Ok let’s jump straight in and look at the dramas from further down the field at the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Behind the diesel class, here was another prototype race going
on, that of those powered by petrol. Although a factory effort in name,
the Lola Aston Martin team is closer in resource terms to the best of
the privateers. A titanic battle ensued between the two quick AMR cars,
the ORECA’s, the Pescarolo and the Speedy Lola.
This was resolved in the 007 Lola Aston’s favour which had a relatively trouble free run to 4th.
007, driven by Stefan Mucke, Jan Charouz and Tomas Enge were worthy
winners of this sub category. The cars sounded great and looked
fabulous, the combination of Lola, Gulf and Aston Martin brands, all
with long associations with Le Mans, looked right.
The 008 car in the hands of Darren Turner, Jos Verstappen and
Anthony Davidson was quicker than their sister car but a 5 minute stop
and go penalty for avoidable contact plus gearbox issues blunted their
challenge. The 009 car ended up in the wall at Porsche Curves, Harold
Primat repeating Lucas Luhr’s performance with similar consequences.
So that left 5th place overall to the ORECA 01 AIM of Olivier Panis, Soheil Ayari and Nicolas Lapierre.
LMP2 was a straight fight between the Porsche RS Spyders with the
the other entries unable to keep pace. The Team Essex example of
Emmanuel Collard, Casper Elgaard and Kristian Poulsen took a small
advantage during the night when the Team Goh car had a minor problem.
This was converted to retirement when Seiji Ara wrote the RS Spyder off
hitting the first chicane down the Mulsanne Straight.
GT1 was in a word, pathetic. The Corvette C6Rs of Pratt & Miller
showed up and displayed their customary class but they had no
opposition in either quality or numerical terms. Fortunately 63 and 64
were allowed to race each other.
So at least we had some competition till the 21 hour point when
Marcel Fassler in the 64 car lost all drive with transmission failure.
So the victory in GT1 went to Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and
Antonio Garcia, a proper way to mark the end of the career of this
In complete contrast GT2 was an incredible contest, at least to
start with. The Porsches had a speed advantge over the Ferraris, which
enabled them to dominate the pole position fight. In the race however
things were different.
The recent movements on the financial markets regarding Porsche and
Audi must somehow been transmitted to their race teams, as Porsche’s
top line outfits pushed the same self destruct button that Audi had.
The lead Porsche, number 77 Felbermayr example, with Marc Lieb,
Richard Lietz and Wolf Henzler lost time as a result of a puncture
early on, then suffered the catastrophy of running out of fuel while on
The next casualty was the IMSA Performance Porsche with the weird
problem of being too fast…………the engine restrictor had somehow
started to leak, so this had to be replaced. Two down.
All of which meant that the Risi Competitzione Ferrari F430 strolled
into a lead that it would never surrender. Jamie Melo, Mika Salo and
Pierre Kaffer are too good, as are the team, to be handed such
advantages and not come out on top.
To reinforce the point about Risi’s performance their second car
with Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Eric van de Poele took third place
with the BMS Scuderia 430 between the two US cars to complete a hat
trick for Ferrari.
In the final analysis Peugeot did a better job than Audi and fully
deserved their win, a point that Audi graciously made in their press
statements. The race was not a classic in the way that 2008 was but
still held us fascinated as events unfolded. The win may persuade
Peugeot to continue in this arena, certainly they will take a car to
the final rounds of the American Le Mans Series, so if you can get to
either Petit Le Mans or Laguna Seca in the fall do so, you know it
Next I will give a personal view of the week.
Photography by John Brooks and David Lister