Sunday, June 17, 2007

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - Finish

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans 9:00 am Sunday
After 369 laps (3125 miles), the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans has concluded. The class winners are:
LMP 1: #1 Audi Sport North America Audi R10 (Biela, Pirro, Werner)
LMP2: #31 Binnie Motorsports Lola Zytek B05 - 40 (Binnie, Timpany, Buncombe)
LMGT1: #009 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9 (Brabham, Rydell, Turner)
LMGT2: #76 IMSA Performance Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (Narac, Lietz, Long)

For a complete listing, please see the official website of the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans.

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Coverage
Section 3

Flying Lizard Motorsports 8:19 pm (ET) Saturday
Coming back from the latest break in Speed Channel coverage, we learn that the #80 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 has been retired due to a cracked crankcase. Unfortunately this prevents any kind of final-hour battle between Jorg Bergmeister and Jamie Melo such as at the 12 Hours of Sebring.

9:14 pm Saturday
We have had a chance to get up-close footage of several Peugeot pitstops, and during all of the recent stops, mechanics have pulled louvers off of the sidepods of the car to pull rubber bits out of the radiators located there. We have just learned that the 908s are in fact having cooling problems, even in the cool night air. When Audi first introduced the R10 and ran at Sebring, they experienced similar problems and attempted similar mid-race solutions. Both teams have gone to their most open louver patterns at the expense of a small amount of added drag. Audi eventually reconfigured the cooling system of the car after that Sebring race, so Peugeot may have trouble rectifying the problem while still here at Le Mans.

9:35 pm Saturday
During an interview in the Team Oreca pits, Steve Saleen has revealed that he has stepped down from his leadership position at Saleen, Inc. According to Saleen, he is "there in spirit" and "still supporting the company," however he is directing his efforts at a company aiming to import Chinese cars to the American market. This is no doubt somewhat disappointing to fans of the Saleen S7, and leaves one to wonder what is in the water that would cause the likes of Malcom Bricklin and Steve Saleen to busy themselves with these ventures.

9:52 pm Saturday
The #82 Team LNT Panoz Esperante has been wheeled into the garage, likely for extensive repairs. The #81 sister car retired some time ago, continuing the lackluster performance of Panoz cars at Le Mans. With the exception of the unlikely GT2 win last year, the Panoz cars have been relatively unsuccessful. This is somewhat surprising considering Dr. Don Panoz started the American Le Mans Series himself.

10:38 pm Saturday
The #55 Oreca Saleen S7R has been wheeled back into the garage with starter trouble. This was the leading Saleen and was running 6th in class when it came in.

12:00 am Sunday
An interview with Team LNT owner/driver Richard Dean revealed that the #82 Panoz Esperante suffered a suspension upright failure, necessitating a lengthy repair and dimming the hopes of a repeat class victory. The sister #81 Panoz, the only other Panoz in the field, retired from the race after less than 70 laps.
Also out of the race are both Spyker C8 Spyders.

Risi Competizione 12:20 am Sunday
The class-leading Ferrari F430 of Risi Competizione has been wheeled into the garage with front radiator damage. The cause of the damage is unclear, although it is severe enough to warrant a radiator change. This will certainly take a number of laps, putting the Ferrari's previously-dominant lead in jeopardy.

12:55 am Sunday
Prodrive Aston Martin has suffered a slight setback with the #007 DBR9. It has apparently taken an off-course excursion and damaged the front splitter to the point of needing replacement. The car is currently in the garage although it appears to be a quick fix.

1:35 am Sunday
The race leading #2 Audi R10 has been pitched into a tire barrier; replays show one of the wheels coming off of the car prior to the incident. Rinaldo Capello has left the car and it appears as though his day is done.

5:45 am Sunday
The Risi Competizione #97 Ferrari has been retired from the race, presumably due to complications with the radiator damage sustained earlier. The sister #99 car is still running, and is in fact second in class.

6:39 am Sunday
Peugeot's lead entry has been wheeled into the garage where the engine cover came off in a hurry. Two mechanics are thoughtfully holding the engine cover in front of the garage door, completely blocking any camera shot. This is possibly an evolution of the cooling problems that have plagued the two French entries throughout the race.

6:52 am Sunday
An interview with Giuseppe Risi has revealed that the radiator damage on the #99 Ferrari F430 caused irreparable water pump damage that then retired the car.

7:22 am Sunday
The #7 Peugeot has been brought out of the garage and back to the track. The exact issue is still unknown, although it is strongly suspected to be electrical. The car then stalled twice on leaving the pits, although it isn't known if the stalls are related to the other problem. Unfortunately the car has spent enough time in the garage that a podium finish is incredibly unlikely.

Peugeot Sport 7:37 am Sunday
The ailments to the #7 Peugeot have proven terminal, as the car has been officially retired from the race.

8:14 am Sunday
The safety cars have been deployed due to the torrential rain that has been pounding the track for the last hour or so. This is bad news for the remaining Corvette Racing C6R, as it had been running significantly quicker than the leading Aston Martin DBR9 in the rain. The Vette is still one lap back of the Aston, so it will not be able to pass while under the safety car. Corvette Racing is obviously opposed to the safety car deployment; their arguement is that no cars had yet gone off of the track due to the rain.
The remaining Peugeot has just come in for what looked to be a routine pit stop for a final splash of gas, but it was immediately put up on dollys and wheeled into the garage when it came in.

8:20 am Sunday
It has been reported that during a previous interview with Oliver Gavin, he indicated that the reason for the prop shaft failure that put the #64 Corvette Racing C6R out of the race was caused by a harmonic vibration which occured when two of the engine's cylinders were shut down as a fuel-saving measure during a safety car period.

8:49 am Sunday
With just over ten minutes left in the race, the safety cars have been parked and the racers let loose. The strongest implication is in the GT1 class, where Ron Fellows now has a chance, however slight, of catching David Brabham in the lead Aston Martin DBR9.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Coverage
Section 2

Corvette Racing C6R
5:35 pm (ET) Saturday
An interview with Oliver Gavin revealed the reason for the "disqualification" of his Corvette Racing C6R: a regulation stating that the cars must move along the track under the power of their drive motors. It was not the aid he received that dropped him from the race, but the fact that he could not repair the damage to the drivetrain.
The previously-wrecked Audi R10 has also withdrawn from the race, no doubt due to damage sustained in the massive-looking crash earlier.

5:57 pm Saturday
The #2 Audi R10 has just come in from the lead for a pit stop. Rinaldo Capello has remained in the car for what will be his third stint, which is not itself unusual. What is interesting is that the Audi crew put a fresh set of tires on the R10 before sending it out. Since driver changes normally only occur during stops including tire changes, the implication is that Capello will stay out for another stint past this one, for a total of four straight, which is two more than normally expected.

6:37 pm Saturday
Flying Lizard Motorsports has been getting a fair amount of attention this weekend for their paint scheme performed by Troy Lee Designs. This Spring at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 put up a last-lap fight with the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430. Unfortunately, it looks like the #80 911 will struggle to fight with the Ferrari again, as it is currently in the garage sporting a large oil slick along the left rear of the car.
It has been reported that earlier in the race, the passenger door actually blew off of the car, heavily damaging the rear wing as it came off. The current problem is apparently due to a gearbox issue that they have been struggling with for most of the day.

2007 24 Hours of Le Mans - "Live" Updates

24 Hours of Le Mans8:20 am (ET) Saturday - Pre Race
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is less than an hour from going green.
The rain-complicated qualifying produced some unexpected results:
The previously-dominant Audi R10s find themselves behind the new Peugot entry. Both cars run on diesel fuel, and between the two models they take up the top five starting grid positions. Similarly, the Corvette Racing C6Rs will have to work past not only an Aston Martin, but also a Saleen S7R. Saleens have previously raced at Le Mans, but the two racing today are fielded by Team Oreca, made famous by their domination of this race and the series with their Chrysler Vipers ten years ago. Over the course of 24 hours, a starting advantage of a few carlengths will certainly shake itself out, but it will make for some entertaining racing early.
Rain is in the forecast for the race, which will continue to make things interesting. While rain rarely stands in the way of an ALMS race, the teams are no doubt much more practiced on dry pavement than on wet. It has been a few years since rain was a factor at Le Mans, and should add to the already huge levels of excitement, particularly since the track is more than 8 miles long, and weather conditions at one end can have no resemblance to those at the other.

9:02 am Saturday - Race Start
Champ Car World Series superstar Sebastien Bourdais overcooked the first set of corners after starting on the pole, and while he made an incredible save to keep the car going on the track he has given up the lead to the #2 Audi R10.

9:38 am Saturday - First Pit Stops
As the race leaders come in for their first pit stops, we're reminded that the ACO has retained their regulations regarding wheelspin leaving the pits. Any car spinning its wheels while leaving the pits will be held for a three minute penalty, translating to nearly a lap. Anyone watching pit stops in virtually any American racing series will find it hard to even imagine a pit stop that didn't end in billowing smoke and a healthy fishtail from the exiting car.
In order to comply with this regulation, the launch control of the cars has been specially tuned. This could remain an issue for the lead cars, however, as all five diesel entries produce enormous amounts of torque at very low engine speeds.

9:50 am Saturday
After the first round of pit stops for the leading cars, the three Audi R10s have taken the top three spots, regulating the two Peugeots to fourth and fifth, and the top running Pescarolo to sixth.

10:07 am Saturday
The safety cars have been deployed and while the exact reasons for that have not been discovered yet, the #21 Radical SR9 has just come to the pits missing the rear wing entirely and with extensive damage to both the front and rear bodywork.

10:35 am Saturday
The #3 Audi R10 driven by Mike Rockenfeller has crashed heavily on the corner leading to the Mulsanne straight. Video replays are currently unavailable, but still shots of the damage to the guardrail reveal extensive damage. The rear wing of the R10 appears to be lodged in the guardrail, so a rearward collision is likely. The condition of Rockenfeller is currently unknown, although there are reports that the Audi team managers are not only in radio contact with Rockenfeller, but are considering the possibility of driving the car back to the pits. This seems an unlikely possibility, although the Audis are legendary in their stout construction.

10:44 am Saturday
During the safety car period caused by the above Audi crash, the #64 Corvette Racing C6R has stopped on the course with apparent gearbox issues. According to program manager Doug Fehan, the problem is likely a broken driveshaft, which would certainly leave driver Oliver Gavin unable to move under his own power and therefore out of the race.

10:49 am Saturday
The #64 Corvette's problems were apparently gearbox related. After being pushed off of the circut by the stewards, Oliver Gavin was able to find a gear and began to pull back onto the track. Unfortunately for Corvette Racing, since the stewards had provided assistance, he was apparently immediately disqualified from the race and not allowed to continue.

11:00 am Saturday
Going into the first break in SpeedTVs coverage, Oliver Gavin is still trackside with his ailing C6R. The problem has been traced to the prop shaft coming from the engine and going into the transmission. While the Vette's powerful motor can't spin the transmission, the movement seen ten minutes ago was apparently due to Gavin engaging a gear and running the starter motor.
Although able to move the car, it appears that Gavin is still out of the race after receiving help from the stewards. Program manager Doug Fehan will certainly do everything he can to keep the car in the race, although the odds of that seem long at this point.