The 76th Le Mans 24 Hours came to a dramatic finish, with a victory by Audi with Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen from the Peugeot of Marc Gene, Nicolas Minassian and Jacques Villeneuve. It marks the eighth wn (yes, EIGHT!!!) for Tom and the second win for Allan. I'm so pleased for Allan, one of the nicest guys around and he's waited 10 years for his second win.
Peugeot started from Pole, but suffered some early troubles, with Audi taking the lead. As the sun set, Peugeot caught and passed the Audi as they are faster in the dry. All change early on Sunday morning when it started raining and the Peugeots struggled. The No2 Audi, driven at the time, by Allan McNish took the lead and stretched out a small lead. As the rain stopped and the track dried, the lead No 7 Peugeot started eating away at the gap, helped after Tom Kristensen classed with a LMP2 backmarker.
With just 90 minutes to go, the gap between the Audi and Peugeot was just 2 minutes as it started raining. With half the track wet and half dry, the lead Audi took Intermediates, while the No 7 Peugeot stayed on slicks. This helped the Audi stretch their lead.
Disaster struck following the final Peugeot stop, just 15 mins from the end when Nicolas Minassian suffered a rear tyre issue. The car appeared undriveable, but somehow Nicolas got the car back to the pits and a new set put Nicolas back on pace, but the race had been lost.
The No9 Peugeot finished third, with the No3 Audi and No 8 Peugeot. Quite remarkable that all six Diesels finished! In the unofficial 'Petrol LMP1' class, Pescarolo was the victor, 7th overall. The Lola Aston Coupe had a number of problems, but finished in 8th.
The Dome finished btw, but 110 laps down.
The LMP2 battle was excellent earlier with the two Porsche RS Spyders, being equally matched on their debut. In the night, Team Essex had a misfire, which took ages to sort and the Van Merksteijn strengthened their lead to 7 laps, taking the LMP2 win from Team Essex. The first Chinese driver to ever race at Le Mans, Franky Cheng finished 3rd in the Pescarolo.
GT1 saw an epic battle between Aston and Corvette. Both makes led, but the 009 Gulf Aston took the lead in the night and never looked back. The two Corvettes finished 2nd and 3rd in class with a recovering 007 Gulf Aston in 4th. Again, excellent reliability, and a great win for the works Aston, in their only event this year.
Reliability was something lacking in GT2. Early on, the IMSA and Lizard Porsche's crashed, putting the IMSA car out. Problems with the third Porsche, left the podim challenge to Ferrari. After loosing their Krohn entry very early, Risi Competion took the lead in GT2 from early evening to the flag. Virgo Motorsport led the challenge, for most of the race, despite not having power steering. However, the Virgo car retired with less than 2 hours to run, and Pirelli BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari took 2nd place..
A fantastic race, a real classic. Peugeot and Corvette were favourites, but it was not to be. Keep an eye out for highlight review shows on Speed TV and Eurosport. Radio Le Mans will also be releasing a highlights package which will be broadcast later and then as podcasts.
Photos: Audi, Peugeot, Aston Martin, GM