The GTE battle has been exactly as expected: hard-fought and close. It's the #74 Chevrolet Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Richard Westbrook and Jan Magnussen that's at the head of the field – but it's being chased hard by a pack of Ferraris and Porsches. The race is neutralised at the moment, with a second safety car period that's likely to last quite some time as barriers are being repaired.
The BMWs have faded slightly after suffering problems in the first couple of hours, but are still in touch – just two laps back from the leader. Both M3s have been in the garage for repairs but their inherent speed means they can't be discounted…
The faster two Ferraris – #59 Luxury Racing and #51 AF Corse were expected to be at the sharp end, but the surprise has been the #75 Prospeed Porsche 911.
Unfortunately the great racing in this class has been overshadowed by the two car-destroying accidents for two of the three Audi R18s in LMP1. McNish's huge accident in the R18 in the first hour caused an hour long safety car to fix the damage done to the barriers by the fearsome impact of his Audi. It also meant the end of the epic battle he'd been having to keep ahead of the marauding Peugeots, which had been excellent entertainment. #3's crash was then followed in the seventh hour by Mike Rockenfeller hitting the barrier hard after overtaking a GTE car – again, thankfully he was able to get out of the smashed car. This leaves just the #2 R18, with a slender lead…
…over the chasing Peugeots. With all four cars still in contention Peugeot can afford to split their strategies to cover off the Audi. There's a long way to go if Audi are to get the win.
The 908s are also surprisingly noisy – not just compared to the almost silent R18s, but even to some of the other LMPs! Down the Hunaudieres straight the speed of the diesels is stunning – they gobble up all other cars into the braking area for the first chicane.
For Aston Martin, it's been a Le Mans to forget: neither AMR One completed more than a couple of dozen laps – the #009 out in the first hour and the #007 limping in and out of the pits before eventually retiring. LMP1 has felt the heaviest loss so far, with five out and two walking wounded. At behind the diesels there's a good fight between the Rebellion Lolas (#12 and #13) and the #16 Pescarolo.
The lower-tier LMP2 class is being ruled by Nissan at the moment: the block is derived from the GT500 R35, and the Nissan-powered cars seem to be the fastest thing out there in LMP2.
Abdulaziz Al-Faisal is in the #88 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 RSR this weekend, lined up with Briton Nick Tandy and American Bryce Miller. I don't think I've seen him without a huge smile on his face: this place does that to people. Their car ran as high as third, but a puncture dropped them down the order: they're fighting their way back up the order.
POSITIONS AT HOUR EIGHT (under safety car)
1st: #2 Audi R18 TDi (Fassler/Lotterer/Treluyer) 120 laps
2nd: #7 Peugeot 908 (Gene/Wurz/Davidson) 120 laps
3rd: #9 Peugeot 908 (Lamy/Bourdais/Pagenaud) 120 laps
4th: #8 Peugeot 908 (Montagny/Sarrazin/Minassian) +1 lap
5th: #10 Peugeot 908 HDI-FAP (Lapierre/Duval/Panis) +1 lap
1st (9th overall): #48 Oreca 03-Nissan (Premat/Hallyday/Kraihamer) +7 laps
2nd (11th): #41 Greaves Motorsport Zytek-Nissan (Ojjeh/Lombard/Kimber-Smith) +8 laps
3rd (12th): #39 Pecom Racing LolaB11/40 (Perez-Companc/Russo/Kaffer) +9 laps
1st (19th): #74 Chevrolet Corvette C6R (Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook) +12 laps
2nd (20th): #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia (Ortelli/Makowiecki/Melo) +12 laps
3rd (21st): #75 Prospeed Competition Porsche 911 RSR (Goosens/Holzer/Van Lagen) +13 laps
4th (22nd: #51 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia (Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander) +13 laps
5th (23rd): #73 Chevrolet Corvette C6R (Garcia/Milner/Beretta) +13 laps
Speedhunters Le Mans 2011 coverage
hello nice post
The Four Rings will strike! Audi has a new car this year, hopefully their famed reliability will allow them to outlast the silly frech competition, as it has many times in the past. it pains me to see McNish and Kristensen and Capello out of the race so early.
shame about the BMW's.. i always root for them. [those who know me, know why] - Peugeot need to play this one out like a game of chess, they could come out of this doing quite well, but still its early days [well hours at least!] - keep us posted!
Aston martin is the biggest joke ever on Le Mans!!