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TERTRE ROUGE TIMES : A JOURNAL OF ENDURANCE RACING

I am rooting for the Audi

LEMANS, France -- At six am Saturday morning here in the Seattle area the 82nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans will get underway and since this year for the first time in seven years, I will not be at the track nor in the press room that overlooks the front chute of this very famous track I will be in front of my television watching the action with hundreds of million race fans around the world and celebrating another Le Mans father's day weekend. Of course when you are sitting in the press box, the cardinal rule is "No Rooting" -- but since I won't be there my hopes are for the No. 1 Audi. There are several reasons for my rooting interest. First and foremost, I remember as if it were yesterday getting up at o-dark-thirty and watching the end of the race on Sunday morning with my son. It was his interest in Audi and his penchant for endurance car racing brought us to our first race at Le Mans in 2007, where among other things we produced this. We have shared many moments together watching the 24 Hours of Le Mans and at Circuit de la Sarthe. There is nothing like sharing a common love with your son. But I am also rooting for the No. 1 Audi because I love an under dog and of the seven factory cars in the race at this writing they are perhaps the 100 to one shot of winning. You will recall that on Wednesday Loic Duvall reduced the car so much flotsam and jetsam after a hard crash at speed at the Porsche curves. Thankfully, Duvall was not seriously injured but was not cleared to drive. He was replaced by Marc Gene who will team with Mr. Le Mans -- Tom Kristensen and Lucas di Grassi for the race. While I have the greatest admiration for all who are racing this weekend, I have had the chance to talk with a couple members of the Audi Team. I have further seen this team perform at the highest level when they have been under the gun. Last year when Kristensen, Allan McNish (now retired), and Duvall won, Kristensen wanted to dedicate the win to his father who had recently passed away after a bout with cancer. On the victory podium, speaking to 25,000 fans or so, he spoke from his heart. It had been a hard fought win over the Toyota but the victory was tempered as a result of the death of countryman Allan Simonsen in an accident early in the race. He said from the top of the podium, "This victory is very special to me. I recently lost my father to cancer. Before his death he told me, that I would win Le Mans this year with my teammates. He gave me the strength and passion for motorsport and has been in my thoughts throughout the race - therefore this victory was for him. But my father can wait. This Le Mans success I am dedicating to Allan Simonsen. A friend and a great fellow countryman." This year the Audi team has been uncharacteristically off-song. They crashed out at the first World Endurance Championship (WEC) race at Silverstone where the Toyota finished first and second. At the WEC race at Spa the Toyota was a winner again and the No. 1 Audi was second, a moderate achievement given that the team had to rebuild both cars. So now, they are seventh on the grid and are still looking to dial in the car after it was virtually built from the scratch between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday afternoon. But most of all I would like to see Tom Kristensen be able to dedicate one last victory Le Mans win to his father. On Father's day. How appropriate!

Toyota on the pole, Porsche on second row, Audi on third row

LE MANS, France -- Ok it's not a Prius -- not even close -- but for the 82nd running of the 24 hours of Le Mans Toyota's TS040 HYBRID and the World Endurance Championship series leader found itself on the pole after chasing the Audi e-tron quattro for the last two years. The No. 7 Toyota with Kazuki Nakajima at the wheel posted the top qualifying time 3mins 21.789sec more than half a second faster than last year's time. Second fastest in qualifying was the Porsche 919 hybrid with Romain Dumas at the wheel which came in at 3mins 22.146 seconds. The second Toyota was third followed by the second Porsche in fourth. However, much of the Toyota thunder was stolen by a valiant Audi effort to rebuild its No. 1 car that was totaled in accident during practice on Wednesday when Loic Duvall lost control of the car at the Porsche curves and went off the track at high speed. Before the first qualifying session began on Wednesday the Audi team was busy assembling a new car on the base of a spare monocoque. The three Audis ran slightly off the pace of the four front runners with the fastest time turned in by the No. 3 Audi that was just a bit more than three tenths of a second slower than the fourth place qualifier. According to Audi,  Duval’s name will continue to be present on the #1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro at Le Mans. His place in the cockpit was taken over by the Spaniard Marc Gené. Together with Lucas di Grassi and Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen, Gené will start the race from grid position seven. The fastest time of car #1 was achieved by di Grassi in 3m 25.814s. One must remember that this is not a 250 mile race, or even a 500 mile Indy race -- but a 24 hour long race in which the winning cars will travel nearly 3,000 miles. In this twice around the sun race there is likely to be more plot twists than an hour of "24". Toyota and Porsche seem to hold the high cards at this writing. But this is Le Mans and anything can happen. Qualifying results: 1 Nakajima/Sarrazin/Wurz (Toyota) 3m 21.789s 2 Dumas/Jani/Lieb (Porsche) 3m 22.146s
3 Buemi/Davidson/Lapierre (Toyota) 3m 22.523s 
4 Bernhard/Hartley/Webber (Porsche) 3m 22.908s
5 Albuquerque/Bonanomi/Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 23.271s
6 Fässler/Lotterer/Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 24.276s
7 di Grassi/Gené/Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro) 3m 25.814s
8 Beche/Heidfeld/Prost (Rebellion-Toyota) 3m 29.763s
9 Belicchi/Kraihamer/Leimer (Rebellion-Toyota) 3m 31.608s
10 Thirlet/Badey/Gommendy (Ligier-Nissan) 3m 37.609s

BULLETIN: Loic Duvall crashes during practice run

LEMANS, France -- Loic Duvall, driving the No. 1 Audi e-tron quattro, which is also the defending Le Mans champion and WEC champion, crashed hard today during a test run at the storied track. Duvall was reported to be awake and talking after the incident and was taken to the hospital in Le Mans for further checks. He had just pushed the Audi to the fastest time for the team when the accident occurred in the Porsche curves. For more information see this story from Autoweek. No word from Audi boss Wolfgang Ullrich regarding the state of the car -- though from the picture it looked as if it was pretty well wadded up. More information as it becomes available. ===================================================================================================

Official notice from the ACO

At 17h05, today Wednesday 11 June, the No.1 Audi left the track at very high speed at the Porsche Curves, at Marshals Post No.131. The incident occurred during the free practice session for the 82nd edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Conscious, the driver was taken into the care of the ACO’s Medical Services, extracted from the car to an ambulance and then immediately transported to the Le Mans’s Centre Hospitalier where he will undergo further examination. His condition is encouraging. The tests recommenced at 17h55. ===================================================================================================== Here is additional coverage from Jalopnik which seems to indicate that Audi will be able to bring a new car in without penalty.  At this writing the first night session of qualifying is going on at Le Mans. Check out the tweet at the end of the story in which Audi  basically said "bring on the challenge".
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