Saturday, June 18, 2016

24 HEURES DU MANS | 13:03:00

Despite all the problems & disappointments, despite the deceptions by Fox Sports, the grandeur of Le Mans remains. All the time that has past, all that has occurred, & this eighty-fourth running of the "Grand Prix of Endurance*" isn't even halfway over. Bwa ha ha ha ha! Le Mans!

In L.M.P.1, in the race for the overall win among the high-tech factory hybrids boasting over a thousand combined horsepower—ground-hugging starships, really—Toyota are giving reigning champions Porsche a real run for their money. The № 6 Toyota TS050 Hybrid is leading, with the № 5 (the 2014 World Endurance Champions) running third, also on the lead lap. The № 2 Porsche 919 Hybrid is running second, splitting the Toyotas; the № 1, the reigning (2015) World Endurance Champions, has faced rough sledding, spending over two hours in the pits; now back on track, it is twenty-plus laps down, running forty-eighth overall. The № 8 Audi R18 runs in fourth, one lap down, while the № 7 has lost time in the pits, now running eight laps down in sixth place.

The huge swarm of L.M.P.2 cars appear to be having a spirited battle, with the Nissan-powered № 36 Alpine A460 (really, a modified Oreca 05) leading at this hour. As anyone who has visited my FaceSpace page in the last month knows, I have a soft spot for the Alpine, a Bleu de France car from the Dieppe-based outfit (once again a subsidiary of Renault). "Meanwhile, in France…"

In G.T.E. Pro., the four turbocharged Ford GTs & the three turbocharged Ferrari 488s qualified in the top seven spots, ahead of the three naturally-aspirated Porsche 911s, the two naturally-aspirated Aston Martin Vantages, & the two naturally-aspirated Chevrolet Corvettes in the bottom seven spots. The lead has been diced back & forth 'twixt the № 68 Ford, the № 82 Ferrari, & the № 69 Ford. My beloved Corvettes will not be able to win on pace this year—the pace of the Fords & the Ferraris is daunting— but might yet triumph through bullet-proof reliability & perfect execution. Never give up!

In G.T.E. Am., former Corvette Racing driver (& current Cadillac Racing driver) Johnny O'Connell, a quadruple class winner with Corvette at Le Mans, is campaigning a Corvette, meaning there are four C7.Rs in the field, as opposed to last year's three. Glad to have you back, "Johnny Red"!

*Of late, the great race has been styled the "Grand Prix of Endurance & Efficiency." I do not dispute that efficiency plays—& has long played—a crucial role in motor racing. Notice Alexander Rossi's improbable & absolutely delightful victory in last month's one hundredth running of the Indianapolis 500. (I still owe you that edition of "This Week in Motorsport.") It's just that "of Endurance & Efficiency" doesn't have the same romance about it as the "Grand Prix of Endurance."

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