H1: Peugeot establish a healthy lead
|By Simon Strang||Saturday, June 14th 2008, 14:05 GMT|
Peugeot have already established a commanding lead after the first hour of the 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours.
Pedro Lamy and Franck Montagny, running in tandem at the front, are more than 45 seconds ahead of Allan McNish's fourth-placed Audi after the first round of pitstops.
Peugeot No. 7, driven by Nicolas Minassian, is third - 17 seconds behind the leaders.
McNish, in the fastest of the Audis, stopped a lap later than all the other front-runners, suggesting they are playing a key strategic card in an attempt to take the fight to the French cars.
Indeed, the Scot did interrupt the Peugeot 1-2-3 formation briefly, passing Minassian at the Dunlop curves on the first lap. But he only managed to get to Mulsanne before the 908 HDi zapped back by.
After that the three black and white cars began to pull away from the German machine, Lamy and Montagny at some 3s per lap.
Lucas Luhr and Frank Biela are a distant fifth and sixth in the other Audis.
Jean-Christophe Boullion leads the unofficial petrol division for Pescarolo, in seventh overall having jumped the impressive Dome car in the pitstops. Stefen Mucke's Lola Aston Martin and Solheil Ayari, in the Oreca, complete the top ten.
Jeroen Bleekemolen leads LMP2 for the Van Merksteijn Racing team after a stirring battle with rival Porsche Spyder squad Team Essex, which has Casper Elgaard at the wheel.
Both cars pitted together on lap 12, but tellingly the Dutch car didn't need to change tyres, which may prove crucial later in the race.
Warren Hughes is running an impressive third in the Embassy car. The Englishman benefited from the biggest incident of the hour.
Tommy Erdos's RML Lola was running in the position until he was from hit from behind by the Charouz Racing System Lola being driven by Greg Pickett at the first chicane.
The car slammed heavily into right side barrier and damaged both front and rear ends of the car.
Jan Magnussen is proving dominant in the first of the Corvettes in GT1, running more than 10s ahead of team-mate Oliver Gavin.
Third and fourth in class are the factory Astons of David Brabham and Karl Wendlinger, 10s back from the GM cars.
Jan van Overbeek leads the GT2 class for Flying Lizard Porsche ahead of the Risi Ferrari of Jaime Melo.
The IMSA Porsche, having started at the back of the grid, has climbed to third with Richard Lietz at the wheel.
Virgo Motorsport's Rob Bell was running fourth when he was hit by the Modena Aston Martin in the pitlane and is now ninth.