24 Hours of Le Mans Qualifying and Practice - Click above for high-res image gallery
The 2010 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is now well underway and as it has been for years now, the big enduro has turned into a twice around the clock sprint. For those of you planning to watch the race on your DVR, you can come back later to avoid the spoilers. The rest of you? Read on after the jump.
After 90 minutes
Even before the start, the #80 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 encountered trouble when a screw on the track caused a rear tire puncture. The U.S. based ALMS team quickly recovered and got back into action. Unfortunately, another ALMS team was far less lucky as the JaguarRSR outfit completed only one lap before heading into the pits. According to team principal Paul Gentilozzi, the car has been suffering from an electronics problem since arriving France. When pushed hard, it sees periodic voltage spikes from the usual 8 volts to over 100, which causes an ECU reset. Once the race began, one of these spikes actually fried the Jag's ECU.
Only 15 minutes into the race, the Ginetta-Zytek being shared by ex-world-champion Nigel Mansell and his sons Leo and Greg spun off into the guard rail at the Indianapolis corner with the former world champion at the wheel. This crash brought out a full-course yellow for about half an hour while the guard rail was repaired. Mansell was checked out at the medical center and released, but his car is out of the race.
In qualifying, the diesel-powered Peugeot and Audi racers grabbed the first seven spots on the grid and shy of a major disaster, one of them will surely win. The diesels have such a fuel economy advantage over the gasoline-fueled cars like the Aston Martin prototypes, that they run with only an 81 liter fuel tank compared to 90 for the rest of the field.
The Peugeot 908 still has a clear speed advantage over the Audi R15 although Allan McNish ran over a second faster than the quickest Peugeot during the wet morning warm-up. Audi is banking on superior efficiency to give them an advantage over the race's 24 hours. The team expects it can run 13 laps between fuel stops compared to only 12 for the 908s.
Fuel economy is also expected to play a part in GT2. GT2 cars are required to run production-based engines, which means the 5.5-liter V8 in the Corvette has to be port injected like the road cars. Nonetheless, the two factory Vettes are running 1-2 after 90 minutes. For 2010, the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 is running a direct-injected V8 based on the unit in the Ferrari California road car. Ferrari's DI V8 is expected to get the team up to as many as 15 laps per tank, similar to what the Corvettes manage.
We've also learned why the Risi Ferrari had to start from the back of the grid after getting the fastest qualifying time in GT2. The GT2 cars need to run a 15 millimeter high Gurney flap on the rear wing. The part on the Risi car came up just short. It also had only half of the required mounting bolts in place, which could allow the flap to flex and flatten out at speed, reducing drag. At the 90-minute mark the Risi car was sitting 13th in GT2.
The #79 BMW M3 Jeff Koons art car is running 6th in class after 98 minutes. Frank Montagny is leading overall in the #2 Peugeot.
We'll be back later this evening with a mid-race update. In the meantime, be sure to check out our 2010 Le Mans link roundup post to find plenty of additional race coverage.