already. They should still have the win...
24:01: Rebellion photobombs the Audi finish:


24:06: And #50 does win it in GTE Am! What a battle.

+++

Results: Another Audi Sweep:


LMP1: Audi #1, Audi #2, Audi #3, Rebellion-Lola #12, Audi #3, Honda #22.
LMP2: #44 Honda Team Starworks, #46 Oreca-Nissan Team Thiriet, #49 Oreca-Nissan Team Pecom, #26 Oreca-Nissan Team Signatech, #41 Zytek Team Greaves Motorsports, #25 ADR-Delta Oreca-Nissan, #45 Morgan-Nissan Team Oak Racing, #42 Zytek Team Greaves Motorsports.
GTE Pro: #51 Ferrari, #59 Ferrari, #97 Aston Martin, #71 Ferrari, #73 Corvette, #74 Corvette.
GTE Am: #50 Corvette, #67 Porsche, #57 Ferrari, #79 Porsche (Flying Lizard), #70 Corvette.
Retired: 21 cars. 35 finished though of those, both the Dome and the #74 Corvette didn't complete enough laps to be qualified. Good job to those two teams, getting the cars back out there for the final lap for the fans. Great showing for their very tired mechanics.

My Predictions:
Out of 12 picks, I got the overall winner, that their would be two Oreca-Nissan's in LMP2, though nobody could've predicted which two, I got Aston Martin in third in GTE Pro and a Ferrari in second, and I got all three in GTE Am, just in the wrong order. So I picked team, car, and place accurately twice, and cars another six times. 8 out of 12 isn't bad for a 24 hour race. Here is why I missed:

LMP1: #8 and #3 both had problems, #8 spectacularly and #3 throughout.
LMP2: #24 fell off after a great run, with a busted oil pump that they had to disassemble to replace in hour 10.
GTE Pro: Corvette #74 changed gearboxes twice, and #73 did once. That and other smaller issues time and time again kept them off the podium.
GTE Am: It appears that the Ferrari era may be getting close to over? But the GTE Pro category shows that it really isn't.

Rooting Schedule: Two of the teams I was rooting for got podiums, though Rebellion was so close -- only 8 laps from third place. I'm sure many more of them would've wished to be somewhere else at the end of the day, but the festivities next year may be for them.

LMP1: Dome had issues and Strakka fought valiantly, but couldn't catch a break. Rebellion did perfectly, but couldn't catch a podium.
LMP2: Morgans did great, then both died. The Delta Wing crashed out. #42 finished 8th in class after issues and a couple of spins.
GTE Pro: Aston Martin turned in a great race and caught both sides of the luck at times, but ended up on the third step of a well-deserved podium. Corvettes both had big issues, and Flying Lizard, well, they were retired from the class after 114 laps.
GTE Am: Aston Martin crashed out. Corvette won it. And Flying Lizard finished fourth in class, but ten laps back from third.

+++

As always, Le Mans is different every year, but no less exciting for me. This year was quite clean, only three safety cars, and featured sustained great racing. Great job to all the teams and I'm glad everybody is safe. I hope Anthony Davidson's two broken vertebrae heal soon. For me, these are the stories I take away this year:

LMP2: This was breathtaking, the whole way. This is very much becoming the Privateer class and the class where the battles are. I counted eleven thousand, four hundred and fifty-two lead changes.

Rebellion-Lola: The highest placing privateer team, with a car in fourth and one in eleventh overall. What a spectacular run for them this year. They need to bring back last years paint job, but seeing them get so close to the podium -- and photobomb the Audis at the end -- was a real treat. Lola has always been my favorite chassis manufacturer and that still doesn't change, no matter what the uncertain future brings. Though I bet this finish will bring a few smiles to a company that needs some right now.

GT Classes: For the first quarter of the race, six GTE Pro cars swapped lead back and forth, running four wide in Mulsanne and on the start-finish stretch, and up until the very end the GTE Am class was undecided. Yes, the Pro-Corvettes couldn't quite pull it off this year, but the Am podium of Corvette, Porsche, and Ferrari tells a good portion of the story. Of course the #97 coming back relentlessly from every upset and finally taking third on the podium was brilliant teamwork. And of course, the fairy tale story:

#51: On Wednesday evening they buried their car, totaled it. On Thursday they began rebuilding it. On Friday evening it was still in pieces. On Saturday they got it out for morning practice and realized that the new car was better than the totaled one, so they decided to try their luck from the very back of the grid. They won. Yes, it really is that much of a fairy tale. With the Corvettes and the Aston Martin having issues, #51 took a well deserved win in one of those stories that only comes along every so often where people try very hard to accomplish something that means a lot to them, and they get lucky.

Toyota: Announcing in September that they would bring a car to Le Mans this year, they were probably hoping to coast behind Peugeot for one year, then challenge next year. Then, in March, Peugeot quit. Toyota ramped up their effort considerably, and to see a team go from zero to swapping the lead with Audi that quickly was splendid. And by all press accounts, these guys act like real people rather than the jerks at Peugeot. Great to see a team embrace the gentlemanly side of the sport. Even Audi, their competitors, said at the end that it would've been nice to have the Toyota competition. Must have been painful for Toyota to watch their #7 take the lead, and have the camera cut immediately to the #8 flipping through the air into the barriers. But they apologized to the Delta Wing, and that's important.

Delta Wing: This brought thousands of new fans to Le Mans and endurance racing and that, to me, is a job well done. I am disappointed the ACO wouldn't let them repair and keep running though. I heard their was a 30% dropoff in viewership after the Delta Wing was out of the race. ACO shot themselves in the foot there. Maybe they should make a 500kg class soon?

New Regulations for 2014: Bit of a contentious subject this, but we just got new regulations last year, and now new ones for 2014? How is that enough time for the Privateer team to get a car up to speed? Really, by switching the regulations so quickly, they are stifling the "gentleman" racers that they say they are trying to encourage. I think it's time for the ACO to go with a 5 year cycle for regulations at least -- give people a chance to make money off of their investments a little bit.

Anyways, 364 days until the next one and I can't wait!