Monday, June 14, 2010
1-2-3 For Audi and Heartbreak for Corvette Racing.
LE MANS, FRANCE – 24 hours is a long time in racing, and anything can happen at any time. The championship defending Peugeot LMP1 cars started 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th on the grid and had an amazing run that day and into the night. During an interview with Romain Dumas, the Speed commentator prophetically asked if the Peugeots could keep up their amazing speed during the whole race. Dumas replied that he did not know, but that the Audi teams just need to concentrate on running a clean race. Well, that strategy certainly paid off as the Peugeots one-by-one began to drop out of the race. First, the pole-sitting #3 car of Pedro Lamy dropped out with a suspension failure. Then, in the early morning hours, Montagny’s entry retired. With only two hours to go, Wurz’s Peugeot dropped out with an engine failure. Finally, the Oreca entered Peugeot had to drop out leaving the victory to the Audi contingent. The 3 factory Audis swept the 1, 2, and 3 spots with the Bernhard /Dumas/Rockenfeller entry claiming the top tier of the podium. The Audi set a new distance record of 3,362.19 miles. "To come here and drive for a factory team like Audi with such a long history of victories - now nine in the last 11 years - is something special to be here as a driver," Bernhard said. "I felt very strong team spirit from the beginning of the weekend. We shared every bit of information and improved the car. It was a combined team effort and we put it all together. All three cars ran perfectly." Audi has tied Ferrari for the number of manufacturer wins at Le Mans with 9 wins. Porsche claims the top spot with 16 wins.
GT2 also turned out to be a race of attrition. The favorite, Corvette Racing dominated qualifying and much of the race. The #82 Ferrari of Risi Competizione fought the Corvettes in an intense battle but dropped out in the seventh hour with a transmission issue, ending the 6-race winning streak for Ferrari. Running 1 and 2, it appeared to be clear sailing for the American team as BMW was plagued with problems and the venerable Porsche’s did not have the speed necessary to challenge the ‘vettes. But as fate would have it, a little after 7 am, the #63 C6R retired due to an apparent engine failure. "Unfortunately it appears to be an engine failure, our first in 11 years of racing at Le Mans," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. "We'll get the car back, take it apart, determine what the problem was, resolve it, and move forward. The engine was running perfectly one minute, and then not perfectly the next. There wasn't any indication leading up to it - no loss of oil pressure, no degradation in performance. The cause could be any number of things, so we'll look into it further before reaching a conclusion."
Then, at 8:42 am, an aggressive pass by the first place Peugeot LMP1 car, Emanuel Collard hit the wall in the Porsche curves. Limping the car back to the pits, the Corvette Racing crew was able to repair the damage, including replacement of the gearbox and clutch, and return the car to the track in an amazing 31 minutes and in 6th place. Amazingly enough, Oliver Gavin turned the fastest lap of the event - even faster than his qualifying run - following the repairs. But at 9:42 am, the second C6R also had to retire due to another apparent engine failure. "The guys fixed the car brilliantly after the crash, and I was able to run my fastest lap of the race with a rebuilt car," Gavin said. "The Corvette Racing team is fantastic, and I literally trust them with my life. I'm impressed with their spirit, guts, and determination to take on everybody. We had the fastest car for 18 hours, but unfortunately it wasn't enough."The retirement of the last C6R paved the way to the podium for the Porsche entry of Felbermayr-Proton. "After two hours, we thought it would be very tough to beat the Ferrari and Corvettes today," driver Henzler said. "We couldn't go the speed, but we pushed from the beginning and treated it like a sprint race. The only thing we could have done was run our own race and stay out of trouble. Finally we had a car which was very reliable with absolutely no problems. We saw what happened to the other cars, and that's how we won the race."