It’s the second week of June and, as per tradition, I’ll be spending most of the weekend awake in front of the TV, watching racecars go round and round and round, somewhere in France.
The Track: 13.65km of part permanent racetrack, part public road. This crazy anacronism just never seem to loose it’s magic.
The Fans: A quarter of a million people, half of which are Brits and Danes, stay up all night and drink all weekend. And all behave very nicely.
The Rivals: Audi has been seated firmly on the Le Mans throne for a decade now, with no intention of relinquishing their position. But Peugeot is determined to get a return on their huge investment, especially since they did’t win last year. Audi has a new and faster car, while Peugeot has undoubtedly worked hard to improve teamwork and tactics (where they fell behind last year). Could be a very interesting and close race.
The Courtroom Drama: Peugeot has filed a complaint against the Audi front spoiler design, but the matter won’t be settled until long after the race is over.
The Empty Classrooms: LMP2 boils down to a battle between the two Porsches, and GT1 between the two factory Corvettes. That’s four cars fighting for two class wins. Not good enough.
The Heart-Throb: Women gasped and men grinned with schadenfreude when American actor Patrick “Dr. McDreamy” Dempsey put his Ferrari in the gravel trap during the thursday qualifying. In defence of the disgustingly handsome actor, he’s not just a pretty air-head appearing at Le Mans for some personal publicity, but an avid motorsports fan and a fairly competent race driver. Also, he’s racing for a childrens charity rather than any notion of winning anything. I really, really, really hate that guy.
[ninja edit]The Black Gold: With stricter regulations on pit crew size, tire wear will be more important than ever.[/ninja edit]
I watched about 10 hours of the epic fight at Sebring. I doubt I’ll watch that much, proportionally, of Le Mans, but I’ll definitely watch as much as I can. I’d be surprised if Peugeot can pull it off. Traditionally they’ve had the quicker car (and still haven’t managed to win), but that didn’t look to be the case at Sebring vs. the R15.
A quick intro to the main competitors in the different classes:
LMP1: The battle for the overall win is between the factory Audi R15’s and the Peugeot 908’s. Peougeot is determined to reap the rewards of their massive investment, but Audi has no intention of giving up the Le Mans throne. While Peugeot was much faster than the R10 last year (lost 9 minutes to Audi’s superior pit work), the new R15 has better speed and has already won the 12 hour race at Sebring earlier this year. And worries that the new R15 might wear out tires faster seem to be unfounded. According to Audi top driver Tom Kristensen, the R15 can do at least one more stint on each set of tires than the Peugeots. The private Team Pescarolo has got their hands on one of the Peugeots, but it’s doubtful if they can keep up with the factory cars for 24 hours.
The three Aston Martins, resplendid in their historic Gulf blue-and-orange livery are the fastest of the petrol powered LMP1’s, and may give Team Kolles older Audi R10 diesels a run for their money.
LMP2: A class mainly for private teams, and notorious for few cars completing the race, it boils down to a battle between the two Porsche RS Spyders. #5 Navi Team Goh is arguably the prettiest (colour-wise) of the two, but #31 Team Essex has direct support from Michelin, and with tire wear being so important this year (new restrictions on pit crew numbers makes it even more important for tires to last several stints) it might be the deciding factor. Both teams have a fairly competent driver setup with at least two Le Mans vets each.
GT1: The most dissapointing class this year, with just six cars. The two factory Corvettes #63 and#64 are the ones to beat, with the #66 Jetalliance Aston Martin DBR9 as the outsider.
GT2: Traditionally a Porsche vs. Porsche class, but in recent years Ferrari has made a comeback, much to the delight of motorsports fans, and this year there’s 10 Ferraris and 5 Porsches on the grid. Last years winners from Rizi Competizione in the #82 and #83 Ferrari F430’s are the ones to beat.
The Peugeots are going like a bat out of hell. They’ll probably have to make up time for the extra time they’ll (likely) spend on pit stops. And maybe also to put additional pressure on Audi, hoping they’ll crack under pressure, however unlikely.
Weather forecast says nice dry weather througout the race. That’s good news for Peugeot. Their three worst enemies are the night hours, wet track, and Tom Kristensen.
(factory) Peugeot #7 is hit by (Pescarolo private team) Peugeot #17 as the former exits the pit and the latter enters. A disastrous start for Peugeot! It looks like only minor damage through, duct tape repairable.
Edit: I was a bit quick there. #7 Peugeot is fucked. Blown left rear tyre. The shredded rubber rips through the bodywork. This is bad news for everyone, as pieces of razor sharp carbon is littered across the track, ready to puncture any tyre that runs over it.
Lost my TV signal, so I bought online streaming. That is, I got a monthly subscription, as the website refused to accept my purchase of the announced 24 hour subscription. And it only works in MS Explorer. And not (as announced) in an external player. Oh the joys of technology!