Morning Support Races and Warm up
Since the night it is really wet and mainly raining. The Saturday's race day started with a 50-minute Radical Masters race. It was their second race of the weekend. The most impressive in this race was a total number of the cars, exactly 43 starters, the biggest field of prototypes seen here for some time. The race, which was spoilt by a safety car period near the finish, was won by Woodward/Kaiser in Radical SR8 but only after the car number 21, driven by Hayman/Mortimer, stopped some 100 m before the finish line in the last lap. Hyman/Mortimer had been running second early in the race and then managed to overtake leading car no.3 Wells/Littlejohn.
Then the WEC Warm Up continued the programme. It was not exactly raining but it was still pretty wet. Audis capable of lapping at 2:01-2:02 yesterday managed to get into the 2:22s-2:23s. But only the two hybrids were so quick. The other two Audis stayed at 2:28 and 2:29 respectively. Surprisingly the next car behind the four Audis, it was Murphy Prototypes entry (Oreca 03 Nissan), and ELMS. The Percarolo-entered Dome coupé was next. In GT Felbermayr Porsche was 22nd overall followed by AF Ferrari and one of the Corvettes, best GTE Am entry. All 41 cars still entered for the race (the Status GP crashed Lola is already away its pit) took part in the session, though Rebellion Lola no.12 and ADR-Delta Oreca no,25 set no time after not complete entire measure lap.
The session was filled with smaller spins and off course excursions. Fortunately only one turned into a bigger accident. Just three minutes before the sessions was flagged off, Brian Vickers in one of AF Ferraris did not brake in time and lost the car at the Bus Stop touching the safety barriers and eliminating his right rear wheel and the body. We believe though that the car is repairable. AT the same time one of Audis was off with no damage at Les Combes
Speed Series one-hour race, a second one of the weekend, was on the schedule next. By this time at was again raining and thus we stayed in the press room and followed ACO and FIA press conference. Some less or more interesting questions were asked here and there but 30 minutes appeared not to be enough time to answer all. Nevertheless our concern about the World Manufacturers Championship which counts only Audis for the points (with the Toyota joining later in the season) was present to one of the FIA officials. We think it would be much more interesting to have World Manufacturer Championship open to all manufacturers entering the championship, including not only LMP1 and LMP2 builders like Lola, Oreca, Pescarolo, Dome and many others but also GT cars like Chevrolet, Ferrari, Porsche or Aston Martin. If all these could accumulate points to the World Championship, it would be surely more interesting not only to the public or general media but we believe also to Audi representatives as it surely looks better if before Le Mans the point standing is like 1st Audi 50 points (no other manufacturer scored points), or if the point table looks like 1st Audi 50 pts., 2nd HPD 25 pts., 3rd Lola 22 pts., 4th Oreca 17 pts., 5th Ferrari 11 pts., 6th Porsche 8 pts., etc., 12th Norma 1 point. These figures are completely fictitious but the principal is hopefully clear. Well, this idea was promised to present in tomorrow Endurance commission meeting to be discussed with manufacturers and we will see whether something like that could see the light of the day, just as it was common during the original World Sports Car Championship since 1953. In the first year we had as many as 16 different manufacturers on points (only first six could score back then, though it was much higher diversity between the race, when some manufacturers were interested only in some races while other entered entire championships or just their local races by private teams) and now we are facing quite opposite situation, which is not really best for the new championship, FIA and ACO is trying to sell to the public.
As expected, Audis dominated the race and managed to take one-two-three-four. In the lead, it was mainly the number 3 driven by Dumas/Duval/Gené that ran at the front and also won the race after an excellent performance. The closest opponent was the Audi number 1 (Tréluyer/Lotterer/Fässler) which led early after the start, when it was still very wet. Audi no.1 finished second and was the only car that was not lapped by the winner. Also the other two Audis were never challenged by any other car and secured Audi's positions one to four during the entire race. Standard no.4 took the final podium place, while hybrid no.2 was classified fourth, both one lap down the winner.
Among other LMP1 cars it was a nice battle between all of them but the JRM HPD. This car was slightly crashed during the pre-race warm up laps and missed the grid. Thus it had to start from the pit lane (along with Lotus-Lola, which had its engine changed), and it meant one lap penalty as per current rules it seems that cars starting from the back are allowed to enter the race after the end of the first lap. But both Rebellion Lolas, the Strakka HPD, the Pescarolo Dome and partly the OAK-Pescarolo, all had a nice fight for the private entrant win. This is in fact an official recognized classification as for the LMP1 team, only private entrants can score points. This battle had a happy end for the Rebellion team. Strakka HDP was very quick but slow Leventis in the final stint compromised any chances of winning this class. The Dome was running well for four hours (positions then were 12-Rebellion, 21-Strakka, 17-Dome, 35-OAK, 13-Rebellion) but then spent a long time in the pits (maybe electrical problems?). The OAK-Pescarolo was still running ahead of the Rebellion no.13 after 5 hours but its chances were lost some two, three laps before the end of the race when something in rear broke and the car was left stalled just one turn before the finish line. Very sad end after almost six hour of great performance.
The LMP2 was very close until the end. In the final stages of the race, the leading Oreca no.25 had to pit for splash and dash and it was enough for Jota-Zytek no.38 to move ahead and win the class (8th overall). There were much more cars in the lead of the class, during the race. But there were also heavier accidents during the race. Especially the Norma was crashed significantly in Eau Rouge. This led to a second and final safety car period. The first one was only because a minor touch of Krohn Ferrari no.57 and one of LMP2 Orecas (no.49), as the cars were stalled at La Source and nobody was able to help them under race conditions. Norma is hoped to be rebuilt for Le Mans. Another crash was Lotus-Lola no.31 but it should be OK, we believe. Just a retirement from the race after a decent performance for more than five hours.
GT class was rather close, despite the lone Aston Martin was left in the pits after leading during the early wet stages of the race. Two Ferraris and one Porsche in the GTE Pro class raced together within one lap for entire race and in the end it was the Porsche that took the win. While Felbermayr Porsche was Pro winner, also the GTE Am class belong to a Porsche, this one entered by IMSA Matmut.
It was a nice great, though not that thrilling as in the last year when three Peugeots against three Audis brought more excitement but under current situation Audi is great to keep the World Championship alive and puts a lot of effort to the series. Their win was quite deserved and they actually broke a line of five wins in a row by Peugeot, which raced here even in 2009 when did not officially enter the championship.