Wanted to share some 4am pictures from Arnage, at the bottom end of the le Sarthe circuit, where we were sat among hundreds of other (mostly British) spectators during the very early hours of this morning. In the rain. Everyone there was looking for the same thing – glowing, burning brake discs as the cars decelerate hard into the sharp right-hander at Indianapolis. The speed difference between the high-downforce LMP1 cars through this complex, compared with rapid-in-the-real-world race tuned Ferrari and Lamborghini GT1 cars gives you an idea just how fast these strangely silent Audi and Peugeot diesel racers are going. Our photographer Stuart managed to get some good shots to show you what I mean (below)...
Just now we had another reminder of the vast performance difference between the classes, when the LMP1 class-leading No 2 Audi with Tom Kristensen at the wheel collided with a slower LMP2 backmarker in the Dunlop Curves. He’s still in the lead though, with the second place No 7 Peugeot more than a lap behind. My money would be on Audi for the win, but nothing’s certain with the changeable weather conditions here - those Peugeot’s are much quicker when it’s dry (as it is right now). And Audi’s Alan Mcnish is worrying saying: “Peugeot's speed in the dry is insurmountable. I'd like us to get enough of an advantage so that it can dry out and we'll still be OK.”
Elsewhere in the GT1 class, Prodrive/Aston Martin’s 009 DBR9 is doing very well, with a lengthy lead after Englander Darren Turner put in some seriously consistent lap times. David Richards and his Prodrive boys are looking strong for the win when 3pm comes around.
I’ve wandered up to the slightly warmer surroundings of the press room and the paddock to post this. The place is full of shattered looking mechanics - one just fell off his paddock scooter in front of me, he’s so knackered.
Been chatting to the guys from Team Modena, whose DBR9 is running eighth in GT1, and who had a two-hour gearbox rebuild to cope with at 5am this morning. Like many other teams, Modena’s mechanics deliberately don’t work shifts - everyone has to work through the 24 hours. Why? Well I’m told it’s good for consistency, to have the same guy doing the tyres at every pit stop, for example, because he’ll be more likely to spot any problems - even if he’s exhausted. There’s fantastic camaraderie in the pit lane at Team Modena and elsewhere, plenty of backslapping and smiles, even though the race isn't going there way. And there fighting on to the finish too. What a feeling it must be to be part of a team that finishes an endurance event like this…
As for us, yes, Autocar really are making us stay in tents and we have the pictures to prove it. All part of the fun. But could someone please pass the coffee?
Read part one of Will's Le Mans blog here