Le Mans 24 Hours 2013

With 16 hours to go Audi #2 in the lead is under pressure from Toyota #8 while Audi #3 and Toyota #3 are battling for third place.

LMP2 the Battle of the Nissans has a handful of cars fairly close to each other with Oak Racing #35 currently in the lead.

GTE Pro had turned into a furious battle between the two factory Aston Martins and the two factory Porches. Aston Martin #99 is currently leading Porsche #92. The factory Ferrari’s are left behind and the Corvettes even more so.

GTE Am has Ferrari and Porsche duking it out. Ferrari #34 leads Porsches #88 and #77. Incidentally, the #77 Porsche driver setup includes actor Patrick Dempsey.

Yet another safety car period as debris is cleared off the track. Many teams take the opportunity to pit when they can do so without losing much time. Audi #3 goes back in the garage for some work.

The Audi gets a new nose. Could be a problem or adjusting the downforce/setup, but it does look more like a work of necessity rather than routine.

Audi #3 is back on the track. As the safety car is still out the loss of time is minimal. Also, the cars line up according to the current standing so it gets to pass many of the other cars cueing up behind the safety car.

Actually it’s safety cars, plural: Because of the extremely long 13km track, there are up to three safety cars so cars lagging behind can’t make back an entire lap during the safety car period.

Anyway, the safety cars are back in, the light is green and the race is back on.

With 15 hours to go there’s another safety car period. Ferrari #57 has gone off the track. This car was practically destroyed in the practice/qualifying and much of the car is brand new. Drivers are struggling to keep the tires warm and grippy, leading to more spins.

The race has settled somewhat as the clock passes midnight though the gaps are still quite small. Audi #2 controls the pace from the lead, keeping the two Toyotas a lap behind, though with the Toyotas running longer stints the Audi will have to do more than just stay ahead.

In LMP2 the Nissans still runa close race, with two of the favourite Oak Racing Nissans in front.

The factory Aston Martins have distanced the factory Porsches a bit in the GTE Pro class.

The competition is particularly fierce in the GTE Am class with a pair of Ferrari’s chasing a pair of Porsche’s. The #88 Porsche spun off and has fallen back a few places. The new leader is the #77 Porsche; Driver: P. Dempsey. That’s right. Dr. McDreamy is in the lead at Le Mans.

I fell asleep! What’d I miss?! What’d I miss?! As per standard operating procedure I nod off and sleep through the alarm clock. The drivers have the good grace not to make too much drama while I snoozed.

Audi #2 still leads the two Toyotas with Audi #3 chasing them. Audi #1 is still far behind after the long repair work in the evening.

In LMP2 Oak Racing is living up to its favourite role with the #24 Morgan-Nissan having clawed its way back in the lead after the small spin-off yesterday. #35 Morgan-Nissan is in second with a gaggle of Nissan-powered competitors a lap or two behind.

GTE Pro has the two factory Aston Martins still ahead of the two factory Porsche’s, though that race is still very close.

GTE Am has the #76 Porsche duking it out with a pair of Ferrari’s. #77 Porsche with Patrick Dempsey has slipped back to 4th.

Less than 9 hours to go.

The #92 Porsche, leading the GTE Pro class, goes into the garage for an oil change. Meanwhile, the #32 Lotus LMP2 forgets to turn in the Mulsanne Corner and makes light contact with the tire wall.

#45 Morgan-Nissan (LMP2) is wriggling its long way back to the pits with damage. The car clearly doesn’t want to steer straight. Could be a front suspension issue. It manages to make it to the pit lane without causing trouble for anyone else. It’s immediately rolled into the garage for repairs. While the mechanics of the #45 car begin their frantic work (it is indeed the left front suspension), many of their colleagues are trying to catch a few minutes of sleep in between pit stops.

With 7 hours to go it’s still a close race. Audi #1 is still in the lead, Oak Racing still leads the LMP2 class and in GTE Pro Aston Martin is staying ahead of the factory Porsche’s. GTE Am is also a close race between Ferrari and Porsche. The gaps are small enough that a relatively small problem will cost dearly.

Aston Martin #98 is not having a small problem: The engine has quit and dumped oil on the track, prompting another safety car period.

With a little over 5 hours to go, the low clouds begin releasing some rain and the track is clearl slippery in some areas. The teams try to figure if they should switch to rain tires, and when.

The leading Audi #2 pits and swtiches to rain tyres. Aston Martin #99 crashes hard on the wet track and is out of the race. The driver is thankfully OK, jumping out of the car himself, but debris is scattered all over the track. The #99 Aston was leading the GTE Pro class and the pit crew is devastated. The safety cars are back on the track.

Audi #2 pits again, during the safety car period, switching drivers and switching back to slicks. The rain tyre gamble didn’t pay off as the track has dried up. But there’s plenty of opportunity for more rain in the last four and a half hours. The Audi joins the track just as the safety cars pull in again.

Toyota #7 spin on the wet track, but is let off easy, losing only the time it takes to turn the car around, with no apparent damage. Audi #3 is not far behind, chasing the third podium position.

With less than four hours to go, Audi #3 is going flat out, slowly closing the gap to Toyota #7 in the battle for 3rd overall. As Audi #3 pits for driver change, the gap is down to 14 seconds.

Ferrari #51 tries to cut down on pit time by setting off while still being fuelled, ripping the fuel hose. Amidst the frantic work in the AF Corse Ferrari pit, #51 manages to smack into the #45 Oak Racing LMP2 in the pit lane. Someone’s going to face the wrath of the race stewards very soon.

#45 Oak Racing LMP2 goes into the gravel and is towed behind the guardrail. It may have been effects of the impact in the pit lane with the #51 Ferrari, or a simple driver error.

With 3 hours to go, Audi #2 has a comfortable 2 lap lead over the two Toyotas. Audi #3 is not far behind and is pushing very hard, currently the fastest car on the track so Toyota has to keep up the pace if they want both cars on the podium.

The two Oak Racing LMP2’s continue to lead their class.

GTE Pro is a very close race between the #92 Porsche and #97 Aston Martin, only seconds apart. GTE Am has seen the #76 Matmut Porsche leading for quite a while with a pair of Ferraris and the #77 Porsche (the one with Patrick Dempsey) about a lap behind.

#45 Oak Racing is still parked on the track, the driver having pulled off the engine cover and plugged his helmet intercom into his phone to get advice from the pit. Drivers are allowed to repair their cars out on the track, but may not be helped by others. Typically, a couple of pit crew happen to pass by and “accidentally” drop a bag of tools right next to the stopped car.

The leading Audi #2 makes what looks like the final driver change. Into the car goes Mr. Le Mans himself: Tom Kristensen, the most successful Le Mans driver with 8 wins.

It’s raining, again, on parts of the track. #51 Ferrari makes a trip in the gravel.