TopGear.com live from the Le Mans 24hrs

Vijay Pattni: Welcome everyone, to the 79th running of the 24 hours of Le Mans. It is, quite simply, the greatest race in the world. Fifty-six cars will compete on an eight-and-a-half mile circuit from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon in the hope of a) not crashing, and b) taking top honours.

We’ll have full access to the famous Circuit de la Sarthe to try to bring you, loyal TopGear.commer, some sideways pictures, videos and thoughts from the oldest endurance motor race on Earth. I’ll be reporting live from the Signateceh-Nissan team where GT Academy winner Lucas Ordonez will see if his twiddly PlayStation skills can transfer into a real, V8-powered weapon of oversteer as he makes his LMP2 debut.

And Matthew Jones will be trying not to get in the way of a vital pit-stop as our ‘writer-at-large’…

Matthew Jones: those with an impeccable memory may recall the live coverage I brought you from the last round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Spa in Belgium.

This time round I’ll be doing the same on a larger stage and with even less sleep – some behind-the-scenes access to the teams, race reports as they happen and all the best car culture goings on from the hordes of infamously ‘refreshed’ spectators.

If you want to see anything, get us to speak to anyone or get up close with any of the cars, let me know and I’ll do my best to get you the info you want. Fire your questions/requests/abuse into the handy space below.

And we’re off…

UPDATE: 11am on Friday June 10, 2011

VP: Good morning, Le Mans fans. It’s gloomy, it’s grey, it’s cold and the heavens are threatening to make the weekend very interesting indeed. But none of that can dampen the spirits of the many thousands of spectators who have donned ill-fitting shorts and T-shirts from, arguably, the greatest race on Earth.

Well, that’s qualifying done and it’s great news from the Signatech-Nissan team – a team containing the PlayStationey palms of one Mr Lucas Ordonez. The Nissan V8-powered LMP2 beast scored a best-in-class qualifying position, putting Mssrs Ordonez, Mailleux and Ayari on a promising start after smashing a time of 3m 41.458 secs at 138mph. That’s more than a second quicker than the other two Nissan-powered LMP2 cars, if you’re interested. Proof that hours spent in a darkened room poring over a TV screen can make you Awesome.

Elsewhere on the grid, Audi scored a 1-2 qualifying finish, with Peugeot taking spots 3 and 4.

We’ll be speaking to Mr Ordonez shortly, so fire over any questions you might have. Hint: don’t ask him for any cheats on Gran Turismo 5…

Editor’s note: here’s a quick spotter’s guide to the cars in this weekend’s 24 hour epic

UPDATE: 2.50pm on Friday June 10, 2011
VP: Just had a chat with Signatech-Nissan driver Lucas Ordonez. “Three years ago, my story was all about playing games and doing my masters course. Now I’ve qualified at the top of my class, at the most prestigious race in the world. It’s a long race, though, and anything can happen.”

I asked him how he’d handle it if it rains tomorrow. He shrugged his shoulders with a smile and said: “Oh well.” And he reckons he can take the Stig ‘after a few more years practice’. Them’s be fighting words…

UPDATE: 4.50pm on Friday June 10, 2011

VP: Ability to post is being temporarily hindered by the hammering the wireless networks are taking from the assembled hordes… Matt’s been at the Saint Saturnin Classic British Welcome ogling old metal (more of that later), and I’ve just had a chat with Allan McNish. Feeling confident ahead of tomorrow’s race. Says last night’s shunt put them back a bit but otherwise carrying good pace. Also had a handshake that could crush unobtanium.

UPDATE: 5.50pm on Friday June 10, 2011

MJ: TopGear.com’s second team of correspondents has officially arrived! After an interesting journey for myself and snapper Katie, which involved familiarising ourselves with the surprisingly wonderful Porsche Panamera we’ve used to get here – then familiarising ourselves with the local Gendarmes – we’ve finally assembled the Official TopGear.com Nerve Centre.

Seeing as we missed qualifying we’ve dedicated the day to soaking up as much car culture as possible. And at Le Mans, there’s a lot to absorb – the 24 Hour is as much about what goes on in the campsites, spectator areas and local towns as it is the racing itself.

To kick things off, we visited the Saint Saturnin Classic British Welcome – a genteel car show stuffed with everything from supercharged Bentleys and Jaguar D-Types to lightly antiqued Renaults and our Panamera. You can see the pics below.

Hoonage gets progressively lairier as night approaches, so you’ll have to wait till later before I get you pics of ‘Mad Friday.’ Set in Arnage – a local town where petrolheads congregate, imbibe and eat grilled goods – you’re guaranteed to see the hottest metal people have brought over being used in wholly irresponsible ways.

In other news, you MUST check this out – it’s Deltawing’s arrow-point racer concept, which has just been approved for racing at next year’s event. And I’m off to meet its designer in a few minutes. More soon…

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(Editor’s note: if you have an iPhone, we’ve just been send a link to this app which means you can watch the entire race. Handy. It’s built by race organisers APO and is free)

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UPDATE: 11.10pm on Friday June 10, 2011

MJ: Here are those pics from the Saint Saturnin Classic British Welcome I promised, and I’ve chucked in a few from the journey down. It didn’t go entirely well…

Our wondrous steed.

Other wondrous steeds.

I’m the bloke not dressed like a policeman.

A rare moment in which we went the right way.

The TopGear.com Panamera rubs shoulders with a Renault 12 Gordini.

This year’s Saint Saturnin theme was 50 Years of the Jaguar E-Type.

Tasty Porsche 356.

Lotus Elan looked excellent in yellow.

Blower Bentley made us pleased.

More soon…

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UPDATE: 1:10am on Saturday June 11, 2011

MJ: It’s officially race day! To celebrate, here’s a video I took yesterday  – that’s a painfully rare 612bhp Aston V8 Vantage Le Mans edition revving its cams off at Arnage during ‘Mad Friday’:

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UPDATE: 12:09pm on Saturday June 11, 2011

MJ: Yesterday, I caught up with Ben Bowlby, designer of the DeltaWing, which is a crazy-looking pointy lunatic of a car that’s going to be racing the 24 Hour next year.

The DeltaWing’s competing in the L’Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s 56th entry category, which is reserved for a car that falls outside normal racing regulations but gets invited to participate to showcase engineering concepts and innovation.

Yesterday, the ACO announced that the DeltaWing’s its choice for 2011 thanks to its projected stride forward in efficiency – it produces just 300bhpp, which is half the power of a garden variety LMP1 car, and in doing so uses half the fuel. But it also promises to be just as fast. Ben says: “If you halve the power output you can still match the performance, but it means you’ve got to halve the weight and halve the drag, hence the shape.

“The narrow front track minimises the power needed to push the car to 200mph. And because of the design we save masses of weight – the DeltaWing’s down to 475kg. It’s partly thanks to a lack of components and partly because of the structure design’s inherent durability. It doesn’t need to as much torsional strength for handling performance so we don’t need to make it out of traditional stiff and brittle materials – they can be lightweight and recyclable.

“We need to demonstrate green credentials in racing and we hope this car creates a tangible link between the excitement of racing, economic viability and carbon friendliness. A 475kg vehicle doesn’t just mean good fuel consumption on race day – the transportation of a lighter vehicle and fewer tyres dramatically reduces the environmental impact.”

It’s certainly exciting, but it begs the question – if the arrow-point design makes so much sense, why haven’t been racing pointy cars for years? Ben says, “Conventional wisdom says we should have a wheel on every corner, and regulations were put in place around that design of vehicle. Rear-engined cars didn’t happen till the sixties, and we’ve been racing for a lot longer than that.”

OK, so it’s lightweight and super-slippery, but won’t it understeer horribly? “The way we’ve configured the car means weight distribution’s biased towards the rear – 72.5% of the mass is between the wide track and larger rear tyres and 76% of the downforce acts on the rear. Also, more than 50% of the vehicle’s braking force is generated behind the center of gravity, so dynamically it’s very stable.

“Because there’s very little weight over the front wheel, it won’t lock up because there’s virtually no lateral load transfer with the narrow front track [0.6m] and wider rear, which is a similar width to a normal LMP1 car [1.7m].”

So far, so convincing. But there’s not even a concept car built yet – will it be ready? ‘We could have made a proof of concept vehicle, but we’re concentrating on getting the car built in its racing form instead, and work’s currently underway. We should have a test vehicle ready by the end of the year, and we’re hoping to take it to Sebring. After that, what we want to achieve first and foremost is actually getting it to Le Mans. Secondly, we’d like to finish and thirdly we’d like to be able to stand there and say this is however many gallons of fuel we used, then ask our neighbours how much they got through.”

Best of luck, DeltaWing. We’d dearly love to see this powering through the Porsche curves at 3am.

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UPDATE: 12:10am on Saturday June 11, 2011

MJ: Yesterday, we popped along to the drivers’ parade that runs through Le Mans. We took our camera:

Locals bag the best seat in the house.

Classic competitors rumble through.

This is fairly ordinary attire for Le Mans…

The hands that won last year’s race.

Team Peugeot.

More Team Peugeot.

Yet more Team Peugeot.

The parade draws humungous crowds.

And humungous contraptions. With bands on top.

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UPDATE: 12.30pm on Saturday June 11, 2011

MJ: After this morning’s LMP1 alarm clock, I heaved myself up to the Porsche curves to watch final practice before the big race. And there were a few surprises.

Despite setting the pace for most of the session, Audi didn’t lead the pack – Sebastien Bourdais put Peugeot out front with a 3m27.228s lap. A statement of intent? Possibly, but as Pug driver, Anthony Davidson, told TopGear.com at Spa, ‘The car that doesn’t brake down, wins…lap times are only a small part of a Le Mans victory.’

Nevertheless, of the three R18s, Polesitter Benoit Treluyer was the quickest, with a time of 3m28.626s. Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello posted similar laps, but pitted.

The quickest petrol-powered lap came from Quifel-ASM Zytek’s No. 20 car, which put in a 3m37.675s. In LMP2, Signatech Nissan’s No. 26 continued its lead – scroll up for TopGear.com’s exclusive interview with the team’s extraordinary driver.

BMW and AF Corse continued their dogfight for a GTE-Pro class victory, and today car No. 51, the AF Ferrari 458 squeezed a lead in front of the BMW M3s.

In the GTE-Am class there wasn’t a great deal of movement – Krohn Racing’s Ferrari 430 was matched by car No. 60 Aston Martin, both posting a 4m05.036s lap.

Right, I’m off to the start line. Only a few hours to go…

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UPDATE: 2:00pm Saturday June 11

VP: Lucas is quite the superstar. That’s him, in the racing overalls on the left (above), being interviewed alongside his teammates ahead of his big debut at Le Mans. In fact, the young chap’s extraordinary success has prompted Nissan and Sony to continue the GT Academy, unearthing bedroom racers and polishing them up into bona fide racers.

This is the third year of GT Academy, and the 12 finalists have decamped to Le Mans to start their week-long intensive race camp. It’s being held here in honour of Mr Ordonez making his debut, and the chaps will begin training this evening. Just to keep them on their toes, they don’t know what form of ‘training’ they’ll have to perform. We’re guessing it’s cheese-making. Or a knitting face-off. Or maybe a spot of jousting.

Anyway, in just one week one of them will be crowned the 2011 GT Academy winner, and will immediately being his Jedi race training in preparation for the Dubai 24hr race in January 2012.

One of them, a Nissan spokesman tells me, is the Welsh ‘Lewis Hamilton’…

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UPDATE: 3.24pm on Saturday June 11, 2011

MJ: And they’re off! This was taken a stone’s throw from the Dunlop bridge, where I’ll be for a few hours.

It’s already been an eventful couple of minutes – Aston Martin’s 007 car’s spun and Audi’s established an early lead. More soon.

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UPDATE: 3.55pm June 11, 2011

VP: SMASH! Le Mans veteran and Audi driver Allan McNish clips Anthony Beltoise’s Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia just after the Dunlop bridge. Slides straight off the track and catapults horrifically into the barrier. McNish’s Audi has to be rolled back onto its wheels. Tense moments before he walks free from the wreckage. Car totalled.

Signatech-Nissan also picked up a puncture two laps before a scheduled fuel stop, but safety car after McNish crash helped claw back some time.

Here’s a video of the accident. Nasty business.

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UPDATE: 5.05pm June 11, 2011

MJ: We’re back in business – the safety car’s finally pulled in after McNish’s crash and the racing’s back on. After two hours, the standing’s : 1- Audi 1, 2- Audi 2, 3- Peugeot 7, 4- Peugeot 9, 5- Peugeot 10.

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UPDATE: 6.11pm June 11, 2011

MJ: It’s been a tense three hours since the race started – McNish’s crash (scroll up for video) certainly added a frisson to proceedings. Luckily, an Audi spokesman told me that he’s just got back from a check-up with the Audi doctors, circuit medical centre and Le Mans hospital and all’s well. This is how things look on the leader board thus far: 1- Audi N2 (42 laps), 2- Peugeot #7 (+43’739), 3- Peugeot #9 (+50’159). Peugeot #8 is 8th (+1’34″964).

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UPDATE: 7.30pm June 11, 2011

VP: Just had a chat with the UK finalists for this year’s GT Academy – Jann Mardenborough and James Hudson (below, left and right). Jann was part of the driver’s parade yesterday evening in the town. Amazing to think just last year he was bashing out lap times on Gran Turismo and just last night was rolling in a 370Z among the world’s top wheelsmen. “I’m buzzing,”, exclaims the Welshman.

Elsewhere on the grid Signatech Nissan is struggling. Lucas Ordonez previously reported a problem shifting through his gearbox so that’s costing the team. Nissan assures me it’s been resolved so third driver Ayari has his work cut out. The other two Nissan-powered cars (Greaves Motorsport and Team Oreca Matmut) are fighting at the top of the LMP2 class.

Aston Martin though, is having a torrid, torrid day. First both LMP1 cars 007 (surely the coolest motorsport name?) and 009 spun off into the chicane, after which 007 was officially retired because of problems. 009 is still struggling, and the Gulf AMR Vantage racing in the GTE Am class did an unintentional donut at the Dunlop bridge. All AMR technicians and engineers have pitched in to help the customer teams in the hope of salvaging something. Phew.

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UPDATE: 10.20pm June 11, 2011

VP: Aston boss Dave Richards has apologised to all Aston fans and asks them to keep the faith for the future. Sad end to Aston’s 2011 Le Mans attack. Elsewhere Signatech-Nissan driver Ayari has been posting some stonking lap times to recover earlier slow pace because of gearbox difficulties – predictions are for a podium position in class if current pace maintained. Other two Nissan-powered cars are currently sitting at the top of LMP2. At the front of the pack, Audi leads Peugeot, while lower down the field, Corvette Racing leads the GTE Pro class while Singerland’s Lotus Jet Alliance Evora was billowing smoke before spinning off the track. Limps into the pits. It’s getting dark now people. And cold. Roll on the magic night-racing of Le Mans. For me, the Corvette ZR1s have been pumping out a most delectable V8 roar throughout the day – the dark sky only makes it better…

In the meantime, why not peruse our gallery of the 79th Le Mans 24hr grid start? Jackie Stewart is in it. So is Johnny Herbert.

Gallery: the 2011 Le Mans 24hr grid start

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UPDATE: 10.45pm June 11, 2011

MJ: More bad news for Audi. It’s No. 1 car’s just clipped a Ferrari 458 on the Mulsanne straight, sending it straight into the Armco. Between 15 and 20 feet of the barrier’s been destroyed and there’s no news on whether its driver, Mike Rockenfeller, is OK.

We’ve just heard from Audi team boss, Dr Ulrich, that he was able to drag himself from the wreckage, but whether or not he’s sustained any injuries remains unknown. The crowd, which was cheering just moments ago, is now completely silent at the Dunlop bridge. More news when I get it.

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UPDATE: 11.28pm June 11, 2011

MJ: We’ve finally found a video of the crash, which you can see below. We’ve just heard from the ACO that the safety car’s expected to be out for at least another 30 minutes. And if you watch the video you’ll see why.

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UPDATE: 12.31am June 12, 2011

Just before the second enormous Audi crash I went for a quick wander around the Blue Nord camping area – I’d heard that the Aston Martin Club had set up its digs there and thought it might be worth a look.

It was. Click here to see the pics.

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UPDATE: 12.40am June 12, 2011

VP: We’ve just found pics of Allan McNish’s horrific smash from earlier on this afternoon. You have to feel for the former Le Mans winner – when I spoke to him yesterday he was, naturally, full of enthusiasm about today’s race. Shame it was cut so short, but thankfully he was unscathed and walked free. Gold star to Audi’s safety engineers. Don’t forget, he WALKED from this.

Despite this, AND Rockenfeller’s bloodcurdling smash along the exit of the Mulsanne straight (the safety car is still out), Audi remain top of the board followed by the three Peugeot racers. Safety car is now scheduled to disappear at around 1am. Just found out it had to be refuelled and a spare safety car deployed due to the length of its stint. More details as we get them…

UPDATE: 01.05am June 12, 2011

MJ: The green flag’s dropped – racing resumes at Le Mans.

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UPDATE: 1.50am June 12, 2001

VP: It’s cold. Very, very cold. But sheer horsepower is filling the night sky, like burbling, exhaust-popping manna from the petrolhead gods. THIS is what Le Mans is all about. Quick grid recap lower down the field: the Corvette has nearly a lap lead in the GTE Pro class, Oak Racing’s LMP2 racer has officially retired, Strakka Racing move up to third in LMP2 and…

NEWS FLASH: Mattias Russo’s Pecom Racing LMP2 Lola/Judd BMW has just crashed out. No more details but this pushes the rest of the LMP2 pack up one position…

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UPDATE: 2.45am June 12, 2011

VP: Signatech-Nissan moves up to 4th in class after another LMP2 retirement – Pecom Racing bows out. We’ve just heard that Audi driver Mike Rockenfeller is to stay in hospital overnight for ‘observation’ after his obscene crash earlier tonight. Porsche leads the GTE Am class, the Krohn Racing Ferrari F430 has retired in the Am class too, and the Corvette ZR1s are still providing heavy bass for this night-racing rave. And we want you, loyal TopGear.commer, to experience what Le Mans is all about – this video is a little taste of how it goes down in France, 24hr style. Enjoy.

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UPDATE: 3.15am June 12, 2001

MJ: It’s easy to forget the other classes when the Audi/Peugeot dogfight’s so compelling, but if you look further down the leader board you’ll find some epic tales of heroism. Our favourite is the Ford GT – yep, the same(ish) car Henry Ford II debuted 30 years ago – run by husband-and-wife team, Robertson Racing.

Designed by endurance car builder, Kevin Doran, the No. 62 GT2-spec Ford GT, which is running in the GTE Am class, is loosely based on the GT40 that won four times in a row at Le Mans between 1966 and 1969.

In 2011, it won’t quite be leading the field, but the fact it’s even here is an achievement in itself – the car’s been entirely self-built and funded by the Atlanta, USA-based team. As well as Le Mans veteran, David Murry, husband and wife drivers, Andrea and David Robertson will be helming the GT throughout the night.

And, as of 3:20am, they’re still in the running. 7th in class to be precise. We salute, brave knights of mentalism. Keep up the good work.

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UPDATE: 4.30am June 12, 2011

VP: One of the BMW M3 GTs spun off just before the Dunlop bridge leaving a pile of gravel on the track. The night is wearing on people – it’s cold, dark and LOUD. Pagenaud’s Peugeot leads the pack, ahead of Audi’s sole car driven by Marcel Fassler, who’s just banged in a last lap two seconds faster than the Pug. Ayari has apparently been eating Monster Munch because his Signatech-Nissan is now third in class (LMP2) and his last lap was a clean six seconds faster than the class-leading Team Oreca Matmut driven by Dominik Kraihamer. Richard Westbrook in the Corvette Racing ZR1 leads the GTE Pro pack. And still, the ZR1s top my bill for Most Righteous Engine Note of Le Mans 2011. Shout out to Robertson Racing who are still out there in their Ford GT, hammer down, through the Porsche curves. A Ford GT that sounds like preposterous, amplified thunder.

By the way, did I mention it’s quite cold?

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UPDATE: 5.20am June 12, 2011

VP: The Lola B10/65 Coupe has just spun off at the Porsche curves, and the safety car is out for the third time in the race. Jean-Christophe Boullion was at the wheel as the LMP1 racer made its acquaintance with some barriers. Here’s the vid straight after when the safety car (fully fuelled) re-entered the fray…

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UPDATE: 5.36am June 12, 2011

MJ: Aston Martin’s dropped out, two of the three Audis have crashed, Oak Racing’s No. 2 LMP1 car’s bitten the dust and, amongst others, the Hope Racing Hybrid car’s just thrown in the towel.

But Robertson Racing, the independent American team driving a brilliantly ridiculous Ford GT is still in the running. And purely because its massive bassline’s quite literally propping us up through the early hours, we’d like to congratulate them on a sterling performance thus far.

As the sun rises over a slightly hung-over Le Mans, RR’s No. 68 car’s still out there and it’s managed to get up to 35th position overall. Well played, RR.

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UPDATE: 6.15am June 12, 2011

MJ: After 15 hours, the big boys in LMP1 have shaken it up a bit.  Audi’s No.2 car’s out in front followed by Peugeot No. 7, No. 9 and No. 8 car. The safety car’s just launched – more news as we get it.

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UPDATE: 6.20am June 12, 2011

VP: OK, safety car deployed because car number 59 – the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia driven by Stephane Ortelli – has spun out at the Porsche curves BACKWARDS. Huge plumes of smoke and dust billowing from the 458′s rear. Safety car stint shouldn’t be too long, we’re told.

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UPDATE: 7.00am June 12, 2011

MJ: Quick update – Audi’s posted its best time so far courtesy of Lotterer driving its No. 2 car, who made it round in 3 mins 27.710 secs. Peugeot’s No. 9 car’s leading by less than a second at the hands of Bourdais, followed by Peugeot’s No.7 car driven by Gené. The Audi’s in third place. More soon.

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UPDATE: 7.10am June 12, 2011

MJ: Standings after the 16th hour are thus – Peugeot’s No. 9 car’s leading followed by Pug No. 7. Audi’s No. 2 car follows in front of Peugeot’s No. 8.

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UPDATE: 12.50pm June 12, 2011

VP: Apologies for the delay TopGear.commers, our Internet had gone to sleep and was in no shape to be roused from its digital slumber. Enjoying the race? Just over an hour left and the skys are darkening over Le Mans, leaving the pitter patter of very gentle rain and the possibility of an exciting grandstand finale.

As it stands, Lotterer’s Audi leads the three Peugeots – a herculean effort from the sole remaining Ingolstadt warrior – while the number 16 Pescarolo Racing Judd has officially retired (we drove past it in the garage and it looked messy…). Olivier Lombard in the Greaves Motorsport Nissan-powered LMP2 car leads Ayari in his Signatech, and Oak Racing’s Pescarolo Judd BMW is in the pits with damage. Antonio Garcia’s Corvette ZR1 (still loud, still awesome) leads the GTE Pro class followed by former F1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella’s AF Corse 458 Italia.

Good news! Robertson Racing is still pumping its Ford GT around Le Mans and is currently THIRD in the GTE Am class. Happy anniversary Mr and Mrs Robertson!

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UPDATE: 2.15pm June 12, 2011

VP: A quick pic to show you how ominous the weather looks. Tread carefully people, only 45mins remaining…

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UPDATE: 1.25pm June 12, 2011

MJ: During the very early hours of racing this morning there was an ominous red sky hanging over Le Mans – about an hour ago it turned into rain, which guarantees to add a frisson to the final few hours of racing.

Out in front, the last remaining Audi R18, which is driven by Andre Lotterer, is cautiously making its way round the circuit after the rain fell, doing its best to stave off the fighting-fit Peugeot team.

Tyre choice has been a tricky call for all teams thus far due to the rain, which has been sporadic and heavy. It’s not quite Intermediate weather yet, though, and those using the slightly heavier-cut rubber haven’t seen benefits – Peugeot’s No. 8 car, which took them on earlier on the day, was outpaced by the rest of Team Pug running slicks.

Further down the field, there have been a few accidents overnight. No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette, which was driven by Jan Magnussen in the GTE-Pro class, crashed into the No. 63 Proton Porsche during the 17th hour, ending both cars’ race. Magnussen’s team-mate, Antonio Garcia, still leads the class

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UPDATE: 2.38pm June 12, 2011

MJ: It’s going to be a special finish – Audi’s only leading the Peugeot No. 9 car, driven by Pagenaud, by 7.85 seconds…

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UPDATE: 2.42pm June 12, 2011

MJ: Andrea Roberston, driving the bonkers Ford GT in the GTE Ams, looks set to take it over of the finish line having crawled up to third in class.

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UPDATE: 2.45pm June 12, 2011

MJ: Peugeot’s reeling in the Audi R18 – Lotterer’s lap time’s currently 3:30.419 while Peugeot’s No. 9 car’s getting round in 3:30.775.

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UPDATE: 2.48pm June 12, 2011

VP: This has been a magnificent race. The top two LMP1 cars are going at each other like two delirious speed demons. Fantastic final few minutes. Lower down the field the two Nissan-powered LMP2 cars are leading the class, while in the GTE Pro class, Garcia’s ZR1 is still king of the GT2s, followed by Fisichella’s Fezza and the BMW M3 GT driven by Joey Hand (Andy Priaulx’s team-mate). The 911 RSR Porsche’s have been consistently strong throughout the race and bulk up the rest of the Pro class.

Edge of your seat stuff.

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UPDATE: 2.55pm June 12, 2011

MJ: There’s less than ten minutes left to go here at Le Mans and the Audi/Peugeot dogfight’s still going strong – Audi’s put 16.5 seconds between the leading No. 9 Peugeot, leaving the French team with a lot of catching up to do. But surely the French team’s got something up its sleeve – we just hope it has time to deploy it…

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UPDATE: 2.58pm June 12, 2011

MJ: It’s the last lap and Audi’s last remains in front with an 18-second lead after 24 hours.

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UPDATE: 3:00pm June 12, 2011

MJ: Audi’s won the 79th Le Mans 24 Hours followed by Peugeot car No. 9 and car No. 7.

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UPDATE: 3.10pm June 12, 2011

VP: AUDI WINS THE 2011 LE MANS 24HR!

Congratulations to the Spartan-like efforts of the number 2 car driven across the line by Andre Lotterer, and a hearty, manly slap on the back for Peugeot’s fantastic efforts. In the LMP2 class, Nissan-engined cars take the top two podium spots with Greaves Motorsport and Signatech, meaning Lucas Ordonez’s team has won 2nd in class at Le Mans. Not a bad effort indeed, you will agree.

Corvette Racing take the GTE Pro class while our plucky heroes in the Robertson Racing Ford GT finish 3rd in class in the Am category, with Andrea Robertson powering across the line.

It’s been emotional, TopGear.commers. Jubilant scenes as Dr Ulrich congratulates the Peugeot team, and thousands of spectators begin the slow, heady descent into a sleep-derived trek back home. It’s been a pleasure, so here’s one final vid of the finish. Au revoir!

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