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!

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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.

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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!

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