After watching Peugeot win last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and sweep this year’s qualifying, you’d think the French diesel-powered prototypes would dominate this year’s race. Not so -- Audi managed to score first, second, and third-place finishes at the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans.
As usual, the diesel-powered LMP1 cars dominated the endurance race. Peugeot showed promise during the qualifying runs, but racing over a full 24 hours puts incredible strain on cars, drivers, and crew. Ultimately, it was enough to boot Peugeot from the race. Within the first two hours, the number 3 908 HDi FAP -- which had qualified for the pole position -- retired with major suspension issues, which reportedly included substantial damage to the car’s carbon fiber monocoque.
At dawn on Sunday, Peugeot effectively handed the lead to Audi when the number 2 908’s right engine bank died. A second Peugeot diesel engine gave out with two hours of the race remaining, wiping Peugeot’s factory-sponsored cars from the race entirely. Shortly after, the last 908 -- fielded by French team Oreca Matmut -- retired with a similar engine problem.
Competition in the LMP2 class -- which usually turns into a last-man-standing affair -- was just as fierce as the LMP1 class this year. The Honda powered HPD ARX.01 cars proved to be dominant, and Strakka Racing’s car ultimately grabbed top honors. Highcroft Racing’s HPD ARX.01 was an active player, but tire and cooling issues eventually forced the car to fall to ninth in class.
In the GT1 class, three Matech Ford GTs -- two fielded by Matech Competition and one by Marc VDS Racing -- looked intimidating, but were all eventually forced from the race. The VDS car crashed in the second hour of racing, while the number 60 Matech car crashed in the night. The remaining MatechGT ended up burning through an engine in a blaze late Sunday morning, essentially handing the GT1 lead to a 10-year-old Saleen S7R, which wound up with the class victory.
The GT2 class proved to be quite competitive, as the winning team led by only two laps at the very end. Initially, Corvette Racing’s new ZR1-based C6.Rs looked promising, but one suffered an engine failure around 17 hours in. The remaining Corvette experienced trouble shortly after as an overzealous Anthony Davidson in the lead Peugeot 908 caused the number 64 car to hit the wall in the Porsche curves. Shortly after being repaired, the number 64 car retired with an engine problem.Last year’s GT2 champion -- the Ferrari F430 GT ran by Risi Compitizione -- retired early on, leaving Team Felbermayr Proton’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Hankook Team Farnbacher’s F430 GT to duke it out. Ultimately, the Porsche prevailed.
As usual, the 24 Hours of Le Mans proved to be an extremely intense race, fueled by pride and desire. Next year’s race, however, will be quite interesting, as new GT classes and regulations will come into effect, forcing both Audi and Peugeot to revise their LMP1 designs. Only 363 days until the diesel-led battle begins again…