- homepage
Italian version   
Email US on Facebook twitter Connectingrod  
Historical Carjust a lineHistorical Race Carjust a lineHistorical Eventsjust a lineShort Newsjust a lineWec & ELMSjust a lineInterviewsjust a lineGloriesjust a linePhotogallery
Staffjust a lineAbout Usjust a lineLinks
All the news  

24 hours of Le Mans 2011

8-12 June 2011
24 ore di Le Mans 2011
16/06/2011 -

It could be the year of revenge and, on the contrary, has been the bitterest in the all Peugeot’s adventure at Le Mans, even worst than in 2010. Once again Audi has shown an advanced ability of organization, which has permitted to win a race where after only height hours the chances of success were given to one car only and with the goddess Fortune that seemed to have turned her back on the Germans. Dr Ullrich has asked an effort of drivers and technicians, which was unthinkable on the eve of a race, and has managed to create not one but one hundred of winning strategies where Peugeot people went on with stubbornness the same behaviour in the race. It has been the success of the strongest team, as it was sadly admitted by Bourdais, dropped with fatigue and regret having lost the most aspired race to nothing.

The race has been enriched by the presentation of the New Endurance World Championship that will start in 2012 on Friday morning in the Museum of Le Mans circuit, but also with numerous events intended to remind Japan in such a difficult year for the country. Both on Thursday and Saturday the Mazda 787, which triumphed in 1991, was seen on the track for some commemorative rounds. It was driven by Dempsey, the American actor, and Johnny Herbert, the driver, while all other drivers were signing the French flag used for the start of the race in order to auction it with the proceeds given to the Japanese Red Cross.

Free Practice

The 79 th edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans started on Wednesday at 4.00 pm with the four hours of free practice that saw all drivers work in the asset of respective cars for in coming qualifying sessions. With respect to 2011 timesheets have been immediately considerable, as a demonstration of the how useful has been the test day organized at the end of April, a day which was cancelled in the past edition to abate the costs in an economic crisis period. As expected three Audis and four Peugeots have monopolized the first positions with the Audi driven by Rockenfeller with 3’27”986 fastest time preceding Lotterer and Bourdais, even if it must be said that almost all over the session the Peugeots were on the lead.

On the contrary the Aston Martins very soon appeared in trouble, they haven’t much run showing some difficulty in reaching the limits and setting a lap time over 19” less than the first ones. Then there was a session featured by a violent Narac’s accident with the Porsche of IMSA Team at the Porsche Curves which obliged the marshals to interrupt the session and the team to send the car immediately to Rouen for necessary repairs. The Acura Strakka has shown the improvements already envisaged at Spa with Watts ahead of all thanks to a clean lap during the third hour that the rivals Oreca Nissan in a first time won’t be able to improve, while the Lola of team Level 5 Motorsport could not even run one lap.

Among GTPros, the BMWs have appeared the most charging cars by starting with good times and improving with regularity all over the session, while the Ferraris, those of team AF Corse in particular, have preferred to work to balance themselves, going up to the top of timesheets only for a short period by the second hour, and finishing even behind Corvettes and Porsches. In GTAm the fastest time was unexpectedly set by Aston Martin Vantage with Giroix, but in this case it seemed that the best drivers have managed to work on qualifying rather than to get the time on the round.

Qualifying 1

On Wednesday at 22.00 pm the first session of two hours started with the Audis on the track to set the best performance: the German team seemed everything was going well but just at the end of the first hour, on the Arnage bend and standing in the way Dumas found the Aston Martin AMR Gulf finished in spin and the driver couldn’t avoid the collision. Thus the champion crew finished the night, while the technicians started a hard work to repair it in time for the sessions taking place on Thursday. The session was shortly interrupted and at the new start Peugeots started by setting times close to the rivals’ones, gaining the best time (3.27:033) with usual Sarrazin at five minutes from the end. After free practice the qualifying sessions also revealed a great balance between the two favoured teams, highlighted by limited leads and taking in turns the top of the timesheet.

The second best time was set by Lotterer, third one by Rockenfeller and fourth one by McNish, all with just one second separating from pole, while Genè and Pagenaud finished a little more outdistanced. Peugeot Oreca was left to act as a buffer between diesel and petrol engines, with Pescarolo still protagonist thanks to an excellent eighth time, before Rebellions.

Among the P2s there was a new best time by Acura Strakka, this time with Kane, but the team had no way of being cheerful: just a minute from the end of the session, Leventis crashed violently when braking on the Dunlop chicane, causing substantial damages to the car with the interruption of the session by the race managers. Behind the Japanese car there were the Oreca Nissan cars of Signatech and the official one, all closed at only 1 second.

In the GTPro the best time was set by Priaulx at the wheel of BMW, followed by the Ferrari AF driven by Bruni and by Farfus in the second BMW. Corvettes and above all Porsches appeared in more difficulties.

Finally in GTAm, where the Porsches made a good impression with the best time by Belloc and the second by the team Flying Lizard that have preceded the Aston Martin with Giroix.

Qualifying 2

On Thursday at 7.00 pm the circuit of La Sarthe caused the dance with the second qualifying session that, just once in a while, didn’t show off red flags. In the second session the times have been held for the most part of the two hours, but in the final both Audi and Peugeot improved remarkably with Fassler who arrived to beat the wall of 1’26”961, with just few tenths separating Sarrazin, who spun off twice, and Genè. The session in P2 was less emotional with Oreca Signatech setting the best time with a prefect round by Ayari, while the Strakka team, even if without any special improvement, managed to drive back to the track the car highly damaged in the first session.

In GTPro the BMWs had to give in the first position for the first time in this weekend, failing the time improvement of first round: Priaulx was protagonist of a bad spin off on the variants preceding the finishing line, which will prevent him from running back to the track all over the night. Best time was set by Bruni in the Ferrari 458 Italia, but also the twin car of Hankook team sounded the charge by gaining the fourth position before Corvettes. Among the GTAm there was finally the Ferrari 430 of AF Corse team, with Cioci who invented a lap that topped the timesheets. We need to point out that in this session, with the P1s exclusion, only few crews have been able to improve the times set in the first session.

Qualifying 3

The last two hours have really been shocking, with the Audis and Peugeots gaining precious hundredths of their times, lap after lap, so as to indicate that the limit time on lap has been practically set in the second session yet. At the start of session Dumas managed to hold provisional pole position with 3.25:799, whilst Davidson spun off in the attempt of improving his time. After few minutes the marshals are obliged to show off red flag owing to a collision between the Aston Martin P1 and the Ferrari with Beltoise by Mulsanne corner. After 30 minutes practice was again run but when it seemed that nothing could occur, Treluyer got a fantastic time of 3.25:738 which allowed him to grab pole. Also Peugeots were on the track and Pagenaud tried a surprise attack at few minutes form the end: at first he set the third time, then attacked pole setting the two best sectors and unfortunately losing in the third.

Sarrazin gained the fourth time preceding Kristensen, who ended on the sand at Tertre Rouge at the session end, and Gené. The best time among petrol engine cars was set by Jani with Rebellion at 3.32:883. Nothing happened in P2, with times and positions which were the same as in the previous session, whilst GTPro was more exciting, with Farfus who just on the last lap grab pole, stealing it to Vilander. While Priaulx’s time held off in third position, Magnussen in Corvette gained the fourth position. In GTAm there was a fantastic performance of Cioci who not only held off first position, but he could afford the luxury of overtaking five GTPros. Behind him but with a gap of two seconds we find the Porsches driven by Felbermayr Junior and Law.

The Race

After Friday rest, when the engines have been switched off and the drivers have been devoted to interviews and to the famous Parade de Pilotes in downtown, on Saturday, before 249,500 spectators, all attention returned at the track, with the 56 cars which were lined up by the technicians on the start grid to begin the long and special starting procedure. The warm up didn’t particularly change the balance settled in the two-day practice with the Peugeot driven by Bourdais ahead of three Audis with 3.37:675 that revealed how much the teams concentrated on preparation for the race.

1st - 4th hour

At 3.00 pm Jean Todt, the FIA president, waved the French flag on the grid line, starting a rather uncertain race. Treluyer and Bernhard started well, holding two frist position, while McNish in the four-ring car managed to pass Bourdais and was immediately sticking to the Peugeot of Montagny. After the first six drivers arrived Bleckemolen, but between the second and third passage he has to give in to Peugeot Oreca, Pescarolo with Tinsen and the twin car with Belicchi. On the second passage an incredible thing happened: first the television cameras filmed Turner’s spin off, then the second Aston Martin, covered with fume, that marshals trying to push to a security area. After only five minutes the English prototypes have finished their 24 hours race, which has also finished worst than it has been started, so as to think of an action planned in theory!

Mc Nish was uncontrollable and on lap 8 he managed to pass outside Montagny by braking on the Play Station and recover, lap after lap, over the other two had a certain margin. Around lap 10 a pit stop for the first drivers with the Peugeots delayed as foreseen for a round with respect of the rivals, and after a while it happened one of two events which strongly left their mark: at the Dunlop corner descent, McNish, who was faster, passed Bernhard and found himself beside the Ferrari with Beltoise that, not having seen the Audi’s arrival, closed it and came into contact with the rear axle. The Audi spun off and at high speed left the track bumping against a barrier behind which many photographers were gathered, and with a sudden rise it fell down luckily on the trackside. The car was destroyed but the driver and photographers were safe!

Immediately after the Safety cars run on the track, they went back to pits a hour ten off (lap 24) to allow the marshals to repair the barriers. At the restart the positions were almost the same till when Bernhard hadn’t the front side damaged, which forced him to give in to Wurz on the Play Station, after a few laps he went back to the pits to replace the nose, losing the fourth position too at Bourdais’s favour. At the third pit-stop the drivers were substituted by their co-drivers: Fassler went back to the track preceding Pagenaud, but the latter failed his braking at Arnage on a trajectory and lost over 30 seconds that will be decisive for the end of the race. By the end of the fourth hour the lead was taken by Fassler who preceded Davidson, Pagenaud, Dumas and Sarrazin.

Among the P2s the Oreca Signatech had a pace unreachable by the rivals, but just when first pit-stops were envisaged, a puncture on the left tyre caused two laps delay Therefore, official Oreca, ahead of Zytek Nissan, and Lola Pecom took the lead, while Arcura Strakka went on with difficulty after the accident occurred on Wednesday, and Pescarolo with Charouz of Oak Racing, third for a long time, suffered a puncture which caused it to drop to the sixth place. In GTPro, Bruni has driven the first hour as he were in qualifying so as to try to outdistance the rivals, but at first both Farfus and Gavin has held off to overtake him later on after first pits. Same situation in GTAm with Cioci in the lead in the first two hours, then overtaken by Austin Martin Gulf.

5th - 8th hour

While in the lead of the race Fassler’s Audi started with a significant margin and Dumas’s Audi, apart from a spin-off, was recovering over the Peugeots ahead of him, there was another P1’s failure: it was the Zytek Quifel, never appeared very competitive in the long weekend of the Sarthe, where the engine suddenly broke down. It wasn’t better for the Pescarolo Oak n°15, suffering from problems of assisted direction, at the pit stop for a long time. Audi and Peugeot had second change of drivers around 10.30 pm and only after a quarter of an hour, an unnatural silence dropped on Le Mans: in the pressroom everybody was standing wide opened watching the picture of a car that has practically disappeared after Mulsanne. In the stands, still partly crowded despite the hour, spectators tried to collect pieces of information broadcasted by the loudspeakers. It took a good quarter of an hour before understanding that it was dealing with the Audi driven by Rockenfeller that in the attempt of passing the Ferrari driven by Kaufman, had put two wheels on the grass at 300 km/h, losing the control of the car, at first crashing into the left barriers and then into the right ones. Everybody was afraid the driver might be injured but incredibly Mike came out the survival cell by himself and afterwards given into the care of doctors. Safety cars on the track, with Lotterer ahead of three Peugeots driven by Gené, Lamy and Minassian. Peugeot Oreca always acting as a buffer with the petrol cars, among them leader Pescarolo before Belicchi. In P2 the official Oreca was always in the lead over Zytek Graves and Lola Pecom, whilst Oreca Signatech tried a difficult recovery. In GTPro both BMWs were outdistanced from the first ones owing to a series of small contacts and Corvette n°74 having an easy time ahead of Vilander in Ferrari. In GTAm before all the rivals there were Porsche and Corvette of Larbre team, followed by Ferrari of Krohn team.

9th - 12th hour

Nothing worth remarking till one am, when Safety cars have finally given the leaders go-ahead, with exception of the Pescarolo n°24 forced to retire on Tertre Rouge, owing to a starting fire broken out in the engine zone. To start the hostility again there was the Audi with Treluyer in the lead with a good margin but the cold track favoured Peugeots little by little minimizing the gap and taking the lead for a while during the only rival’s pit-stop. If official Peugeots were in difficulty, it wasn’t better for the Oreca that around 2.20 am was damaged by the exit on Play Station which forced it to go back to pit for fifteen minutes. Among P2s the Acura Strakka managed to go close to official Oreca and above all to Zytek Graves, while farther a frantic run-up went on with the Signatech driven by Ayari. In GTPro there was nothing new if not the recovery from Beretta’s Corvette who approached the Ferrari AF Corse, while in GTAm the fight was reserved for the cars of Larbre and Porsche of Flying Lizard.

13th - 16th hour

The Peugeots’ hunt went on with Davidson who set the best time (3.27:713) just before the race went back to Safety cars’ return because of Bouillon’s spin off on Porsche Curves. The race restarted after less than half an hour another spin off by the official Oreca with Hallyday called the Safety cars for other twenty minutes. Shortly before 7.00 Lotterer managed to imitate Davidson’s time, favoured by the track that started warming up, holding the lead in the race even if with a limited lead. Among the P2s the Oreca’s retirement favoured Zytek’s lead with a good margin over Signatech and Lola of Level 5 Motorsport, which had a three laps’ lead over the Oak n° 49. In GTPro the Corvette with Magnussen was always in the lead followed by the the Ferrari driven by Fisichella and the second Corvette driven by Beretta, while in GTAm Porsche Flying Lizard preceded Corvette and the Porsche of Larbre.

17th-20th hour

The challenge between Peugeot and Audi was in the heart of the race: At 7.00 Bourdais got the best time in the race (3.26:289), almost equal to the time set in qualifying, but only a quarter of an hour later on Lotterer defeated the French rivals setting an incredible time (3.25:289), half second faster than Pole. New call for the Safety cars owing to the accident that eliminated Magnussen and Ried on the Porsche Curves and a minute of stop and go to the Peugeot driven by Sarrazin because of a technician’s disregard of the safety procedure during the pit-stop. At 9.45 also the Peugeot, driven by Wurz, abandoned the struggle for victory because it bumped against the barriers at Indianapolis, which forced the car to be delayed in the pits for long time, being relegated to the fourth position. The fight remained between Audi and Peugeot. Meantime there was a good fight between Pescarolo and Peugeot Oreca, favoured by a puncture of the latter which has allowed the “barchetta” of Sarthe to overcome the old diesel. Nothing changed in P2, whilst in GTPro, Magnussen’s retirement favoured Ferrari that, however, was delayed by problems of electronics and had to give in to a surviving Corvette. In GTAm Corvette and Porsche of Larbre had by then taken the full lead.

21st–24th hours

The last hours of the race were revived by the rain alternatively dropping on some sectors of the track and leaving others dried, so as not to justify the use of intermediate tyres: as a demonstration Minassian was the only one to try such operation that, however, found himself to run slower than the others three top cars. The final was played between Lotterer and Pagenaud: the French driver, with lap after lap on a wet track, gained Treluyer’s previously lead. Behind them sadness reigned over Pescarolo stand, with the car fitted in Mulsanne’s barriers when at the wheel of the car there was Collard, betrayed by the wet track. But the rain stopped and the track was dried out when Peugeot was still delayed for 20 seconds, making it clear that the last hour had to be played in the pits with an Audi’s longer pit-stop. It happened like that but it wasn’t sufficient, with the last pit-stop where Audi mounted new tyres and, at the same time, Peugeot reduced its delay to 6-seconds only, but allowed Lotterer to be in the lead, increased in the last half an hour, and cross the finish line with 13 seconds’ lead over the others. Minassian was third with two laps separating the second place.

New success in P2 for Zytek Graves, preceding Signatech and Level 5 Motorsport, while in GTPro the survived Corvette dominated with a wide margin over Ferrari AF Corse and the BMW driven by Priaulx-Muller-Hand. Finally GTAM with the win of Corvette Larbre preceding the Porsche of the same team, and unexpectedly, the Ford Doran of Robertson Racing team, the last one started.





article by Marco Zanello
Photo Giacomo Zanello

Vai Alla Gallery  Photogallery " Le Mans 24 hours 2011
Vai Alla Gallery  Photogallery " The Driver' Parade - 24h of Le Mans 2011

stampa l'articolo Print this article
invia l'articolo Forward this article to a friend:



Share on:

Condividi su Facebook
Condividi su Yahoo
Condividi su Ok Notizie
Condividi su Digg


[ Back to news list ]

© 2003/2024 Tutti i nomi, i loghi e i marchi registrati citati o riportati appartengono ai rispettivi proprietari.
Tutti gli articoli, le fotografie e gli elementi grafici presenti in questo sito sono soggetti alle norme vigenti sul diritto d'autore; é quindi severamente vietato riprodurre o utilizzare anche parzialmente ogni elemento delle pagine in questione senza l'autorizzazione del responsabile del sito.