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Saturday - Race Day at Le Mans


The Saturday morning warm-up began at a minute past half-eight, with the KSM Lola the first casualty. The Mazda-engined Lola prototype, visually similar to last year's RML MG EX265 but with a different engine and colour scheme, barely reached the end of the pitlane before smoke was seen billowing from the rear of the car. It was hauled backwards into the garage.

Tommy Erdos was first out in the RML Lola Mazda and his timed lap was a 3:49.719; second fastest in LMP2 at this early stage. The track was bathed in glorious sunshine, perhaps the brightest we've seen all week, and a haze had already started to develop across the crest of the Dunlop Curve. It was a glorious start to the day, and an appropriate background for this 77th "Rendezvous with History", as the French circuit commentary effusively declared at 8:00am.

Having completed his single flying lap Tommy headed back down the pitlane to perform a race-pace driver-change with Mike Newton. This is normal procedure at RML, with each driver taking it in turns to complete a single timed lap before heading back to perform, and hone, their pitstop strategies. Mike's flyer was a 3:54.368, and with that completed, he started his in-lap. It would not end with the expected driver change to Chris Dyson.

Burbling gently down the pitlane towards the "box", Mike was looking out for Rick to mark the point where he should pull in to take up his position outside the RML garage when the #007 Lola Aston Martin, with Jan Charouz at the wheel, was released prematurely by the Aston Martin pit crew. Accelerating rapidly, the Gulf-liveried Aston pulled out straight into the side of the RML Lola Mazda.

Initial reports stated that the damage to the #25 Lola was more serious than it looked. While the #007 had survived more or less intact, the impact with the RML car had intruded deeply into side of the car, and cracked the underfloor. This is a major component on the chassis and the team carries relatively few spares. This needless incident not only prevented Chris Dyson from participating in warm-up, but it also meant a lengthy rebuild for the mechanics at a time when they might have been looking forward to the emotive build-up to the start of the race.

The only good news for Lola at this stage of the morning was the re-appearance of the KSM Lola, with Matthew Marsh in the cockpit and completing a single un-timed lap. The RML Lola would not be appearing again.

Needless to say, the atmosphere in the RML garage was hazed with blue . . . perhaps a pale shade of Gulf-livery tinged with orange. "As warm-up goes, that was all going to plan," said Phil Barker "The drivers confirm that the car is good, and it feels just as it did in Thursday qualifying (following its complete rebuild yesterday) and they’re very happy with the balance, but it was very unfortunate that Aston Martin failed to control their car properly in the pitlane. The driver was released without anyone checking if the pitlane was clear. There was no regard for anyone else’s safety, and the action was totally beyond reason.”

A spokesman for the team added: “Jan Charouz, the driver in the Lola Aston Martin, cannot be held responsible. He was following the instructions given to him by his pit crew, but they signalled for him to leave the pit box without determining whether the pitlane was clear. Regrettably, he drove straight into the side of our car. The cost in terms of time is expensive enough at this late stage, as it will take the team perhaps four hours to effect a complete repair, but the financial cost is estimated at some £80,000.”

Chris Dyson had been waiting in the RML garage in anticipation of swapping places with Mike and completing his warm-up run. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The Aston just drive straight out into the side of the car. They broke some of the cardinal rules of racing. They put their own car at risk, our car, both drivers, and the people in the pitlane. It was totally reckless and irresponsible.

LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
1 31 19 Team Essex Collard/Elgaard/Poulsen Porsche RS Spyder
2 5 21 Team Goh Ara/Kunimoto/Maassen Porsche RS Spyder
22 Racing Box Biagi/Bobbi/Piccini Lola B08/86 Coupé
24 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla/Smith Ginetta Zytek GZ09S
25 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton/Dyson Lola B08/86 Coupé
6 33 26 Speedy Sebah Pompidou/Luenberger/Kane Lola B08/80 Coupé
7 32 27 Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Berville/Moseley Zytek GZ07S
8 41 30 GAC Racing Team Ojeh/Gosselin/Peter Zytek GZ07S
32 Oak Racing Nicolet/Hein/Yvon Pescarolo Mazda
33 Oak Racing Ajlani/Lahaye/Moureau Pescarolo Mazda
34 Bruichladdich Bruneau/Greaves/Rostan Radical SR9 AER
54 Kruse Schiller Marsh/Noda /de Pourtales Lola B05/40
no time

The RML engineers and mechanics now face perhaps four hours of hard work at a time when they had hoped to be enjoying the atmosphere that is characteristic of these final hours before the start of the race. It is hoped that the full repair can be completed in under four hours. While the result of Aston Martin's recklessness constitutes a needless waste of time, it has also been financially expensive as well. The cost of the replacement parts is expected to run close to £80,000.

However, pending an apology, which in itself would be much appreciated, we understand that the underfloor of the Lola Aston Martin is the same as that fitted to RML's Lola Mazda. An appropriate gesture might be for Aston Martin to offer a replacement floor in exchange for their incompetence.

While the RML pit crew slaved away in the heat of the garage, the build-up to the 77th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours continued outside in the sunshine. The Legends race followed warm-up, although without the participation of the original Aston Martin DBR1 which won the 24 Hours fifty years ago this year. The DBR1 dropped a valve in qualifying, and could not be repaired in time for the race. It will remain on display at the AM hospitality beside the Ford Chicane for the rest of the weekend.

Race Start (Designated driver: Thomas Erdos)

As a result of the way in which the race report is compiled - some in retrospect, much as it happens, and more post-race - there may be some inconsistency in tenses, for which we apologise.

End of Lap 1
It's been a clean start throughout most of the LMP2 grid, and there are no significant changes in position. It's a Peugeot one-to-three in the overall race, with Audis four and five. The JetAlliance GT1 Aston is back into the pits . . as is the Lamborghini, which retires having completed just one lap.

End of Lap 2
Only two laps into the race and the Porsches ae already pulling clear in LMP2. The margin they enjoy over the #33 Sebah Lola, third, is about seconds, and ten Tommy is narrowly behind the blue and silver Lola.

Alexandre Premat has an off at Indianapolis in the #3 Audi, and hits the front of the R15, sustaining minor damage. There is a very unsporting cheer from the partisan crowd, seemingly choosing to forget that two out of the car's three drivers, including Premat, are French.

End of Lap 3
Tommy looking very tidy through the twisty bits, particularly the Ford Chicane, while Kane is on an edge and it's ragged. The #39 KSM Lola-Mazda is back into the pits for the second time.

There's a good battle going on in the middle of the LMP1 field, where Peter Hardman is driving first-stint in the #23 Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek. He's fending off a determined assault from the two Kolles Audi R10s, and they're under pressure from the 009 Lola Aston Martin.

End of Lap 4
The gap between the leading LMP2 Porsche, the #31 Team Essex car, and the following Team Goh example is steadily lengthening. It's out to three seconds now. The contest for third betwen Tommy and Jonny Kane is separated by about a second, but is some 10 seconds behind the lead.

End of Lap 5, 15:16
The leaders are already well into lapping th tail-enders, and are up among the GT2 leaders. In LMP2, the #31 Team Essex Porsche leads by just four seconds from the #5 Team Goh car. There's then 14 seconds back to Jonny Kane in the #33 and Tommy in the #25, with half a second of the blue and silver car.

End of Lap 6
The #15 Kolles Audi is the next to make an early pitstop.

Tommy moves even closer to Jonny Kane in the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola-Judd. He's right under the car's rear wing, and bobbing around from side to side to let Jonny know he's there. The #40 ASM Quifel Ginetta-Zytek is into the pits for an unscheduled stop.

There's been a change in the intense mid-field battle between the Kolles Audi #15 and the #009 Lola Aston - the latter has got in front. Meanwhile, no change in LMP2, although several P1 cars have started to make their first pitstops.

Tommy has fallen back just a little on the #33.

The #009 Aston is back behind the #15 Kolles car once again. These two are so engrossed in their own duel now that Peter Hardman has been able to pull ahead.

The leading Peugeots head into the pitlane for their first scheduled driver change, leaving Audis first and second. The #17 Pescarolo Peugeot follows its cousins into the pitlane. As it passes the factory garages, the #7 908 is released by its crew, and is promptly T-boned in the left-rear by the Pescarolo Peugot. Both cars are badly damaged, but the factory car picks up a puncture. It has already left its pit box, and there's no going back. He faces a full lap of the rack with a punctured tyre.

The #31 Team Essex Porsche leads LMP2 by about 8 to 10 seconds from the #5 Team Goh car, while there's a country mile between these two and the #33 and Tommy in the #25 battle.

The #7 Peugeot is having real problems as it makes its slow - or perhaps not so slow - return to the pits. Travelling along the Mulsanne, the tyre finally gives up, and starts to flail around in the rear wheelarch. This leads to the inevitable, and within moments the shredding rubber starts to rip apart the rear bodywork. Suddenly, vast chunks start to be spread across the track like muck from a spreader.

15:45 Pitstop ( Driver: Erdos)
Many cars have taken the safety car as an opportunity to pit, including Tommy. He stops for fuel only.

The #7 Peugeot has finally made it back to the pits, but in the process of making its way around the entire circuit, perhaps a little faster than discretion might suggest was wise, the entire rear-left of the car has been decimated by the flailing rubber from the punctured tyre. The car looks a dreadful mess, but not beyond repair.

Tommy radios in to say that the RML Lola, by contrast, is really comfortable to drive, and that consistent laps in the 45 to 46 bracket are easy to achieve. He has "good pace, and no problems", and is currently P4 in LMP2.

The race gets under way again, but with two safety cars, one sets the train free long before the other, handing the leading Peugeot #8 a generous advantage over Allan McNish in the first of the chasing Audis, who is not released for another fifteen seconds or more.

Hour 2 (4:00-5:00)

Situation in LMP2 at the start of the second hour has the #31 Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder leading the class from the #5 Team Goh sister car by about six seconds, with Jonny Kane still holding third from Tommy, by about five seconds. The gap between the two pairs is, however, considerable!

The team advises Tommy that the telemetry suggests the car has suffered a right-rear puncture, and that there has been rapid deflation. he is advised to take care at the next corner. Tommy radios back to say that the car feels fine, but Phil wants to err on the side of caution, and asks him to pit at the end of the lap.

Tommy completes the lap at a fair speed, but not as quickly as he usually would.

16:09 Pitstop ( Driver: Erdos)
Tommy into the pitlane for a new set of tyres. This is essentially a precaution, since he's convinced there's nothing wrong with the tyres, but if the sensor is faulty, it might miss a genuine puncture, so it's considered best to replace the tyres anyway.

The #7 Peugeot, which ripped its rear bodywork to shreds by travelling all the way round the circuit at too high a speed with a left-rear puncture, finally rejoins the race.

Tommy remains fourth in LMP2, 20th overall. Mike confirms that the suspected puncture was down to a faulty sensor.

Live coverage of RML's 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours starts here . . .

. . . with Tommy still in the car and nearing the conclusion of his opening stint, lying fourth in LMP2 and 20th overall - in effect, holding position in class, and having made up two positions overall since the race began an hour and a half ago. However, his progress to this stage in the race hasn't been as straightforward as that simple summary might suggest. This has already been a dramatic Le Mans, with Peugeot once again doing their utmost to lose the race through pitlane incompetence and management error. More on that when we can catch up on the first 100 minutes.

Tommy has three more laps scheduled for this stint, before a scheduled pitstop for fuel and what was expected to be the first driver change. However, Tommy has just agreed to go for a third consecutive stint in the car. Having been forced to stop for fresh tyres as a result of a suspected puncture (later traced to a faulty pressure sensor) it would waste valuable time to stop again and carry out a driver change without also changing tyres, so keeping Tommy in the car reduces the length of the pitstop significantly. Mike will get fresh tyres when he takes over in forty minutes' time.

Tommy sets the RML Lola's fastest lap of the race so far, clocking 3:44.816 on the car's 26th lap.

Tommy is preparing to make his next scheduled pitstop for fuel.

16:52 Pitstop ( Driver: Erdos)
Tommy into the pitlane. Awkward stop with other cars in the way, and has to be pushed back to the box. That completed, it's a smooth and untroubled re-fuel and Tommy's back out an on track again in a total of 1:04. The #33 Speedy Sebah Lola had stopped first, and Tommy briefly moved up into third in LMP2, but once the stops had worked their way through the system, it was back to the status quo - fourth in P2 and 20th overall.

A major accident for Stephane Ortelli in the #10 Oreca at Tetre Rouge. He appeared to catch the kerbing by running just a little too wide, and the car was snicked into an immediate spin, thumping backwards heavily into the barriers on the other side. Safety car appears unlikely, but the car is almost certainly out of the race.

Correction - Ortelli has got the Oreca going again, but with several panels missing and others badly bent. Meanwhile, Vanina Ickx has gone off at the entry to the Porsche Curves, and is buried nose-first in the tyre wall in exactly the same position where Mike flew out of the 24 Hours last year.

Hour 3 (5:00-6:00)

Tommy passes the stricken #10 Oreca, now in the garage undergoing repairs. He moves up into 19th position overall, 2:28 behind Pompidou in the #33 Sebah Lola.

In an amazingly fast rebuild, the #10 Oreca rejoins the race, now with Bruno Senna making his Le Mans debut, but not before Philip Peter in the #41 GAC Racing Zytek also moves ahead.

The #30 Racing Box Lola appears to have encountered a problem on the approach to the pitlane - possibly fuel related? It has slowed to a crawl in the pitlane entry, and then stopped just yards short of the line. The car was lying 30th overall, 9th in class.

Tommy passes Nick Leventis in the Strakka Racing #23 Ginetta-Zytek for 18th place overall, and moves onto the first of the race's three timing screens.

Speedy Sebah Lola pits, and with Tommy out of sequence, this hands third to the RML Lola. Tommy is holding 17th overall now, fourteen seconds ahead of Nick Leventis in the Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek.

17:39 Pitstop ( Driver change: Erdos-Newton)
Tommy into the pitlane to complete his opening triple-stint. The car trundles down the pitlane with all three signal lights glowing brightly blue. It's a good sight. The #31 Team Essex Porsche pitted just before Tommy, and the #5 pitted just afterwards. Both cars are the best part of a lap ahead.

Mike cleanly out of the pits after a copybook pitstop. Fuel, driver swap, screen clean and fresh tyres. Radio check, and off he goes.

With the pitstops out of the way, the order is clarified, and Mike is back into 19th overall, fourth in LMP2.

Hour 4 (6:00-7:00)

Mike is concerned by a vibration that appears to be getting worse.

With apologies for the break in transmission, due to a temporary inability to get on-line. However, no significant developments relating to Mike's progress so far, aside from a minor issue with a recurrent vibration. This has now eased somewhat, and may be related to pick-up on the tyres.

The RML Lola is still running in a strong fourth position, 20th overall, having lost just the one place to the recovering #10 Oreca Courage with Bruno Senna at the wheel.

Mike leads Karim Ojeh in the #41 GAC Racing Team Zytek by just over half a lap, but is lapping consistently faster.

Hour 5 (7:00-8:00)

19:07 Pitstop ( Driver change: Newton-Dyson)
Mike enters the pitlane after having completed his first double-stint. Driver change with Chris Dyson, refuel and fresh tyres.

During the pitstop, there have been a few changes in the overall order. Christian Klien in the #7 Peugeot - the one involved in the pit lane incident at the start of the race - has been recovering steadily after losing such a long time in the pits for repairs, and has now reached the dizzy heights of 20th.

Also during the pitstop - which took a total of 3:14", the #41 GAC Zytek moved through to take fourth in LMP2, 21st overall, but still has it's sixth pitstop to make. Nigel Moore, the youngest driver in the race at a mere 17, came by as well in the #22 Team LNT Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S to assume 21st overall. This leaves Chris Dyson running in 23rd, 2:23 behind Ojeh.

Next-up behind Chris is the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo, half-a-minute in arrears.

In the overall race, Peugeot #8 leads the race by a lap from the #9 car, with Capello currently at the wheel of the #1 Audi in third place, one minute further back. The second Audi, #2, is fourth, by a mere 15seconds, but 80 seconds ahead of the first of the petrol-powered cars; the #007 Lola Aston Martin.

Since he took over in the cockpit, the team appears to have lost radio contact with Chris. Although there is an occasional crackle, which would appear to be him trying to speak with the pit crew, there is nothing intelligible, and merely "noise".

Chris re-takes 22nd overall, fourth in LMP2, as the #41 Zytek completes its sixth pitstop. Nigel Moore in the #5 Ginetta Zytek is also in the pits.

The Radical #26 is punted off the track by the 009 Lola Aston Martin in a bizarre and evidently needless side-swipe on the approach to the Ford Chicane. The black and red Radical, with Tim Greaves in the cockpit, is thrown first into the concrete wall, and than as the momentum carries him on, backwards into a tyrewall. The Radical pirouettes into the air, debris flying left, right and everywhere. The rear left corner is ripped from the car. The Aston continues, seemingly unscathed.

Somehow Tim manages to get the car going again, and since the incident has happened right at the entrance to the pitlane, he's able to crawl back to the garage. The Radical team have a monumental task on their hands.

With debris littering a critical area of track, the safety car is despatched. Many cars pit, including several of the leading LMP1 runners.

Chris Dyson pits in the RML Lola. He stays in the car, but as soon as the team has completed the refuel, they set-to on some minor maintenance work, including addressing the lack of radio communication. Chris is soon back out into the safety car queue, but he now has radio communication, and reaffirms that the vibration that Mike commented on earlier is still there. It is making it difficult for him to concentrate as the oscillations are blurring his vision.

The #009 Lola Aston Martin pits, just as Chris catches up with the tail of the safety car. The lights are out on top of the safety car, suggesting that racing will resume at the end of this lap. The leaders are 78 laps into the race, with Chris on 69.

Chris crosses the line and sets off in pursuit of the cars ahead. One of the first he passes is the #3 Audi, which is travelling slowly. The same cannot be said for the #1 and #2 R15s, because the Safety Car has benefitted Audi, and there's now a real battle for second.

Bernhard enters the pitlane in the #3 Audi. No obvious reason for it going so slowly, but it's back into the garage and the mechanics start working on it.

Chris radios in to say that the vibration is becoming unbearable. Phil tells him to "pit this lap".

A change in leader for LMP2. Kunimoto in the #5 Goh Porsche RS Spyder overtakes Kristien Poulsen in the Team Essex Porsche. The safety car bunched them up, and the Goh driver took the lead on the run down towards the second Mulsanne chicane. He starts to ease away very slightly.

19:59 Pitstop ( Driver: Dyson)
Chris completes a swift pitstop for fuel and tyres. Hopefully the fresh rubber will cure the vibration issue, which might have been caused by pick-up induced by the period behind the safety car.

Hour 6 (8:00-9:00)

We enter the sixth hour of the race with a new leader in LMP2. For the first time the Team Essex Porsche does not lead the class, but is now several seconds behind the Team Goh RS Spyder. Third is Jonny Kane, back in the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola, and during Chris's extra pitstop, the #41 GAC Zytek reclaimed fourth. The RML Lola is fifth by almost exactly a minute.

Chris confirms that the vibration has gone, and Phil subsequently reports that the problem had indeed been caused by excessive pick-up.

Chris reports that another car (the Hankook Ferrari 430GT) has caught the rear of the RML Lola, giving it a light nudge after being overtaken, but a the moment he feels that the car is possibly OK. The team will carry out a visual check as soon as he passes the pitlane.

Chris sets a 3:46.868, which suggests that he doesn't have a problem. The conditions out on track are starting to get a little difficult. As well as a considerable amount of spent rubber, making it risky to go off-line when overtaking, but the sun is also starting to fall down towards the horizon, and this makes heading westward very uncomfortable for the drivers - especially those in enclosed cockpits where the screen gets peppered by debris and small blobs of sticky rubber.

Chris passes the #41 GAC Zytek to regain fourth in LMP2. The two POrsches, leading the class, both pit for fuel at the same time.

Chris is closing down fast on the GT1 leading #63 Corvette, driven by Antonio Garcia. The Corvette slipped by at the last pitstop, having only stopped six times itself, compared to the RML Lola's eight stops. However, Chris is consistently eight to ten seconds a lap quicker than the GT1 pacesetter, and should catch it relatively easily.

Sure enough, Chris sweeps by the Corvette to take 21st overall. His next target is the #23 Strakka Racing Ginetta-Zytek, which is currently in the garage with a left-rear wheel that removes to come off the axle. It has been stationery for nearly fifteen minutes.

Chris moves ahead of the Strakka Racing car to take 20th place. He is now about two minutes behind the other Ginetta-Zytek, the Team LNT #23. Behind him the #63 Corvette pits.

Chris is preparing for a pitstop himself. He is asked if he would like another stint at the wheel, and he says he'd be very happy to stay in for another forty minutes. Moments later he advises the team that the fuel light has flickered for the first time. Usually, when this happens, the team knows that there's enough fuel for the car to do at least another full lap, but typically, they will use this as a prompt to "pit this lap".

20:45 Pitstop ( Driver: Dyson)
Chris Dyson makes his pitstop, for fuel only. The total time expenditure for the stop, including in-and-out through the pitlane itself, was just over a minute.

The lead Peugeot, #8, is in the garage with a mechanical problem. It has lost four or more minutes already. Alex Wurz in the #9 Peugeot moves into the lead. Is this two-down, one to go for Peugeot?

Hour 7 (9:00-10:00)

A quick update on positions. Overall, the #9 Peugeot leads from the #1 Audi, currently with Capello at the wheel. The #2 Audi (Lucas Luhr) is third. The erstwhile leader, the #8 Peugeot, is back on track, but now from 6th. In LMP2 the #5 Goh Porsche still holds on to the first place by a mere seven seconds, but Emanuele Collard is in the Team Essex version, and his lap times are faster by roughly a second a lap. The #33 Lola is steady in third with Chris in fourth, but a lap down.

The call goes out for Tommy to start his personal preparations for another stint in the #25 Lola. He has been resting in the team motorhome for the past two hours.

The #2 Audi R15, with Lucas Luhr aboard, has gone off big-time at the entrance to the Porsche curves. The car spins across the gravel and buries itself deeply into the tyres, and the right-ear wheel is at 90 degrees to the chassis. It may be that something has broken. Phil warns Chris over the radio. Lucas gets the engine fired up and is attempting to get it moving, but the marshals won't permit it.

21:32 Pitstop
( Driver change: Dyson-Erdos)

Chris Dyson is into the pitlane and handing the RML Lola back to Tommy Erdos. He heads off at 21:34. The car that had been directly behind Chris - the #63 Corvette - has also made a pitstop.

Tommy queries the loss of the rear-view monitor, and is advised that the contact earlier with the Hankook Ferrari has removed the camera. He appears to have retained his position, and Tommy is running in 20th overall, 4th in LMP2.

Lucas Luhr eventually accepts defeat, and climbs from the car. The #2 Audi R15 is out of the race. Moments later the #17 Pescarolo Peugeot overtakes the #008 Lola Aston Martin in an overwhelming demonstration of pure pace down the Mulsanne. That makes it Peugeots first and third, sandwiching the last competitively placed Audi, the #1 with Tom Kristensen at the wheel.

With the retirement of the #2 Audi, Tommy looks set to inherit 19th position overall before the end of the hour.

Hour 8 (10:00-11:00)

The Team LNT Ginetta-Zytek appears to have encountered the same problem that cost its fellow, the Strakka Racing GZ09S some 40 minutes in the pits earlier in the race, and has been unable to remove the left-rear wheel during a scheduled pitstop. Tommy may pass the orange car before it resumes the track.

Tommy and the RML Lola-Mazda move through into 18th overall and onto the first of the three timing screens. The #25 car still occupies fourth in class, but is just over two laps adrift of the #33 Speedy Seba Lola-Judd, third in class. However, the leading Porsches are another two laps in front of the #33 car, so still much ground to make up.

Tommy is nibbling steadily into Pompidou's advantage, but it's slow and frustrating work. Although he's consistently quicker, typically by three or four seconds a lap, there are several laps to make up.

The lead Audi pits, and is drawn into the garage for a thorough clean-up and some detailed work. It's a planned stop, and maybe the team has identified a problem with debris pick-up in the very open-mouthed design of the R15.

The shutters come down on the #41 garage, reinforcing the belief that the GAC Zyte is a retirement. Now there's no doubt.

22:59 Pitstop ( Driver change: Erdos - Newton)
Tommy into the pitlane.

Hour 9 (11:00-12:00)

The car is given a very thorough clean-out and rub-down. Tommy is out, Mike is back in. He departs the pitlane at 11:04.

The #33 Sebah Lola also makes its next scheduled pitstop, but the Swiss-entered car has still only done eleven stops, compared to RML's twelve. And that makes all the diffference. Unfortunately, the #63 Corvette GT1 has done only nine stops, and capable of lapping within eight to ten seconds of the LMP2 cars, is mixing it well with the prototypes. While Mike and Tommy are in the pits, O'Connell drives past into 18th place . . . so it's back to timing screen 2 for the RML Lola Mazda.

The #32 Barazi Zytek is also now close behind the RML #25.

Incident at Mulsanne between the #8 Peugeot and the #76 GT2 Porsche. The latter is punted off into the gravel, while the #8 sustains damage to the nose. It pits four minutes later for a new nose.

The Team LNT Ginetta-Zytek has pitted and is having atendtion to its alternator. It is less han a minute ahead of Mike, who dropped to 22nd overall (fifth in LMP2) when the full impact of the pitstop/driver change was taken into account.

Mike moves up to 21st, overtaking the pit-bound #22 Ginetta-Zytek.

Conditions are obviously very good. Nic Minassian has done the fastest lap of the race so far; 3:24.628, in the #7 Peugeot, and Sasha Maassen has just set fastest lap for the #5 Porsche RS Spyder, which has, somewhat unnoticed, lost the LMP2 lead to caspar Elgaard in the #31.

Phil Bennett pits the #32 Barazi Zytek, and Mike sweeps past down the main straight. He's back up to 19th, and both cars are on 12 pitstops.

Maassen pits the LMP2 second-placed #5 Porsche. It's slightly lomger than you might expect from an RS Spyder. It ends up being a 3:28 stop, and Pompidou in the #33 might have closed, if that car hadn't then pitted too . . . and been pulled back into the garage for perhaps an even longer stop.

The #32 Barazi Zytek is still in the garage.

Mike is instructed to come "in this lap". He replies with a very proper-sounding "wilco". He is overtaken by the #4 LMP1 Creation in the process. The Bruichladdich Radical, which was thumped off into the barriers by the #09 Aston at half-seven. It's been a major rebuilding project.

Speedy Sebah Lola back out. The extended pitstop was to deal with minor contact damage.

11:54 Pitstop ( Driver: Newton)
Mike into the pitlane for his scheduled refuel stop and screen clean. It's a quick and incident-free pause in proceedings. The whole stop, from track-to-track, lasted 60 seconds.

Saturday concluded with David Brabham in the leading #9 Peugeot, a lap clear of Tom Kristensen in the #1 Audi R15. In LMP2, the Tea Essex car has made the most of the #5's extended pitstop, and heads the class by over a lap. The third-placed #33 Lola is a further three laps behind. Mike Newton holds fourth by another three laps.

The report continues on the Sunday page, here

The Le Mans 2009 gallery can be accessed here

Le Mans 24 Hours 2009

Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France
Raceday - Saturday June 13th 2009