8:20 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.