Sunday, June 13, 2010

24 Hours of Le Mans 2010 Thoughts

John Marine | 6/13/2010 04:59:00 PM | |
The motorsports holiday known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been over about seven and a half hours ago. Trophies have been handed out, winners have been determined overall and across the four classes, cars survived, cars failed to survive, fans are done celebrating... and now, life is back to normal. This blog entry concerns Le Mans from a number of angles.

--- 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans Thoughts: General ---
Earlier, I've called the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a motorsports holiday. While holidays suggest not having to work, the many cars and stars of sportscar racing definitely had to go to work today. They went to work in their own high-speed offices around the Circuit de la Sarthe. It is the longest day for some of the world's finest race car drivers and teams. Le Mans was SURELY a long day for a number of teams and drivers. Just knowing that you survived the torturous Hell known as Le Mans is an accomplishment in its own right. This year's race brough plenty of drama and surprise that only Le Mans can provide.

--- 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans Thoughts: Specific ---
Time to focus in on individual elements of the race.

Peugeot Struggles and Underachieves.
Peugeot was the defending outright champion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. To prove to be a force, they brought three works Peugeot 908 HDi FAP's along with one for another team. That's four beautiful Peugeots ready to defend their crown from last year. What would happen throughout the course of the race would be agonizing. The #3 Peugeot would fall out of the race, and Sebastien Bourdais (Le Mans native) NEVER got to drive the car for his fellow French fans. Just about all of the Peugeots suffered the same trouble. Perhaps the most questionable deal is with Anthony Davidson's overaggressive tactics. The moment that Peugeot felt like they were running out of chances and hope, the more they started pushing like crazy to make a race out of it. Never happened, especially when the remaining Team Peugeot Total 908 failed. Then with the Oreca model (about seven laps down), they had the same failure as the other Pugs. To say the least, Peugeot clearly lost this year's battle.

Audi's Revenge.
Audi brought a beautiful race car- the Audi R15+. There was also one Audi R10 TDI. All three Audi R15+ models finished, and in 1-2-3 fashion. I'd say this is sweet revenge as Audi was simply on their game as the Peugeot stranglehold was losing torque and grip on Le Mans victory.

A Sad Debut.
Nigel Mansell made his very first Le Mans start after many years racing in Formula One and in (then) CART. It was him and his two sons racing with one car. My heart went out to Nigel as his prototype crashed very early in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Nigel was alright, but the car was anything but.

The End of LMGT1.
LMGT1 ended with a Saleen S7 winning in GT1. The podium in GT1 was rounded out by two other finishers. Everybody else had their struggles.

Girl Power!
The #61 Matech Ford GT featured three Swiss ladies all racing in one sexy Ford GT race car. This Ford GT may be a far cry from the Ferrari-slaying Ford GT40s of the 1960s, but it was a very solid competitor. The dream ended as this car would suffer some serious damage or fire heading into the first chicane down the Hunaudieres.

Risi Competizione.
Houston-based Risi Competizione would love to do this weekend over again. They had to go to the back of the grid after failing tech inspection before Le Mans. Didn't mean anything to the Risi boys because they'd climb back hard to lead GT2. Their problem, however, was gearbox trouble. The Krohn-Risi Ferrari was no worse for wear either. The two-time defending GT2 champions were out of contention and won't get the hat trick.

Corvette's GT2 Debut at Le Mans.
While Risi was having their troubles, Corvette Racing were getting adjusted for LMGT2. The Corvettes were running strong as the Corvettes made their V8 roar around Circuit de la Sarthe. Sadly, the #63 Corvette would suffer terminal engine trouble. The #64 Corvette would be the innocent victim as the Anthony Davidson-driven Peugeot 908 would basically force it off-road out of the Porsche Curves. The #64 Corvette would retire, but not without a valiant effort to get the 'Vette back out on the track after lots of repairs to the rear of the car. I commented that the Corvettes may be yellow, but the team is anything but yellow. It's this Never Back Down attitude that has earned my respect.

Indianapolis and D'Arnage.
People have their favorite hang out spots. For most unfortunate cars, it was either Indianapolis or D'Arnage.

The Corner Workers.
Did these corner workers have courage or what? They often times risked their own lives to get debris off the track or to get cars back out on the track.

The Three Safety Car System.
I was pretty uncertain as to how the three safety car system would work out. It was confusing how the entire grid would file in behind the three pace cars.

--- 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans Thoughts: Final Thoughts ---
This is where I offer my own thoughts in my own way.

I'm very proud to see this race. I love sportscar racing more than almost any other kind of racing. I love Le Mans more than almost any other race. When it comes to Le Mans, it is that one weekend that defines why you are such a racing fan. I couldn't be any happier personally to see this race unfold and be completed.

I deeply spare thoughts for the likes of Nigel Mansell, Risi Competizione (and the Risi-Krohn entry), Corvette Racing, and most importantly- Peugeot. Some people on's forums thought that there was this Gran Turismo curse that impacted the Peugeots. The 908 HDi FAP's of Team Peugeot Total had Gran Turismo 5 sponsorship on the rear wings. The Peugeots harmoniously failed. I already knew that Peugeot were starting to feel desperate as they just couldn't make a last-ditch effort to make a race out of this. I'm almost reminded of Le Mans 2005 when the Pescarolos tried to force the issue late against the Audi R8s, but Pescarolo didn't try to push extremely hard. The way the Peugeots harmoniously failed just brings me to shame. My main storyline on this race would be if Peugeot could win Le Mans again. Yeah... until the Peugeots started failing.

Now before anyone starts saying that Peugeot had this coming or that Peugeot failed miserably, let me tell you from a different perspective. Le Mans is a sporting event. The drivers are athletes. Teams and athletes struggle. The unpredictable ALWAYS happens at Le Mans. This year's Le Mans just wasn't a great year for Peugeot racing on this major scale. But you know what? This could have been Audi. All of the Audis could have dropped like flies around a blacklight. Let's not make it sound like Peugeot got what they deserved. Simply put- Audi won and Peugeot failed. Speed Channel interviewed Tom Kristensen (my latest personal favorite race car driver), and even the 8-time Le Mans winner talked about how heartbreaking it is for the Peugeots to all be out of the race. He noted that you work all year to get ready for a race the magnitude of Le Mans, and that you have to wait until next year to do it again if you fail to finish or win. Peugeot was the first team to beat Audi at Le Mans since Audi's domination of this decade (2001-2010, Bentley's 2003 win doesn't count) in sportscar racing. They were Audi's best competition. Yet, even with an unproven car (at least at Le Mans), they won on debut with the R15 Plus after the woes of last year's Audi R15. Peugeot didn't have it coming. Gran Turismo sponsorship on the car didn't hurt Peugeot. Simply put- Peugeot failed to take down Audi a year after last year's triumph. No sponsorship curse, no incredulous odds, simply put- Peugeot didn't win. It was just heartbreak for the blue lions. This race wasn't even a missed opportunity. Le Mans 2010 was simply misfortune that stung hard like a bee into Peugeot.

The attrition and drama are all what makes Le Mans one of the greatest races in the world. It goes without saying that anyone who considers himself/herself a TRUE racing fan should enjoy this race. Le Mans is like a movie that has the script written in real time. While I'd love to watch the 1970 movie "Le Mans," every Le Mans is its own movie. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is like an action movie with the intense action, a dramatic movie with the unknown happening, a romantic movie where drivers have love and determination to win Le Mans outright, and sometimes- a comedy for a lot of the lighthearted moments. Le Mans 2010 did not fail to deliver.

Congratulations to the winners and the survivors (the ones who finished). Spare thoughts for all the cars that were taken out of the race for whatever reasons. I already can say that I can not wait for Le Mans 2011. So while Speed Channel hypes up things like the NASCAR All-Star Race, I'll be looking forward to enjoying more sportscar racing. Next year's Le Mans will be even more important to perform well in especially with the notion of the Le Mans International Cup, where double points are offered for all teams competing for the Le Mans Intercontinental Cup.

All the drama that makes up Le Mans is what makes Le Mans great. It's the time of year where I am proud to be a racing fan. It's great to know that there's still a race going on even as I'm going about my own life. Thanks to all the racers and race teams who put on such a great show at Le Mans this year. Can't wait for Le Mans 2011! How about you?
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