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Saturday - Race Day at Le Mans


The Saturday morning warm-up kicked off at nine, with 47 of the 55 taking immediately to the damp track. The rain overnight had been torrential and relentless, right through until around seven. The deluge then eased, and finally petered out at half-eight. Puddles remained around the circuit, and the cars that stayed out beyond the first installation lap trailed a light plume of spray down the pit straight, windscreen wipers working hard to clear the moisture from their screens. It was much worse around other sectors of the track.

Tommy Erdos was among that first group, but returned to the pitlane after his out-lap. Conditions were making life difficult for the higher-powered prototypes, and the top running P1s aside, some of the faster times were being set by the GT2 runners. The #29 Racing Box Lola was one to suffer, with Pirri setting a fairly quick time before ending up in the gravel at the first chicane. Seventh quickest overall was Tony Vilander in the #95 Ferrari 430, getting the better of more than twenty prototypes.

His installation lap complete, Tommy was back out again to work through the RML checklist. This time the warm-up would not follow the team's usual routine, and with the changed conditions Erdos would occupy the #25 cockpit for the entire forty-five minutes. With fifteen of those completed, all fifty-five runners had been out for at least one lap.

RML AD Group ay Le Mans 2010. Photo: David Blumlein

Anyone pushing even just a smidgeon over the limit was being punished. Jonny Kane, usually ultra cautious despite his undoubted speed, got caught at Arnage, and joined a list that included Lotterer in the #8 Audi and Farnbacher in his Hankook sponsored #89 Ferrari that had ended up in sliproad, no damage done.

One of the first to come to terms with the slippery conditions was the rainmeister himself; Tommy Erdos. His first flying lap would be a 4:20.973, and at the time, good enough for 6th overall, but a drying line was starting to appear, and with that, times did start to drop, even if only marginally. In 1995, when Tommy made his debut at Le Mans with Team Marcos, the rain during the night was widely remembered as being amongst the heaviest known at Le Mans in recent times, but the Brazilian thought nothing of it, and was, for perhaps two hours or more, among the fastest on the track.

Most of those having trouble with the damp managed to get away with their indiscretions lightly, but Tim Greaves in the #41 Bruichladdich Ginetta Zytek crumped the front-left corner lightly into a barrier, and had to return for repairs. Several, including Nigel Mansell in the #5, and Stefan Mucke in the 007 Aston Martin had to negotiate the tyre barriers on the Mulsanne chicanes having missed their braking points.

Having been extracted from the gravel at the first chicane once, Pirri then repeated the exercise in exactly the same place for a second time. Fifteen minutes remained when the timing screens still had a strangely topsy-turvy appearance. The LMP1 prototypes remained fastest, but Erdos and Warren Hughes aside, nearly all the other LMP2 prototypes had fallen victim to the conditions, and were being out-paced by the GT2 Ferraris, Porsches and Chevrolets.

In the final ten minutes, Marco Werner joined the top-paced LMP2 runners in the Highcroft HPD, posting an impressive (under the circumstances) 4:08.262, but this aside, and a general shuffling of the overall order, there was little of significance.

Tommy remained in the '#25 Lola HPD throughout, working on collecting data for a wet set up should it be needed for the race. As the chequered flag flew, the prospects certainly didn't look good. The broken clouds that had allowed a dry-ish line to develop had filled once more, and a light drizzle was starting to fall. As the saying goes . . . "it always rains at Le Mans."

LMP2 Times - Warm-up Times

  1. #26 Highcroft HPD: 4:08.262 (13th)
  2. #25 RML Lola HPD: 4:20.973 (18th)
  3. #40 Quifel ASM Ginetta Zytek: 4:23.160 (19th)
  4. #39 KSM Lola Judd: 4:32.770 (23rd)
  5. #38 Pegasus Norma: 4:35.266 (31st)
  6. #42 Strakka Racing HPD: 4:44.831 (43rd)
  7. #41 Bruichladdich Ginetta Zytek: 4:49.818 (44th)
  8. #29 Racing Box Lola Judd: 4:52.655 (46th)
  9. #28 Racing Performance Radical: 6:34.636 (50th)
  10. #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo Judd: 6:39.578 (51st)
  11. #24 Oak Racing Pescarolo Judd: 6:54.422 (52nd)
  12. #37 WR Salini Zytek: 10:31.921 (55th)

Two support races were staged during the early morning. The Porsche Matmut Carrera Cup France nine-lapper was won by Sylvian Noel, with Britain's Tim Harvey third. This was followed by a thrilling, and at times heartbreaking Group C Legends race. The win eventually went to Justin Law in the ex-TWR Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-9, but not before there had been several accidents, incidents, and examples of very spirited driving.

Bob Berridge (Mercedes-Benz C11) took to the gravel first time through Dunlop, but recovered remarkably to reach 7th before sustaining a puncture. He pitted for new tyres, and started another fight-back that looked set to net another top-ten position, before the rubber let him down again. He finished 12th. Nathan Kinch also had a promising run, setting fastest lap in GTP, before mechanical issues intervened. Alex Buncome was forced to retire his XJR-9, but Gary Pearson finished third in the XJR-11. Second went to Gary Evans in the #23 Nissan R88C.

As the stands began to fill, the pitlane entertainment began. Cheerleaders, a display of electric and "alternative" powered race cars, a drive-by from a small selection of Rondeau racing cars and a parade of Corvettes filled in the time before the pitlane opened and the first of this year's competitors began pushing their cars out onto the tarmac, and RML was there, keen and eager amongst the first group.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Photo: Marcus Potts

RML at Le Mans 2010. Photo: Marcus Potts

The "Class of 2010" group photo for all the drivers was staged at quarter to two, complete with "Miss 24 Hours 2010", and with that completed, the process of clearing the grid began.

This year, a change in "tradition", or an attempt to hark back to an old one, with the designated starting drivers taking up their positions on the grass opposite their cars and then "running" across the track to be strapped into their cars. It was all very new to the drivers, and we had a "false start" this year, when God Save the Queen was being played. Most were already into their cars before realisation dawned that they'd have to do it all over again . . . after the Marseillaise.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Photo: Marcus Potts

RML at Le Mans 2010. Photo: Marcus PottsIn their race suits, and helmeted, the drivers returned to their white circles, marked on the grass like some vestige of a satanic rite, and prepare themselves for another sprint. Most didn't bother, and there was a mix of serious runners and lethargic strollers as they headed for their cars.

Once aboard, their team engineers had seven minutes to help them strap in before the signal to "start your engines". It was 2:15.

Seven minutes later and a procession with the green flag started moving down the grid, releasing the cars one-by-one on the parade or "siting" lap. Aside from a spin by the #12 Rebellion Lola, and a puncture for the Flying Lizards Porsche, it was an uneventful lap, with of the cars then taking the opportunity to visit the pitlane to refuel, check tyres and assess the first-lap data before heading back out again - some to do it again, others to take up their correct positions on the grid.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

This coverage was being prepared "live" and was uploaded regularly, sometimes several times each minute, during the course of the race. Apologies for variations in tense, as some items were edited or added later.

The #2 Peugeot made a very slow parade lap, but took up its position on the second row without pausing at all. Could a ploy to save fuel. All 55 cars took up their positions on the grid - the largest collection of sports and GT cars to race at Le Mans for over fifty years. At 2:42, all the slots were filled and the pitlane closed.

Ten to three and the cars moved off the grid on the formation lap. The now-traditional stirring anthem music blared out from the public address system, as eyes craned to see the massive TV screens at either end of the grandstand complex.

Held in formation by the pace car, the leaders set off up the hill towards the Dunlop Chicane. Headlights ablaze, the cars weave from side to side as they try to maintain, or generate extra heat into their tyres. Four Peugeots, three Audis, two Astons and the rest of the LMP1 field, the big names to the fore, followed by Jonny Kane heading off LMP2 for Strakka, with David Brabham directly behind for Highcroft, and then Tommy Erdos, across on the right. Some are weaving heavily, others just a slight twitch from left to right.

As the cars enter the Porsche Curves, the sounds of Mars from Holst's Planets Suite rise above the sound of the crowd, the thumping timpanis building to a crescendo as the leaders hove into view. With a puff of smoke from the rear engine cover, Pedro Lamy brings the pole-sitting Peugeot through the final complex and out onto the pit straight . . . .

Race Start (Designated driver: Thomas Erdos)

Lamy holds the pace for a few moments longer, and then, with a roar - at least from the petrol-powered cars - the leaders accelerate away up the pit straight, the sound of each exhaust note combined and multiplied by the echoes from the surrounding grandstands. It's a remarkably clean start, and as the field streams up through Dunlop, down the hill the other side, and out into Tetre Rouge, there are no major place changes.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

The LMP2 leaders also make a clean start, Jonny Kane dicing with Paul Drayson, but then easing in behind as the Lola makes its extra power show. David Brabham on the Strakka HPDs tail and Tommy tucked in behind.

If there are no changes in order, Allan McNish is trying to do something about it. He's all over the tail of the #4 Oreca Pug, and filling Lapierre's mirrors with red and silver R15. He tries time and again to take the place, pulling alongside on the run between Mulsanne chicanes, and again into Indianapolis, but the 908 has the edge, and shuts the door each time.

The cars complete the first lap without any obvious change of position anywhere through the field, although the #19 Autocon Lola is slowing. In LMP2, the leaders cross the line, Kane just behind Drayson's Lola, and Brabham a fraction of a second behind, followed by Erdos and then Pla (below)in the '#40 ASM Ginetta Zytek. Next up is the #35 Oak Pescarolo, with the #29 Racing Box Lola sixth. The KSM Lola is close behind, despite its relative age, and showing strongly in the hands of de Pourtales. There's then a lengthy gap to the #24, the Bruichladdich GZ, the Pegasus and then the WR Salini.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter MayThe #72 Corvette pits at the end of the first lap, and the Autocon Lola has stopped on the run between Arnage Corner and the start of the Porsche Curves.

Gaps are starting to develop throughout the field, some significant. Lamy leads by a generous margin over Montagny and Gene, these two in a tight duel over second. Lapierre remains fourth, and there's now air between him and McNish.

In LMP2, Jonny Kane retains his grip on Drayson's tail, and Brabham holds brief a couple of car length's behind. There's a few seconds now back to Tommy in third, and a lesser margin to Pla in fourth. Already these four are streets ahead of the #35 Pescarolo in fifth., while the #29 Racing Box Lola is still in touch.

The leaders on to their fifth lap, and the first major incident of the race. Nigel Mansell in the #5 Beechdean Mansell Ginetta Zytek spins off into the barriers on the fast run down towards Indianapolis, and hits the Armco hard. The rear right takes a heavy impact, and there's serious damage to the suspension and bodywork. It's not clear yet what caused him to lose control, but there already appeared to be debris on the track, or perhaps oil - suspected to have come from the GT2 Jaguar, which has had engine problems. (Beechdean later suggested that a slow puncture had given rise to the accident)


Two safety cars are immediately deployed, and one picks up Jonny Kane in the #42 Strakka Racing HPD. There is some delay getting Nigel Mansell out of the cockpit, and a whole array of emergency vehicles arrive on the scene.

Nigel safely extracted from the car and taken of in an ambulance for a routine check. Although his car is quite quickly cleared from the trackside, it the safety cars continue to circulate. The issue concerning Audi is that one of the safety cars has managed to get in between the leading four Peugeots and Allan McNish. Considering the gap was only three seconds, that's quite an achievement. Regrettably, the second safety car leading McNish then proceeds to circulate a full minute per laps slower than the other, allowing a huge gap to develop between the two groups.

Tommy has a problem with the dashboard instruments on his steering wheel, and he ducks into the pitlane , leaving the queue, and heads for the garage. The team check the instruments and reprogramme the dash. It comes back on, and the stop is brief, but he loses many places. "We had an issue with the ECU. The technicians had reprogrammed it to last longer than usual during the race, but they’d not tried the settings previously, and it failed," explained Phil Barker. "It hadn't stopped us from starting the race, and it seemed to work OK at first, but within a lap Tommy had no dashboard and he had to change gear on the limiter, which is not ideal. Mansell’s incident and the resulting safety car was fortunately timed for us, but we could have run to the end of the stint if necessary."

"I was very glad to get it working again," said Tommy afterwards. "We had no electrics at all – no dash, no traction control, no rev counter, no shift lights, nothing. Not having the traction control, when you’re racing against other cars that do, is a huge disadvantage, not only with car control and performance, but also in the way you can look after the tyres," he said.

Tommy resumed in 46th position overall, one lap down on the class leaders.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar

A third safety car is introduced.

Cars on the start-finish line begin racing again, headed by Jonny Kane in the #42 Lola. They are released twenty seconds before the second group at Arnage, where the #29 Lola promptly goes for a spin on the exit.

In LMP2, Kane leads from Brabham, with Pla third and Moreau in the #35 Pescarolo fourth. They're running 1th through 17th overall, and have all overtaken the Drayson Lola #11, but Drayson himself regains two positions soon after the restart.

From his lowly position among the tail enders, Tommy is having to work back through the traffic and within a lap has risen to 27th from 46th.

Confirmation that the Beechdean Mansell Ginetta Zytek is the first official retirement.

As anticipated, the safety cars have not been kind to Audi, and McNish's three second gap on the leaders has grown to fifty. In the interim, Lapierre pitted the #4 and lost a handful of places to emerge in seventh.

As we near the end of the first hour, Tommy has moved through to 23rd overall, and stands 7th in class. He's lapping ten seconds quicker than Yvon in the #24 Oak Pescarolo ahead of him, and only Kane and Brabham are quicker.

Hour 2 (4:00-5:00)

The first pitstop window has now effectively opened, with the leaders having completed 13 laps. Tommy's enforced pitstop means he's one ahead of the rest already, but he's now overtaken the #24 Oak, and is gunning for de Pourtales in the #29.

Jonny Kane leads by thirteen seconds over David Brabham, and has the #6 Oreca and the #11 Drayson Lola stuck between. Pla is thirteen seconds further behind. Tommy has just been lapped by Lamy, who leads overall by five seconds over Gene, up to second in the #1 Peugeot.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

Erdos up to fifth in LMP2, having comfortably overtaken the #24 Oak Racing Pescarolo. This brings the Brazilian back up onto the first of the three timing screens. Not long ago he was near the bottom of the third!

Kane's lead has extended now to 17 seconds over Brabham. The #50 Saleen is being pushed down the pitlane by the mechanics.

There's been a coming together between one of the Oak Pescarolos, probably the #24, and the #6 Oreca Matmut AIM. Both cars continue, but not without a spin, and the #6 subsequently pits.

Tommy overtakes the #35 Oak Pescarolo for fourth in LMP2. The gap to Olivier Pla is just 13 seconds. The #50 Larbre Saleen has resumed racing.

All LMP1 cars now back in sequence, with Drayson and Ayari (#11 and #6) ahead of Kane, but with Ayari now in the pitlane being attended to, the #42 Strakka HPD is likely to regain 16th very soon.

The #39 KSM Lola is reported as circulating slowly.

Timing screens confirm that Jonny Kane has passed the pit-bound Oreca #6.

The leading factory Peugeots are still running one-two-three, and with barely a hair's breadth between them. Well, in truth, it's eight-tenths of a second between Lamy and Montagny (now back ahead of Gene in their on-going tussle) and less than a second between these two. They're dicing through the tail-enders like a strangely flexible caterpillar.

The Racing Performance Radical #28 (44th overall and last in LMP2 at the moment) has gone off into the gravel on the exit of the second chicane. The car appears to have sustained a puncture.

Ayari's problems seem to continue, and he's now had a nudge with one of the Aston Lolas. Luckily no damage this time. He's running 17th, and sandwiched between Kane and Brabham.

Tommy has narrowed the gap on Olivier Pla to just 8 seconds. The ASM Quifel Ginetta Zytek is now easily visible just a few hundred yards up the track.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar

16:31 Pitstop ( Driver: Thomas Erdos. Fuel and screen clean)
Tommy comes in for what should have been his first scheduled pitstop. The team refuel the car and clean the windscreen, but otherwise it's straight out again

Pilet in the #76 Porsche loses control on the way into the first Mulsanne Chicane and spins off across the gravel, sliding across the track at the exit directly in front of Tommy, now well into his out-lap.

Further up the road, Jonny Kane continues his class-leading run for Strakka. In 15th position overall, he's 68 seconds ahead of David Brabham now. The Australian and last year's winner here at Le Mans holds third from Pla by 17 seconds. Jan Charouz has taken over in the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo, in fourth, after Tommy's second pitstop, and holds the position comfortably.

In traffic, Montagny has taken the overall lead from Lamy.

Another mishap for KSM, but de Pourtales recovers quickly and presses on.

Montagny pits and Lamy resumes as leader. McNish then pits from fourth.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

Things have settled down for a while now, with all the main runners pitting in sequence still. Jonny Kane leads LMP2 by over a minute from David Brabham. The gap to Pla is 20 seconds.

Great battle in LMP2 between the two Aston Martin Lolas. They're disputing 8th place overall, and taking no quarter. Stefan Mucke (#007) just has the edge on Darren Turner (#008) and there's little more than traffic between them.

The glorious BMW "art car", #79, has pulled off at the first Mulsanne chicane. It has a rear left puncture, and is now making a leisurely journey back to the pits, Dirk Muller probably all-too conscious of damaging that wonderful bodywork.

The #70 MarcVDS Ford GT has had a major off at the foot of the Esses, going backwards heavily into the tyre wall. There's a strange image on the monitors of the car's rear, with wheels still spinning wildly, but no rear bodywork. Judging by the state of the armco, it looks to have been a very heavy impact. Regional yellows at the moment, but if the Armco is seriously rearranged, this may necessitate another safety car.

Jan Charouz pits the #35 Oak Pescarolo from 4th in LMP2. Strakka has also pitted, and Jonny Kane has handed over to Danny Watts. On the next lap through, Brabham pits to pass over driving duties to Marino Franchitti.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, DailysportscarHour 3 (5:00-6:00)

At the start of the third hour most of the leading group in LMP2 have completed their second scheduled pitstops, with the exception of Tommy Erdos, who has his yet to come. He's currently second in class as a result, but will probably lose two or three places when he visits the pits for fuel.

The #70 Ford GT is attempting to return to the pits, but clearly has serious geometry problems. The left-rear is oscillating wildly, and there are bits falling off at the rear.

Remarkably, considering Kane's first-stint pace, and Tommy's extra pitstop, the RML Lola is still on the class leader's lap, albeit a minute down.

Somehow, Franchitti in the Highcroft HPD has lost a place to Olivier Pla, possibly in the pits. The gap is only four seconds, but the loss can be accounted for by a lengthier pitstop by the Highcroft crew.

The Ford GT has arrived at Mulsanne Corner, just as Pla and Franchitti sweep by, now nose-to-tail. Franchitti's last lap was three seconds quicker.

Franchitti recovers second on the entry into Indianapolis and soon starts to ease clear.

Danny Watts is setting a fiery pace, and has just posted a 3:43. That's nearly three seconds faster than Franchitti, and easily quickest in the class, at present.

The #70 Ford GT gets back to the pits. The back of the car looks very sad.

Montagny leads again from Lamy, with Gene third, all for Team Peugeot Total. The privateer Oreca Peugeot 908 is fourth, with Allan McNish fifth for Audi.

RML AD Group ay Le Mans 2010. Photo: David Blumlein

Watts now setting three-forties. Tommy is just 24 seconds ahead of Marino Franchitti, so is likely to lose that place, at least, when he pits soon for fuel.

17:20 Pitstop ( Driver Change: Erdos out, Mike Newton in. Fuel, Tyres & screen clean)
Clean and unflustered pitstop and driver change from RML's experienced crew with Mike Newton strapped in and away in good time. "We were very happy with the way the Dunlop tyres performed," said Tommy. "We were able to triple-stint each set with minimal drop-off in grip and performance, and that was very important for our strategy."

Possible puncture or front-right body damage to the #3 Peugeot, from second place. Lamy presses on at speed, but is trailing smoke from the wheelarch.

The #3 Peugeot has made it back to the pits, and the team is beavering away to make good the repairs. Could be just a brief stop, unless the suspension is damaged. Both the #7 and #9 Audis pitted simultaneously.

The pitstop situation in LMP2 has now resolved itself, and Watts leads Franchitti by well over a minute. Olivier Pla retains third, with the Oak Racing #35 fourth and Mike Newton, now in the cockpit of the #25, fifth.

Sixth in class is de Pourtales in the #39 KSM Lola, with Karim Ojeh seventh in the Bruichladdich Ginetta Zytek, and #24 eighth, and the #29 9th. This group is neatly bunched between the #12 Rebellion Lola (16th overall) and the #60 Ford leading the GT category. The rest of the LMP2 runners are way down the order; #38 next up but 37th overall, the #37 WR Salini in 42nd, and the #28 Race Performance Radical 50th.

The #3 Peugeot remains in the garage, and the prognosis is not good. Sebastian Bourdais had been prepared to clamber into the cockpit but had been tuned away by the team, and looked totally disconsolate on the TV monitors. There seems to be a marked lack of activity around the car, perhaps suggesting that the damage is more serious than we'd first thought.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

The #3 Pug continues to tumble down the order, and is 21st overall now.

Mike Newton has got into his stride, and on the last lap was four seconds quicker than the #35 Pescarolo, 37 seconds ahead of him on the track. It's a long chase, but it's heading in the right direction.

Somewhat remarkably, the #19 Autocon Lola, which failed to complete the opening lap, has just been credited with finishing that 15 kilometre circuit. It could be the car's on the back of a recovery vehicle, of course . . .which turns out to be the case. Terminal gearbox problems for the former Synergy racing Lola. It will ultimately be recorded as the race's first retirement.

Mike moves through to take third, overtaking the #35 Oak as the Pescarolo makes its pitstop. The #28 Racing Performance Radical is in the gravel at Indianapolis.

As the race approaches the end of the third hour, the positions in LMP2 are . . .

  1. #42 Strakka Racing HPD (15th)
  2. #26 Highcroft HPD (16th)
  3. #25 RML Lola HPD (17th)
  4. #40 Quifel ASM Ginetta Zytek (18th)
  5. #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo Judd (19th)
  6. #39 KSM Lola Judd (20th)
  7. #41 Bruichladdich Ginetta Zytek (21st)
  8. #24 Oak Racing Pescarolo Judd (22nd)
  9. #29 Racing Box Lola Judd (23rd)
  10. #37 WR Salini Zytek (39th)
  11. #38 Pegasus Norma: 6:39.578 (44th)
  12. #28 Race Performance Radical (48th)

Hour 4 (6:00-7:00)

The Spyker goes off at Indianapolis, and recovers the track, but on his way through the Porsche Curves, collides with the #38 Norma LMP2, and both cars are seriously damaged. The Spyker is backed into the garage, but the Pegasus us struggling to get back to the garage.

RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar

The Pegasus Norma gets back to the pitlane. It would appear that the driver; da Rocha, was attempting to get out of the way of one of the leaders, about to lap him, and may not have realised that Peter Dumbrek in the Spyker was circulating slowly after his accident at Indianapolis.

Official retirements are now: Lola #19, Jaguar #81, Beechdean Mansell #5, and the #3 Peugeot.

Overall, Anthony Davidson leads in the #1 Peugeot from Stephane Sarrazin in the #2, and the #4 third. Tom Kristensen has taken over from Allan McNish in the #7.

18:14 Pitstop ( Driver: Mike Newton. Fuel & screen clean only)
Mike Newton into the pits for a routine pitstop. It's a fuel and screen-clean only, plus an attempt to revive the pump on his drinks bottle. "Mike’s first stint was extremely good," said Phil Barker. "I couldn’t believe how well he started, considering how little time he’d had in the car."

Warren Hughes is hustling along in the ASM Quifel car, #42, and running a strong 3rd in LMP2. He's just set a new quickest lap for the car, and pulling away from the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo. The gap's now 12 seconds. Mike Newton is another minute behind.

The WR Salini spins through the Ford Chicane, ending up dangerously breached across the track. Philip Salini himself in the cockpit gets it going again, but the pace is very average.

By contrast, Danny Watts in the class-leading Strakka Racing HPD is setting laps that would look quite acceptable from an LMP1 car. His last was a 3:40, but he's been going quicker than that, and three-thirty-sixes have been regular. Another picking up the is whoever's at the wheel of the #35, who's just set a new fastest lap for the car of 3:44.378.

It transpires that the Norma was actually hit into the Spyker by one of the factory Audi R15s, and our apologies to Christian Albers (at the wheel of the #15 Kolles Audi) for an earlier misunderstanding over "Audi" and "15".

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May18:39
Warren Hughes (Quifel ASM) and the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo both pit, for scheduled refuelling. Quifel had a slightly extended pitstop last time round to investigate an overheating issue, which they attributed to duct tape obscuring part of the inlet.

Pitstop for the class leader in LMP2. Such was the gap over Franchitti in second that Watts resumed still leading the class.

True enough, Watts retains his lead over Franchitti, who pits two laps later and swaps places with Marco Werner. Highcroft reckon they can consistently go a lap further on a tank than Strakka, but with the margin the #42 now enjoys, the compromise between pace and economy is insufficient to give Highcroft any obvious track advantage.

Mike is setting a good pace for a "sportsman" driver - in other words, a non-professional - and is holding his own very well. The gap to the #35 is pretty much the same as it was when Mike took over, some hours ago, and stands at about 70 seconds. He's trading times with Jonathan Kennard in the #39 KSM Lola give or take a couple of seconds here and there, and remains a lap ahead of the German Lola.

The Norma Judd remains stationary in the garage under repair. The team has hopes of getting the new car, making its race debut here this week, back out and into the race again as soon as they can.

Hour 5 (7:00-8:00)

Looking back to the morning, it seems hard to credit that a day that started with torrential rain could be heading towards an evening under bright, almost cloudless blue skies and baking hot track conditions. The sun is now dipping down behind the grandstands, and crisply defined shadows are lengthening across the circuit. We've now witnessed four hours of, at times, exciting and dramatic racing. Who'd have expected Nigel Mansell's "Red 5" to be one of the first retirements? The sports headline writers in the UK will be scratching their heads in search of a suitable pun. In similar vein, few would have predicted such a dominant opening stint from Peugeot. Despite help from the safety car incident, precipitated by Mansell's accident, they've shown consistent pace and good pitwork to establish a two-minute lead over the first-placed Audi, the #7 R15 of McNish, Kristensen and Capello.

19:06 Pitstop ( Drivers: Newton out, Andy Wallace in. Fuel, tyres & screen)
Mike hands over to Andy Wallace. Officially, this marks Andy's 21st appearance here at Le Mans. In last night's drivers' parade, the crowds still cheered loudest for Andy, thanks largely to his famous win here for Jaguar in 1988. Few win on their debut, and fewer still can claim to have done so in such a memorable way.

Marco Werner sets a new fastest lap for the #26 Highcroft HPD. He's still a lap down on Watts in the leading Strakka HPD, but he was a second quicker on that last lap. It seems the transponders in the Oak Racing Pescarolos are not functioning correctly, as they are unable to identify the current drivers.

Not mentioned them much, but the lead battle in GT1 continues apace. The #60 Ford GT of Grosjean leads the first of the two Luc Alphand Corvettes by nearly a minute, 23rd overall. GT2 is being lead by Pierre Kaffer in the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430, which took pole in the class but then had to start from the back of the grid after failing post-qualifying scrutineering. Second place is held by Manu Collard in the #64 Corvette.

Slow lap for the #79 Artcar BMW.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

In an attempt to avoid hitting the slow-moving #79 BMW, which was drifting across the track, Kristensen is forced into the gravel at the entrance to the Porsche Curves, and thumps into the tyre wall. There's some damage to the rear. He's extracted from the gravel by a snatch vehicle, and dragged back to the sliproad. The car will be full of gravel, as well as damaged.

The #79 meanwhile makes it back to the garage, where the unrelated damage is swiftly repaired, and Andy Priaulx rejoins the race.

Kristensen is back on the hard stuff, and heading back towards the pits. Meanwhile, there is a heated exchange of words between Audi's Dr Wolfgang Ulrich and the BMW team. Clearly no love lost on this occasion.

Andy Wallace has nearly completed his first half-hour, and is settling down to a steady pace in the mid forties. Several of the class leaders have pitted this lap, including Danny Watts (Strakka), Warren Hughes (#40 ASM), and the #35 Oak. This may allow him to close the gap a little.

Nick Leventis takes over driving duties in the Strakka HPD. The #24 Oak has just set a new fastest lap (no indication of driver) but 3:51.143 is way slower than either its team mate, #35, or the likes of Watts, Hughes and Erdos.

Leventis leads LMP2 by 100 seconds over Marco Werner, and is running 14th overall. The Highcroft racer is a lap clear of Warren Hughes in third. Lahaye in the #35 Pescarolo is a further 32 seconds behind, and then Andy Wallace in fifth.

Pitstop for Highcroft. Fuel only.

All the leading group in LMP2 have completed their fifth pitstops, except Andy Wallace, who needs to make the car's sixth. He's currently fifth in class.

19:56 Pitstop ( Driver: Wallace stays in. Fuel, tyres & screen)
Andy heads for the pitlane. He'll be taking on a full set of tyres at this stop, having insisted he flat spotted the front right during the middle of his stint. He was three minutes behind Lahaye at the last count.

In the overall battle for the lead, Alexander Wurz holds first position for the #1 Team Peugeot 908, with Nick Minassian second in the #2, and the Oreca #4 third. The #9 Audi R15 now heads the chasing pack, with the #8 fifth, and the first of the petrol-engined cars, the #007 Aston Martin 6th.

After his incident with the #79 BMW, Tom Kristensen handed over to Dindo Capello, and Dindo is holding 7th.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

Hour 6 (8:00-9:00)

Five hours completed, and all well at the head of LMP2. Strakka continues to lead, although the margin has narrowed to 67 seconds between Leventis and Werner. Warren Hughes retains third comfortable over the #35 Oak racing car (gap is 82 seconds) and Andy Wallace is fifth, almost a lap behind.

A fiery end to the Le Mans challenge for the all-girls squad in the #61 Matech Ford GT. The engine erupts as Gachnang heads down towards the Mulsanne Corner. Andy confirms that last time he passed the car, he'd had a generous screen dusting of oil droplets across the screen, so he's not surprised. She gets out of the car as flames start to blossom from the rear arches and beneath the engine cover. She emerges safely from a cloud of black smoke and extinguisher powder, as the marshals run to help.

The #24 Oak Racing Pescarolo (Richard Hein, sixth in class and 20th overall) is reported as going slow. Andy reports that the visibility through the screen is now very poor, as a result of the smeared oil. He considers it too dangerous to proceed and will pit this lap for a clean.

The #79 BMW is in trouble again, and has coasted to a halt beside the track on the run down to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Andy Meyrick has gone straight on into the tyre wall at Arnage. It's not a race-ending impact, and he reverses out and heads back towards the pitlane. The car appears skittish but driveable.

20:25 Pitstop ( Driver: Wallace stays in. Fuel, & screen tear-off removed)
Andy into the pitlane. He requests guidance as he cannot see where to stop. He stops and the team refuels the car before removing the uppermost screen tear-off sheet. "Big, big change!" he says, delighted that he can now see where he's going.

Having returned slowly to the pits, the #24 rejoins the race.

Nick Leventis pits the Strakka Racing HPD from the lead. His narrower advantage means Marco Werner eases forwards and assumes the mantle, at least for the moment.

Leventis trails Werner by just 35 seconds, so ill certainly resume the lead when the German makes his pitstop. Amaral is now aboard the #40 ASM Ginetta in third and noticeably slower than Hughes.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

The Highcroft HPD enters the pitlane. Moments later Leventis crosses the line to retake the lead. Now that he can see where he's going, Andy's laptimes have improved significantly, and he's regularly doing forty-fives and sixes - closing on Lahaye and pulling clear of Greaves, who's just handed over the #41 Bruichladdich Ginetta Zytek in sixth.

This group has had a race-long battle with the Drayson LMP1 Lola. Much faster when it's working, the #11 Lola has spent a total of half an hour in the pits, effectively negating any performance advantage. It comes out again, recovers some lost ground and a few places, and then dips back into the pitlane again to lose everything once more.

After an afternoon of blazing sunshine overhead, the light is beginning to fade as the sun dips down towards the horizon. It highlights a gripping duel for the lead in GT2, where just the length of a towrope separates the #82 Ferrari from Collard in the #64 Corvette.

An unexpected extra pitstop for Highcroft, with Werner having only visited the pitlane a few minutes ago. The team replaces the front-right tyre, and the lime-green and black car returns to the fray. The Drayson Lola is back in the garage again . . .

The GT2 battle is coming to a head, and Kaffer is feeling the pressure. Tyre-smoke and lockups betray just how hard he's having to race in order to keep Collard at bay.

The #92 Aston Martin GT2 , Bryce Miller aboard, has gone off in the Porsche Curves, and a safety car has been deployed. Hopefully he hasn't had a serious accident, and they've introduced the safety car as a precaution, but there are emergency vehicles in attendance. The marshals use this as an opportunity to clean the rack, sweeping debris and dusting oily patches.

Confirmation came through a little while ago that the Racing Box Lola #29 is an official retirement. The car initially had a fractured fuel pipe and problematic pump, but then reputedly suffered suspension issues.

The #79 BMW has been suffering with engine issues.

Drayson's main problem has centred on a vibration that made the car almost impossible to drive, and raced to a shock-absorber. Pirro reports that since the last pitstop the car has been delightful to drive. The car also had a fumes-in-the-cockpit issue, also resolved.

Lahaye has pitted the #35 under the safety car.

Hour 7 (9:00-10:00)

Two incidents, involving the #14 Kolles Audi and Nick Leventis in the #42 Strakka Racing HPD. The Kolles incident appears to be near Indianapolis. Strakka is off at Dunlop. They are unrelated.

Nick rejoins and continues on around the track. The Kolles car is into the pitlane, and looks badly damaged. The Strakka HPD, on the other hand, looked fine.

The race is back on again, and whether as a result of his off, or the safety car bunching things up, but Leventis only leading by 32 seconds now. The margin to Amaral in third is several laps - unclear how many just yet. Roughly 45 seconds between Amaral and Lahaye, but then a lap to Wallace.

Nick Leventis pits the Strakka HPD from the lead, and hands over to Jonny Kane. The Highcroft car sweeps through to take the class lead.

The GT2 battle is back on again, but the roles reversed. Ollie Gavin is in the #64 Corvette now, and is being chased by Jaime Melo in the Risi Ferrari. Game on . . .

The timing screens confirm the retirement of the Pegasus Norma. The pastel blue debutante is ordered as the first LMP2 retirement, although the #29 appeared on the list first.

21:30 Pitstop ( Driver: Wallace out, Erdos in. Fuel, tyres & screen clean)
Andy is commenting on poor visibility from the screen again, and the team carries out a thorough clean of the offending perspex. "Nice and steady" operation, and the car is swiftly back out again with Tommy Erdos back on board. Andy reports that track conditions are generally fine, but there are some corners where the sun is causing problems with glare.

Jaime Melo takes the GT2 class lead with a stunning inside sweep through the corner at Indianapolis. One suspects that Oliver Gavin would not have been expecting that!

Marco Werner sets a new fastest lap for the Highcroft HPD of 3:37.189, but in response to an even quicker lap from Jonny Kane. There's 50 seconds between them, so the gap will be interesting to watch.

Tommy's first flyer is a forty-three, but he's upping the pace lap-by-lap, and already ten seconds quicker than Amaral in the #40 Quifel ASM car ahead of him. Big gap to make up though.

Another improvement from Werner, posting 3:36.199. Having played gently gently catchee monkey for six hours, perhaps Highcroft has decided to try outright pace instead. The gap has increased to 53 seconds.

Werner into the pits. Evidently low fuel had allowed him to push those times. Is the gap sufficient for him to hold the lead?

As the timing screen catches up with the pitstops, Jonny Kane has regained the LMP2 class lead, and heads David Brabham (who's resumed duties for Highcroft) by 46 seconds.

RML AD Group at Le mans 2010. Photo: Peter May

The fisticuffs in GT2 have been resumed. Having taken the lead from Ollie Gavin only a little while ago, and seemed able to pull away, the gloves are off again, and the Corvette ace has found a sweet spot in the car's weight to performance ratio. He's closed right down on the little red Ferrari once again.

Half a lap later, as they dice for the first chicane, Gavin dives up the inside and takes the lead. Then, in perfect role reversal, Melo returns the compliment into the second chicane, and they head down towards Mulsanne Corner with the #82 Ferrari narrowly holding the GT2 class lead.

Lahaye pits the #35 Oak Racing Pescarolo from third in LMP2. Jonny Kane proves his point by setting a new fastest lap for the #42 Strakka HPD, posting 3:35.292 to better Werner's offering by nearly two seconds.

Hour 8 (10:00-11:00)

Seven hours completed, and we head off into the eighth with a series of exciting conflicts flaring throughout the field. Jonny Kane is pushing hard to re-establish the LMP2 lead over Brabham, and his last lap was a 3:34.832, five seconds quicker than Brabham's. In GT2, the hostilities have been suspended as Gavin pits for fuel. Melo will probably follow him into the pitlane any tour soon.

Such is the entertainment value in these secondary classes that any dispute over the outright lead has lost its appeal for the moment. Alexander Wurz (#1 Peugeot) has an 80 second lead over Nick Minassian (#2) with Oliver Panis third in the Oreca Peugeot and Treluyer fourth for Audi, in the #8. Dindo Capello is in the #7, but after the incident with the BMW, several hours ago, has much ground to recover before it will be back in contention again.

The Strakka Racing HPD is back into the pits, but only briefly. It seems unlikely this is scheduled but evidently not serious, as the car swiftly rejoins the race. What effect this has had on the lead will be evident shortly.

Just behind these two, Matthieu Lahaye has taken third place from Miguel Amaral in the Quifel ASM Ginetta Zytek, even through the #40 car still has a pitstop to make. The gap between them has grown quickly to about 8 seconds, with Lahaye consistently two or three seconds quicker each lap.

Three more official retirements; #61 Matech Ford GT (the 'girls'), #80 Flying Lizard Porsche and #92 JMW Aston Martin.

In GT2, Melo has now completed the pitstop that puts him back on par with Gavin. The question is, who did the faster pitstop? The next pass will tell.

Amaral has slipped to 21 seconds adrift of Lahaye, and Erdos was closing up behind, but it's time for another Erdos pitstop.

22:20 Pitstop ( Driver: Erdos remains in. Fuel & screen clean)
Erdos pits on schedule, displaying just under a lap to Amaral, who has also just completed his car's 8th pitstop. The RML Lola shows nine, thanks to the extra pitstop early in the race.

The leading Peugeot #1 is into the pitlane . . .and into the garage! Drama abounds . . .

The erstwhile leader is still in the garage, and the #2 Peugeot (Montagny currently in charge) breezes by down the pit straight. Maybe there is going to be a race after all.

The Drayson Lola is back in the pitlane again, with the engine cover off. It has now dropped down behind the leading LMP2 group, and lies 21st overall.

In LMP2, Kane has pulled out a narrow advantage over Brabham, and leads by 14 seconds. Lahaye is third, Amaral fourth, and Erdos fifth, but he's taken a full minute out of the Quifel ASM Ginetta Zytek already.

Highcroft back into the pitlane again. This seems very soon after the last pitstop, so unlikely to be routine. Even so, it's only a brief visit, and Brabham is soon back out and active.

The #1 Peugeot remains stationary in the garage, where a faulty alternator is the suspected cause. It has slipped to 5th now, and may be overtaken by Stefan Mucke next in the leading petrol Aston, #007.

The #1 Peugeot rejoins, and two minutes later, so does the #11 Drayson Lola, picking up in 30th overall. The Peugeot slips in at 7th, behind McNish in the #7, but just ahead of Darren Turner in the #009.

Lahaye pits the third-placed #35 Pescarolo. It's an on-schedule stop and may allow Amaral through, but the Portuguese driver still has his ninth pitstop to make. Moreau takes over, so the Oak car's pace is likely to improve.

Now it's Amaral's turn. He enters the pitlane with a margin over Tommy of just 100 seconds or so, and hands over to Olivier Pla. Out at the head of the class, Kane leads Brabham by over two minutes, so can almost afford to make a pitstop without loss of position.

Tommy comes through to begin his 116th lap, and finds himself in fourth place, having overtaken Olivier while the ASM car was in for the pitstop. The gap is just under 30 seconds.

Strakka in for a pitstop from the lead.

Tommy complains about driving over something in the middle of the Mulsanne. He's not sure what it was. Later reports suggest it was a rabbit, and there are rumours in the media centre that Phil Barker is hopping mad.

Hour 9 (11:00-12:00)

Into the final hour of Saturday and the leading group in LMP2 looks much the same now as it did four hours ago, with Strakka leading Highcroft from Oak and RML. Jonny Kane has established a lead of 76 seconds over David Brabham.

Thomas Erdos into the pit road in anticipation of his next pitstop. He pulls up outside the garage and kills the engine sitting patiently while the refuellers got to work behind him. The team carries out a number of other quick checks, and then clears Tommy for departure.

Marc Gene sets a new race best for the #1 Peugeot, and 3:20.973 is very impressive. Treluyer's response in the #8 Audi is even more remarkable, to the point of being incredible. 3 minutes 01.125 is twenty five seconds too fast to be believable.

Even so, conditions out there on track are obviously very quick at the present, and these two are not alone in setting new improvements for their cars. Olivier Pla has managed a few fastest sectors, although still not enough to shake off Tommy Erdos, who came back out after the last pitstop over a minute in arrears, but has already narrowed it to 57 seconds.

Highcroft back into the pits for a speedy pitstop; refuel and out again. The gap to Strakka had been 82 seconds, but will now have extended further. Two minutes later the #24 Oak car pits from 6th in class, accompanied by the #41. The Oak stop is significantly longer, and the Bruichladdich car moves through to take its place.

After that fantastic battle with the #64 Corvette the Risi Ferrari has hit problems, and with gear selection problems has been in the pits long enough to have dropped way down the order, and opened the door for a Corvette one-two. Jan Magnussen and the #63 Corvette are now running second in GT2, ninety seconds behind Beretta, now pushing along in the #64.

Slightly ahead of expectations, the #40 ASM Ginetta Zytek has come in for a pitstop. It seems routine, and Olivier Pla is back out and at 'em after the briefest of pauses, but it's cost him fourth place to Tommy Erdos. The Brazilian is through and 1:53.264 behind Moreau in the #35.

Suitably encouraged, Tommy sets a new fastest first sector for the #25 Lola, and rounds it off with a 3:41.729. It's not quite the quickest in the class - that honour falls again to Jonny Kane, but it's nearly ten seconds faster than Moreau ahead of him.

Jonny Kane hands over to Danny Watts but Strakka manages to hold on to the lead, such is their advantage at the head of LMP2 at the moment. It narrows to 30 seconds, but Strakka is ahead in the pitstop stakes too

A new fastest lap for Tommy Erdos, posting 3:41.226.

23:59 Pitstop ( Driver: Erdos out, Mike Newton in. Fuel, tyes & screen clean )
Tommy comes in to make the final pitstop of Saturday, and hands over to Mike Newton for the first run of the new day. As this is all happening in the pitlane, Marc Gene has set a new fastest lap for the recovering #1 Peugeot of 3:19.644. That's quicker than pole.

The report continues on the dedicated Sunday page

The Le Mans 2010 gallery can be accessed here

Le Mans 24 Hours 2010

Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France
Raceday - Saturday June 12th 2010

RML AD Group ay Le Mans 2010. Photo: David Blumlein


































Le Mans 2010



Le Mans 2010



Le Mans 2010



Le Mans 2010




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RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar























RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar


































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RML AD Group at Le Mans 2010. Photo: David Blumlein













































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RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar































RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar


















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RML at Le Mans 2010. Fighting back. Photo: David Downes, Dailysportscar












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