It is mid-June, the Nurburgring 24 has passed and the endurance race fans from around the world are gathering at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France. That is because this Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14 racing greats from around the world are competing in the 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans. The race twice around the clock includes vehicles from the ALMS as well as the LMS racing series which are made up of two classes of GT, production car based racers, and two classes of prototypes, this year’s race will include 20 of the big boy LMP1 machines all fighting each other as well as lapped traffic for an overall win.
The big battles lately have been between Audi’s and Peugeot’s endurance racing teams at these events. The German automaker is competing in their all new R15 racecar and Peugeot is bringing back their 908, except this time it has Formula 1 derived KERS. Reports from the racetrack say that the Audi camp has gotten a hold of some unfound speed from their previous entrant, the R10. The four ringed automaker has an excellent track record at the epic endurance race, with an Audi engine winning every year since 2000. 2003 was the only year that an Audi R chassis didn’t take home the victory, that year Audi’s factory efforts lent their services to fellow members of the Volkswagen family, creating the Bentley Speed 8. Ever since 2006 Audi’s racing team has been taking advantage of the rules regarding diesel powered race cars, a trend that has caught on with Peugeot.
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The big news is that Stephane Sarrazin, driver of a factory 908, has captured the poll position using his Peugeot for a record third year in a row. Breath easy Audi fans, because Alan McNish has managed to qualify one his R15s in the 2nd position, so the two will start battling right from the beginning. The two other Audi R15s will start from the 6th and 7th position, with three other Peugeot 908s in between them and their team leader. It looks like there will be plenty of diesel fumes at the front of the grid around 3 PM in Le Mans.
The race will be broadcast on SPEED all day Saturday and Sunday with a little NASCAR sprinkled in between. There will also be coverage live from the track thanks to Radio Lemans which you can find on the official Le Mans website.
Top Speed 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans predictions: