2014 24 Hours of Le Mans Race Updates

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Rolling updates from the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans are below…

7:00 a.m. ET: It’s game over for Porsche. A strategic chess match between the No. 20 Porsche and No. 2 Audi has now fallen to Audi, with Mark Webber’s Porsche slowing on the Mulsanne Straight with just over two-hours to go.

LMP2 may still be a shootout with the top three within a minute.

6:00 a.m. ET: Just when the LMP1 and LMP2 classes appeared to be settled, drama has struck at Le Mans to blow the race wide open with three hours to go at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The No. 1 Audi, piloted by Tom Kristensen, enjoyed a healthy lead over the No. 20 Porsche, but this was lost when the car came to a halt on the exit of the first chicane. The Dane managed to restart the car, only to return to the pits for a turbocharger change. Lucas di Grassi got behind the wheel and rejoined in third place.

Timo Bernhard currently leads the race for Porsche, but he is being chased by Andre Lotterer in the No. 2 Audi, who is less than ten seconds down the road.

The GTE Pro class is currently still being led by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, whilst the No. 95 Aston Martin is heading up the GTE Am class.

With three hours to go, the race has been turned on its head – and there’s still a long way to go.

In LMP2, the No. 46 Ligier surrendered the lead due to a suspension problem, handing control of the class to Oak Racing and Alex Brundle.

4:00 a.m. ET: We’ve had a great lead battle in GTE-Pro between the No. 51 Ferrari and No. 97 Aston Martin come to an end after the No. 97 went to the garage with overheating issues, and lost more than 20 minutes.

The LMP2 leader had a problem as well at the end of the 19th hour, with the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan going behind the wall with apparent engine issues. The similar Ligier JS P2 Nissan entry, the No. 46 fielded by Thiriet by TDS Racing, now leads.

The No. 1 Audi (LMP1) and No. 95 Aston Martin (GTE-Am) are the other class leaders.

1:05 a.m. ET: More drama up front, this time for Audi. The No. 2 Audi had taken over the overall lead following the No. 7’s retirement, due to an electrical issue with the car’s wiring loom.

But just before the 16-hour mark, the No. 2 Audi driven by Marcel Fassler pitted to replace the turbo. That promoted the sister No. 1 car to the lead.

Other class leaders include the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan (LMP2), No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia (GTE-Pro) and No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage (GTE-Am).

11:30 p.m. ET: A stellar race from the No. 7 Toyota has ended in disaster and a retirement from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kaz Nakajima was driving the TS040 Hybrid when it came to a stop on the track a short time ago.

One of Nakajima’s co-drivers, Alex Wurz, captured the despair in the Toyota camp with a tweet:

Toyota’s Rob Leupen told Fox Sports that an electrical problem was the culprit behind the demise of the No. 7.

“It’s motorsport,” Leupen ended with a sad shrug.

With nine and a half hours remaining, the No. 2 Audi has taken control of the lead with Benoit Treluyer currently driving.

9 p.m. ET (HALFWAY HOME): It’s 12 hours down, 12 more to go in this year’s running of the world’s most prestigious sports car race – which is firmly in Toyota’s control at the moment.

Their No. 7 TS040 Hybrid is now out to a lead of almost two minutes over the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, which is managing to stay on the lead lap but can’t make up major progress.

Shortly before the 12-hour mark, Audi’s No. 1 car suddenly slowed on course and driver Tom Kristensen was forced to limp it around and back to the pits, where the crew quickly tried to diagnose the problem.

The No. 1 eventually got back on track with Lucas di Grassi now driving, but not before multiple minutes had been lost. A tweet on the Audi Sport Twitter account listed a injector change on the car.

Leading up to halfway, the hottest battle had been contested in GTE-Pro between the No. 97 Aston Martin, No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, and No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette. But right now, the Aston Martin remains ahead of both the Ferrari and the ‘Vette.

In GTE-Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin was forced to abandon its lead and go into the garage for repairs. It eventually returned to the track but is now well off the pace; Fox Sports reported that the team had to replace the car’s power steering.

The good news for the Aston camp is that another of its Am cars, the No. 95 Vantage V8, has picked up the flag and is leading in their category.

Finally, the No. 35 OAK Racing machine with Alex Brundle in the cockpit continues to hold the point in LMP2.

6:10 p.m. ET: A touch late on this nine-hour update from Le Mans, but we held off to take into account pit stops from the race-leading No. 7 Toyota (Alex Wurz) and second-place No. 2 Audi (Marcel Fassler).

Prior to the stops, Wurz held a lead of roughly one and a half minutes to continue Toyota’s hold on the event. But after the stops, Wurz’s lead grew by an additional ten seconds. Fassler’s teammate, Marc Gene, has the No. 1 Audi in third place at one lap off the pace.

Also pitting close to 6 p.m. ET was the LMP2 class-leading No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier/Nissan (Jann Mardenborough). He continues to run ahead of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA/Nissan in that category.

Meanwhile, in GTE, Aston Martin has taken control of the lead in both the Pro and Am classes. In Pro, the No. 97 Vantage V8 of Stefan Mucke currently leads the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 74 Chevy Corvette, while in Am, the No. 98 of Pedro Lamy is ahead of the pack.

3:30 p.m. ET: Six-plus hours are in the books and after the incidents and rain that peppered the first few hours, the race is starting to settle into a rhythm.

The No. 7 Toyota retook the overall lead; a couple issues hit the No. 20 Porsche, including a puncture and a brief off at Arnage corner. Of note, Mark Webber has taken over from Hartley behind the wheel.

LMP2 has seen the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd the lone interloper among a quartet of Nissans (Nos. 26, 35, 36, 46, which are Oreca 03, Ligier JS P2 and Alpine A450 branded chassis).

Corvette Racing has led in GTE-Pro and Aston Martin Racing in GTE-Am.

Just now though the third safety car period is out for the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan, an early-race leader, at the exit of Porsche Curves.

1 p.m. ET: After falling behind the Audi and Toyota camps in the first hour, Porsche is now leading the way at the four-hour mark with its No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which is currently being driven by Brendon Hartley.

Timo Bernhard handed the No. 20 over to Hartley early in the race’s fourth hour, and Hartley cycled back to the lead when the No. 7 Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin pitted a short time later.

However, Sarrazin has begun to mount a charge and Hartley’s lead is now under a mere 10 seconds. Audi’s No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro runs third overall with Benoit Treluyer at the wheel.

A lead change in GTE-Pro has also gone down, as Tommy Milner got his No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette around the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister.

In LMP2, Michel Frey was leading right up to the end of the hour, when he chose to pit. That gave the class lead to Paul-Loup Chatin in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA.

As for GTE-Am, Christoffer Nygaard sits in front in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, while Patrick Dempsey currently runs second after taking over from Patrick Long in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

11:30 a.m. ET: We went back to green, briefly, after a 40-plus minutes safety car period. But another one has just occurred as after a brief period of sunshine, rain has returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe. An incident between two LMP2 cars (Nos. 48 and 41) and a spin by the oldest driver in the field, 65-year-old Harold Blank in the No. 62 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia on the Mulsanne, occurred.

We’re almost to the end of the three-hour mark, which will occur at noon ET.

10:30 a.m. ET: How fast can it change here? We’ve just had a sudden downpour and mass chaos at various points on the track.

Both the No. 3 Audi and No. 8 Toyota are crashed on the Mulsanne Corner and one of the AF Corse cars, the No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia, is also involved.

We’ll sort this out as soon as the marshals and weather do so out themselves. We’re now under a safety car.

10:25 a.m. ET: The opening line of “Truth in 24” has occurred: It always rains in Le Mans. And now it is, at a couple random parts of the circuit including Tertre Rouge and briefly on pit lane. Need change? Wait a few minutes.

10:15 a.m. ET: The first hour of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans is in the books. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Toyota leads in the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid that took the pole position. Alexander Wurz had a moment as he exited just ahead of Andre Lotterer on the first round of pit stops.

Audi’s moved up nicely with the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, driven in its first stint by Andre Lotterer. The No. 8 Toyota and No. 3 Audi were also in striking distance.

Both of the Porsches have fallen back; the No. 14 went behind the wall for nine minutes with fuel pressure issues and the No. 20 has been running two seconds off the pace all race.

Other class leaders at the one-hour mark include KCMG’s No. 47 Oreca 03 Nissan in LMP2 (Alexandre Imperatori driving), AF Corse’s No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Pro (Gianmaria Bruni) and JMW Motorsport’s No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am (Seth Neiman). The latter leader took the lead during the first pit stop cycle.

The No. 0 Nissan ZEOD RC became the first official retirement, with gearbox issues.

Raikkonen: No secret to qualifying charge in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari drives during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Kimi Raikkonen says that there was no secret behind his late charge to third place in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but remains realistic about his chances in Sunday’s race.

After seeing teammate Sebastian Vettel drop out in Q1, Raikkonen led Ferrari’s charge at the Yas Marina Circuit by finishing third behind the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Raikkonen managed to edge out Force India driver Sergio Perez for P3 with his final lap in Q3, but the Finn said that there was no secret to his late charge.

“No real secret,” Raikkonen said. “Obviously the car has been handling pretty well all weekend.

“The laps haven’t been ideal many times. Even the first run, it was OK the lap, but I knew there was quite a lot of room to improve so I just tried to make one a bit better lap and it was enough.

“Obviously still a bit of a way off from what these guys can do but we did our best today.

“The Mercedes have been very quick today and yesterday, in the lap times they are a bit faster than us, but the race is tomorrow, so let’s see.

“I did my maximum today. Tomorrow is another day, we can only do our best and see where we’ll end up. We’ll try to make a good start and then see how it pans out, going from there and making the right decisions.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.

Porsche confirms unchanged line-up for 2016 WEC season

Porsche 919 Hybrid, Porsche Team: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
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Following Audi’s press conference earlier today confirming its plans for the 2016 FIA World Endurance Championship season, Porsche has followed suit by announcing it will be retaining all six of its existing LMP1 drivers for the new campaign.

Porsche enjoyed immense success in 2015 as Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard took the drivers’ championship in dramatic fashion at the 6 Hours of Bahrain, adding to the manufacturers’ title the marque had won three weeks earlier in Shanghai.

The 919 Hybrid LMP1 car took pole position for every race in 2015, and also won Porsche’s first 24 Hours of Le Mans since 1998 with the third entry of Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

However, Porsche confirmed that it will be only racing with its two regular WEC entries at Le Mans next June, reflecting Audi’s move to help cut costs.

Porsche will once again run the same two line-ups, with Webber, Hartley and Bernhard set to defend their championship together with the no. 1 car. Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas will team up for a third successive year in the second 919 Hybrid.

“The advice of ‘never change a winning team’ is spot on,” LMP1 vice-president Fritz Enzinger said.

“Both our driver trios didn’t only perform brilliantly on track, but have also been with us since the beginning of the programme and have significantly contributed to the Porsche 919 Hybrid’s development.

“We are very proud of these six top drivers, and very pleased all of them are on board for the 2016 world championship and the Le Mans 24 Hours.”

The decision to not run a third car at Le Mans not only ends Hulkenberg’s already-faint hopes of defending his title, but also will leave Tandy and Bamber looking for drives elsewhere.

It also puts an end to speculation that Juan Pablo Montoya could be set to bid for the Triple Crown and race at Le Mans, having tested with Porsche in Bahrain last week.

GP2: Vandoorne breaks win record, Rossi secures P2 in championship

2015 GP2 Series Round 11.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Saturday 28 November 2015.
Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SBL9548
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Stoffel Vandoorne claimed a record-breaking 11th GP2 Series victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday after seeing off challenges from Pierre Gasly and Raffaele Marciello at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Starting second, Vandoorne made a good start but was unable to pass Gasly on the first lap, forcing him to settle down in P2 for the opening stages of the race.

Vandoorne made his move for the lead on lap four, diving down the inside of Gasly at the turn seven hairpin before establishing an advantage over the field.

Gasly dropped down the order as the option tire runners began to lose grip, prompting an early round of pit stops and allowing Raffaele Marciello to hit the front as the lead driver on primes.

Marciello retained this advantage until stopping at the end of lap 26, but emerged from the pits behind Vandoorne. The Italian was just ahead of Mitch Evans, leaving him to battle for second place in the closing stages against the prime-shod Russian Time racer.

Vandoorne was able to ease home at the front to record his seventh win of the year and 11th in GP2, beating Pastor Maldonado’s existing record of ten to become the most successful driver in the history of the series.

Marciello fended off Evans to finish second by less than one second, while American driver Alexander Rossi closely followed them home in fourth.

The result ensures that Rossi will finish the year as GP2’s vice-champion behind Vandoorne in the final standings.

Tomorrow’s sprint race will see Alex Lynn start from pole position for DAMS after finishing eighth on Saturday. Rio Haryanto will start from P2 by virtue of his seventh-place finish, with Jordan King and Gasly filling the second row of the grid.

New Audi R18 e-tron quattro unveiled; two cars only for Le Mans

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
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Audi Sport has revealed its new Audi R18 e-tron quattro, the latest generation of diesel-powered TDI which now will run with a 6 mJ battery hybrid.

The new LMP1 car was unveiled at the annual Audi Sport Finale in Munich, among several other key announcements of note.

Audi will retain its same driver lineup, the lead trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler in one car with Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis back as well. After the successive retirements of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello the last three years, Audi now has the same lineup for consecutive years, for the first time in years.

However, and while the third car trio of Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Rene Rast was on stage with the six others, Audi confirmed both it and sister brand Porsche will run two cars only at next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, rather than three as each did this year.

It was a jointly agreed upon decision; both operate under the VW Group parent company. It effectively rules out the same trio of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg repeating as a trio, although Porsche will announce the program for its own drivers next month.

“We stay with the TDI, 50 percent more hybrid power,” said Chris Reinke, Head of Audi LMP1. “Battery storage and high focus on aero as you can see. We are on our way to challenge for WEC and Le Mans wins.”

Here’s a few photos from the reveal, below: