It’s drama from the first day itself as some of the world’s greatest endurance racing machines do the rounds of the historic Le Mans Circuit in France for the 82nd edition of the ultimate endurance crown.
While the big news this time is the return of erstwhile multi-champion Porsche, the Le Mans weekend has started with a rather unfortunate incident which has left Audi’s No.1 LMP1 driver, Loic Duval crashing the car at, ironically, the Porsche Curves. This happened during first practice session here, which was dominated by No.8 Toyota of Anthony Davidson, Nicolas Lapierre and Sebastien Buemi. Duval was declared out of danger but has been ruled out of the race. His place now, has since been taken by Audi’s reserve drive Marc Gene. But the uphill task is now for Audi engineers to rebuild a new car in time for the race.
Meanwhile, sister company and arch-rivals Porsche took provisional pole after first qualifying was cut short by a shunt involving an Aston Martin from the GT class. The No.20 Porshe 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley clocked 3m23.157s followed closely by the No.14 Porsche 919 Hybrid of Romain Dumas, Neel Jani and Marc Lieb. The two Toyota TS 040 Hybrids followed, ahead of the remaining two Audis.
There are 55 cars in the fray of which 9 will compete in the elite LMP1 class. It’s a three way battle between Porsche, Audi and Toyota. The latter is currently leading the world endurance championship but of course, 24 hours of Le Mans is a different race. There is one more team in fray here – Rebellion which also uses a Toyota car but unlike the factory cars, both their cars are not electric hybrids.
The next qualifying session will be held today at 10.30pm India Standard Time.
Current Standings (QP1) - 82nd Le Mans:
Mark Webber (Porsche)
Marc Lieb (Porsche)
Stephane Sarrazin (Toyota)
Nicolas Lappiere (Toyota)
Andre Lotterer (Audi)
Olivier Jarvis (Audi)
Fabio Leimer (Rebellion-Toyota)
Nicolas Prost (Rebellion-Toyota)
Image courtesy: 24h-lemans.com