JUNE 14, 2015
The 83rd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has proved a real tussle from the word go. On the first lap alone the front five or so cars were at each other’s throats. For a moment it felt as though the teams had forgotten just how long this race is.
After six hours of racing it was clear that in LM P1 Porsche and Audi were in a real dogfight to assert some superiority. The lead changed more than once, with pit stop timing and on track issues involving other traffic leading to safety car periods. The only pattern to the race out front was that the ascendancy would swing one way then the other.
Six hours further on and the lead had changed 21 times with the Porsche#19 trading blows with Audi #7, neither appearing able to build a sufficient lead to pit and pull out in the lead.
Dawn broke just after 5 AM ending the darkness that engulfs much of the 13.629 km Circuit de la Sarthe during the night hours. The contest for the lead was still ongoing (up to 26 changes) but at 07.00 CEST with one third of the race left the tide seemed to swing in Porsche’s favour as the Audi lost bits of its engine cover, and then time as it pitted and entered the garage for repair. The Audi #9 running in third was promoted to second, but a lap behind the leader. Could this be the decisive moment?
Elsewhere in the race an early close battle in LM P2 faded away as the #47 Oreca 05 built a dominant clear lap lead over its nearest rival enabling it to pit at will for fuel, tyres and driver changes without any threat to its class leadership.
LM GTE PRO was witnessing an intriguing contest between Ferrari #51, Aston Martin #99 and the lone works Corvette, #64. Again establishing sufficient separation was proving elusive. The 19 lead changes by daybreak were adequate evidence that this class may be another to go to the wire.
Then, proving the split second it takes to go from hero to zero at the 24 Hours of Le Mans the #99 dropped out of the immediate running colliding with an LM P2 car as the sun began to rise. After struggling back to the pits and a lengthy delay in the garage it returned to the racecourse with an eleven-lap deficit on the leaders. With eight hours remaining the Ferrari holds a slender advantage over the Corvette.
In the class reserved for gentleman racers, LM GTE AM the competition has been anything but gentle with the #72 Ferrari and the #98 Aston Martin conducting a private duel for much of the night. Heading into the final third #98 had eked out a one-lap advantage.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans, founded in 1923, is organized by the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO), and Rolex has been Official Timepiece since 2001 - a partnership that is driven by a shared passion for excellence and the pursuit of perfection. The overall winners of the 2015 race will secure a place in sporting history and receive a Rolex Oyster Cosmograph Daytona, the iconic chronograph created for racing drivers in 1963.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans 2015 finishes at 15.00 CEST on Sunday, 14 June.