Villeneuve Peugeot is second after 21 hours of fierce racing
The overnight rain is almost a distant memory as the track dries quickly and slicks begin to replace the full wet and intermediate tyres that were used for most of the morning’s action.
With the exception of the N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Lamy/Sarrazin/Wurz) which has moved into the top-five, the positions at the sharp end of the leaderboard are unchanged.
However, the drying conditions have given the Peugeot team hope that it can retrieve the supremacy it enjoyed before heavy rain began to fall shortly after four in the morning.
The N°7 908 HDi FAP is back on the same lap as the leading N°2 Audi. What will surely be remembered as one of the most fiercely fought Le Mans 24 Hours ever is heading for a cliff-hanger ending.
Provisional positions at 12.00 (France):
1, Capello/Kristensen/McNish Audi R10 +333 laps (4,538km)
2, Gené/Minassian/Villeneuve Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (N°7) +3m 15.884s
3, Montagny/Klien/Zonta Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (N°9) +2 laps
4, Luhr/Premat/Rockenfeller Audi R10 +2 laps
5, Lamy/Sarrazin/Wurz Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (N°8) +11 laps
Pit stops and incidents:
N°7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Marc Gené / Nicolas Minassian / Jacques Villeneuve):
09.35: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres, plus engine cover change. Minassian stays in the car
10.25: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres). Driver change: Jacques Villeneuve takes over from Nicolas Minassian
11.13: pit-stop (fuel and intermediate tyres).
11.58: pit-stop (fuel and slicks). Driver change: Marc Gené takes over from Jacques Villeneuve.
N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Pedro Lamy / Stéphane Sarrazin / Alexander Wurz):
09.44: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres). Sarrazin stays in the car.
10.13: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres): Driver change: Alexander Wurz takes over from Stéphane Sarrazin
10.44: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres).
11.01: pit-stop (fuel and intermediate tyres).
11.44: pit-stop (fuel and slicks). Driver change: Pedro Lamy takes over from Alexander Wurz
N°9 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Franck Montagny / Ricardo Zonta / Christian Klien):
09.21: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres). Klien stays in car.
10.09: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres)
10.55: pit-stop (fuel and rain tyres)
11.09: pit-stop (fuel and intermediate tyres)
11.48: pit-stop (fuel and slicks). Driver change: Ricardo Zonta takes over from Christian Klien who has been in the car since 8.30am!
The early morning rain begins to ease and an increasingly drier line is visible round most of the track. Minassian, who has dropped a lap to the N°2 Audi in the lead, succeeds in unlapping himself but the Audi re-laps the N°7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP when Minassian hands over to Villeneuve at 10.25am.
It’s then Villeneuve’s turn to try to unlap himself and he succeeds just before 11am.
Meanwhile, a long problem for the N°1 Audi allows the N°8 Peugeot of Lamy/Sarrazin/Wurz to pass into fifth place at 11.12am. There are three Peugeots inside the top-five, with a little less than four hours remaining.
At around this time, the N°9 and N°7 Peugeots switch to intermediate tyres and begin to home in on the Audis that are ahead of them. Klien passes the N°3 Audi to retrieve a footing on the provisional podium at 11.20.
Slicks become the norm again in the last half-hour of the morning.
At 11.48am, Christian Klien ended a run that lasted just over three hours at the wheel.
Nicolas MINASSIAN (N°7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, 10.40am):
“That was a really difficult stint. I didn’t manage to find any grip and I didn’t feel perfectly confident. Our car works much better in the dry. The grip was changing all the time but I was on the limit from the start to the finish of my run. It’s a shame that the race has gone this way, but I have no intention of throwing in the towel, just like all my team-mates at Peugeot.”
Stéphane SARRAZIN (N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, at 10.30am):
“The grip changed all the time and we have never previously raced in conditions like these. I was on full wet tyres as the track was starting to dry: a nightmare. I had to pit early because it was starting to get very difficult indeed.”
Alexander WURZ (N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, at 11.50am):
“The conditions were very bad for most of my run: very slippery, with more and more dry patches emerging. It’s definitely better for slicks now. On intermediates, it was important to be careful with your lines when overtaking slower cars so as not to destroy the tyres.”