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BLOG - PUBLISHED ON JUNE 16TH 2012
Live Blog: the 2012 Le Mans 24 Hours
Follow all the action from the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours, with our regularly updated rolling blog bringing you all the latest news and developments as the world's greatest endurance race gets underway

  By AUTOSPORT staff
 
 

1515 - Thank you very much for following us through the weekend, there will be plenty more news to follow over the coming hours as we talk to the drivers and teams.

1510 - The fans are flooding onto the track and towards the podium. It looks like there is quite a traffic jam to get onto the track but they are queuing nonetheless.

1508 - The fans opposite are letting off orange flares in the grandstands and the Pescarolo fans wave their flag for the Dome which came out for the finish.

1500 - Pedro Lamy, #50 Larbre Chevrolet driver, has been called into the pits to swap with Canal at the death, fortunately for the team the chasing Porsche of Pons had a puncture so they still take the GT Am victory. Meanwhile, it is indeed Fisichella who takes the GT Pro category.

Audi fills he podium positions, with the e-tron taking the top two steps, but the #12 car with Nicolas Prost at the wheel crosses the line in fourth position, remaining in contention for the entire race should any major problems have befallen the top Audi's.

Ryan Dalziel takes the chequered flag in the HPD-Honda in the LMP2 class, although the team was never allowed to relax its guard due to pressure from the #46 ORECA-Nissan.

1455 - Five minutes to go and the two Audi e-trons have reduced their pace to the 3m40s mark, #1 leads #2 by one lap with the first Ultra driven by Rockenfeller a further two laps behind.

1445 - Race control has informed us that 'after the chequered flag there is to be no final presentation lap' - the cars will be expected to pull into parc ferme instead.

1435 - Lucas Ordonez has announced his intention to return to Le Mans next year and battle for the win, hopefully Nissan is listening.

1425 - Giancarlo Fisichella is currently in the #51 AF Corse Ferrari, two laps clear at the front of the GT Pro category. Considering it was he who crashed and wrote off the chassis on Wednesday, causing the team to start from last on the grid, the race has been a great success so far, 35 minutes to go and counting...

1404 - As the race moves into the final hour the grandstands are nearing capacity, there is decorum at the moment, but one imagines that this is merely the lull before the storm as Lotterer continued to circulate with almost metronomic pace.

1357 - Editor Strang is using his contacts to sniff out news from the paddock while Codders finds out what Toyota's take on the weekend's events is. Meanwhile Marc Gene tries to redeem himself by hauling in the Lola of Neel Jani, although there may not be enough time left for the #3 Audi to manage it. Tom Mallett bumped into Pescarolo driver Stuart Hall in the paddock, Hall has apparantly been commentating on TV since the #16 Pescarolo was parked up.

1345 - Neel Jani is holding on to fourth in the Lola but the troubled #3 Audi as catching, albeit slowly, it could be quite close by the end. Codders has returned and is to be redispatched to Toyota while editor Strang uses his contacts in the paddock to keep us up to date with any news as it happens.

1326 - Interesting Brundle Watch snippet unearthed by editor Strang: due to the throttle issues that have hindered the Greaves Zytek-Nissan, the Brundles had to switch to right-foot braking, which was a first for Alex. Martin admitted that he hadn't felt entirely comfortable handing over a car with a throttle issue to his son, but said that overall their father-and-son escapade had been a success. But for the niggling mechanical problems, the car could've been an LMP2 podium factor, Brundle reckoned.

1310 - Allan McNish hasn't given up yet. Lap-and-a-half down he may be, but he's been popping in laps of 3m26, 3m27...

1305 - The GTE Am battle is still raging as Narac and Canal trade quick lap times. Narac has got the upper hand for now, stretching his lead to 30s.

1300 - Two hours to go and Benoit Treluyer pits to give the leading #1 R18 e-tron quattro to Andre Lotterer, who will surely now stay behind the wheel to the chequered flag.

1255 - #55 GTE Am Porsche -sixth in class - currently driven by Markus Palttalla passes our position with bodywork flapping around the bottom of its rear bumper.

1245 - Let's check in with the post-safety car order. Up front, Benoit Treluyer is two laps ahead of Allan McNish, who is a further two ahead of Oliver Jarvis. Neel Jani is fourth for Rebellion, 11 laps down from the leader. #3 Audi is back out after repairs, a lap behind Jani with Marc Gene still showing on the timing screen (but we believe there has been a driver change). In LMP2, recent pit visitor Tom Kimber-Smith is 2m30s ahead of Christophe Tinseau, who is 2m20s ahead of Pierre Kaffer. Gianmaria Bruni has three laps on Dominik Farnbacher in GTE Pro. 23sec separates Raymond Narac and Julien Canal in GTE Am.

1243 - JRM also among the green flag pit callers, Peter Dumbreck in for Karun Chandok. A very good final quadruple stint for the Le Mans rookie.

1240 - Julien Canal pits at the green flag and cedes the GTE Am lead to Raymond Narac by 7.4s. This one is going to run and run.

1235 - Safety Cars in this lap (L339). Further down the field Gianmaria Bruni leads GTE Pro in the #51 Ferrari that started from the back of the grid after it missed qualifying following Giancarlo Fisichella's crash. In GTE Am, pitstop and safety car timing have undone Nicolas Armindo's hard work - he came in to hand te leading IMSA Performane Porsche to Raymond Narac and now Julien Canal leads again. Not only that, they are running behind separate safety cars.

1230 - Safety Cars are coming in shortly. LMP2 leader Tom Kimber-Smith has a lap in hand over second place man Christophe Tinseau, who is behind McNish in the safety car queue. Kimber-Smith is circulating separately behind the second safety car, second in the queue behind Lucas Ordonnez.

1216 - The flurry in the #2 pit hits fever pitch, and after being on the jacks for mere minutes Allan McNish's steed is on its way again. This is a team that knows how to win Le Mans. Sadly the #2 is now two laps down, potentially robbing us of a barnstorming conclusion.

1215 - Some debate in AUTOSPORT's corner as to the wisdom of Toyota announcing a press conference at 2.30 ("the Chinese dentist?" offers one wag), just as the race is reaching its conclusion. "Doesn't matter now," sniffs Watkins, gesticulating at the TV monitor relaying images of activity in the #2 garage.

1210 - SAFETY CAR. Allan McNish goes off at the Porsche Curves in the #2 Audi. The car gets going again under its own power and McNish brings it back to the garage promptly - the benefits of having an incident near the pits. Marc Gene then arrives in the fundamentally more disarrayed R18 ultra - it's going to need a new hub. Busy times for the Audi Sport crew, relief for Treluyer out front.

1205 - We're in the land that gave us A La Recherche De Temps Perdu, but for Marc Gene it's a case of remembering tyre walls past as the #3 spears wide on the apex of the left-hand part of the first chicane. Like a salmon swimming instinctively upstream it ploughs into the same piece of barrier that it biffed with Romain Dumas at the wheel yesterday afternoon. Replays show red and yellow flags being waved on driver's right.

1200 - As predicted, the GTE Am lead has changed hands. Armindo passes us a couple of car lengths ahead of Canal.

1156 - Trouble for Benoit Treluyer as he locks his rear wheels under braking for the pit lane speed limit line and spins the lead Audi. Brake balance has been an occasional issue for the R18 e-tron quattros, particularly at the recent Spa enduro.

1155 - The battle for the lead of GTE Am has just roared past our box in the media centre, Julien Canal in the #60 Corvette with a 1.2s lead over Nicolas Armindo's Porsche. The gap was over two seconds earlier in the lap - we reckon the lead will change hands 'ere long.

1150 - Let's not overlook the work of Oliver Jarvis out there in third spot. 3m28.247s last time around, bang on the leaders' pace. Our pitlane ferrets will be toddling along to find out the cause of his brief 'moment' a few laps ago.

1145 - LMP2 leader Ryan Dalziel brings the Starworks car in for its scheduled stop. It's slightly hesitant leaving the box and Tom Kimber-Smith does his best to persuade the tired clutch to do its work without stalling the engine.

1140 - The lead changes hands again as Allan McNish comes in for his routine stop in the #2 Audi, and Benoit Treluyer swoops through just as McNish deactivates the speed limiter at pit-out.

1133 - Strakka car is back in the garage after an earlier stop to top up coolant. Water temperatures still high so they need to investigate further... a very eventful race for the team, who had hoped to finish at the head of the petrol-powered field.

1125 - The press room is a scene of devastation. Empty cans and nut shells everywhere. It would appear the pistachios did not long survive the arrival of sportscar doyen Gary Watkins. So far so Le Mans. If you're good, we'll put up a picture of another Le Mans tradition: a Japanese photographer sleeping at their desk.

1120 - Change of shift as AUTOSPORT's rookies go in search of breakfast and the veterans return from their brief rest, SC muttering darkly about editor Strang's "hoggage de douche" and threatening mutiny unless he's treated to a "caffeination".

1059 - The battle is heating up at the front, with Allan McNish chasing Benoit Treluyer. The gap is only three seconds and the cars are doing similar sector times. Could we see another battle like the one that unfolded with the Toyota earlier in the race? Ingolstadt might not be too pleased to see one of their cars with two wheels on the grass.

1042 - Dolan now appears to have the engine restarted and is'crabbing' his way back to the pits.

1035 - The #4 Audi Ultra has slowed with Bonanomi at the wheel, in the meantime Dolan has spun his #38 Zytek-Nissan on the exit of the Porsche Curves and clouted the wall heavily. He can't exit the circuit under his own power, so a tow rope has been called into action.

1026 - AUTOSPORT previously reported on Audi's desire to do 12 lap stints with the e-tron, at the moment Dindo is only managing 11 laps, which could affect the battle with Marcel Fassler.

1015 - The #40 OROCA-Judd bounces across the gravel, getting some air before landing, it continues unabated though. Not so much luck for the #35Morgan-Judd driven by David Heinemeier Hansson which has to be towed out after beaching itself in the gravel at Arnage.

1000 - The DeltaWing press conference turned up some interesting information. Michael Krumm said that with the 'right' engine setting the DeltaWing could have done a 3m33s lap, and that is even with the current AMR-One chassis which restricts the concept somewhat. Krumm also confirmed that the team didn't need to change the tyres during his stint and Marino Franchitti confirmed that the current car "only scratched the surface of the concept."

0949 - It feels like Le Mans is waking up. The stands are a little busier, the press room is back up to a contingent of several hundred rather than the handful of mostly sleeping figures, and although we haven't been down to the pits in the last hour or so, we imagine there are more people awake there than was the case at 6am, when most garages were full of huddled, sleeping mechanics waiting to spring into consciousness for a few minutes when their cars turned up.

0946 - First sign of trouble for the so far bulletproof Rebellion team, as the #13 comes in for a clutch change. It only has a few laps in hand over JRM and Strakka, so looks vulnerable.

0937 - Just as it seemed to have JRM in its sights, Strakka's morning has gone slightly awry, with first a puncture then a spin for Danny Watts. It's going to regain a couple of seconds now because Karun Chandhok is currently stalling repeatedly on the way out of the JRM pit.

0918 - We've had a bit of drama in LMP2, with the erstwhile second-place Pecom ORECA of Soheil Ayari visiting the gravel. The Frenchman was swiftly plucked out of the gravel by a tractor but after a pit visit he is down to fourth in class.

0856 - There are a few posters for French rallycross events around the Le Mans paddock. Perhaps Fassler has been inspired... As Kristensen rejoins right in front of Fassler after a fuel stop, the #1 Audi drafts past the #2, slithers over the first Mulsanne chicane gravel trap, oversteers back onto the track, and finds himself losing the lead.

0843 - Audi managed to change the #1's rear wing and bodywork package in 2m16s and get Fassler back out again, but that means he loses the lead to Kristensen, who now has a 46-second advantage.

And still Duval goes faster still, now lapping in 3m24.189s. Surely a 3m23s must be tempting...?

0842 - Duval continues to scorch around at a searing pace, breaking into the 3m24s for the first time with a new fastest lap of 3m24.740s.

0836 - The #1 Audi is in for its crucial pitstop. With legality panel damage at the back, it will need rear bodywork attention and sure enough it's wheeled back into the garage. Now the question is how quickly the Audi crew can make what shouldn't be a long repair.

0833 - Duval is still flying, delivering another new fastest lap of 3m25.124s. With a seven-lap gap to the #4 ultra ahead, there's nothing in it but pride for the #3 crew, but Duval is clearly keen to show what an ultra can do.

0830 - One thing the experienced Le Mans reporters promised the rookie contingent was that by Sunday morning the press room would be smelling less than fresh. We're relieved to report it's actually fine - something we noticed when the smell of Vickers' blazing tyre downstairs in the pitlane finally cleared a little while ago.

0827 - Tom Mallett is now taking his 'tally-ho' spirit of adventure to a DeltaWing press conference, so the tone of this blog might get relatively dowdy for a while.

0822 - Continuing the recent theme of Audi e-trons mildly in the wars, the #2 tips the JWA Porsche into a spin. With Fassler nursing a wounded #1 up front, Kristensen is in a hurry...

0815 - Milner is in the pits after spinning the #74 Corvette, it looks more like a pick-up truck nowadays such is the damage that it has sustained through the course of the race. They build them strong in Detroit though.

0805 - Excitement at the start of the hour as the #74 Corvette spins and collects the tyre barriers, althhough it is remarkably unscathed. Marcel Fassler in the #1 Audi also has a near miss as he avoids an errant GT car, although his rear bodywork looks like it has now done 17 hours of hard racing.

0755 - NEW FASTEST LAP! Duval has posted a 3m25.671s and overtaken the #12 Lola which is now being driven by F1 star Heidfeld. The #61 Ferrari is also on fire, it's a fairly major one too and the marshalls have had the fire extinguisher on it, despite this the AF Corse team refuel the car immediately. Smoke is drifting past us and it's all a little bit earie.

0745 - Just as I was about to declare how 'Vorsprung Durch Technic' precedings are the #33 HPD spins with Tucker at the wheel. After that spate of accidents at the Porsche Curves earlier it has been serene, maybe it is the warming tarmac or possibly that those drivers prone to a rotation have now got it out of their systems.

0720 - We keep on mentioning him but Herr Lotterer has just gone out again, he's just started another stint and he's already been in the car for three hours - and all in the early hours of the morning. We are also pleased to report that our friends in the #83 Ferrari are still circulating, clearly no worse the wear for helping hand out AUTOSPORT magazines during the driver parade on Friday in Le Mans city centre, but they are in 39th position with only the Dome classified behind them.

0710 - The Dome has gone back out, but has only completed 173 laps compared to the top Audi's 252 laps. There are a few more spectators arriving and the temperature is rising little by little. Lotterer is flying and we wonder how fast he can go if Audi bolt on some new tyres to go with the morning sun? AUTOSPORT is also beginning to champion the Prost driven Lola, not only is it a privateer team but Lola needs some good news at the moment.

0700 - Good news for the Aston Martin boys, Fernandez has taken over in the #97 car and he's still in third, there could be a battle brewing though with the #71 Ferrari, just the tonic!

0650 - Having missed the company of Sam Tremayne for the last few minutes the depleted AUTOSPORT team of Matt Beer and Tom Mallett are joined by Gary Watkins, fresh from his two hours of sleep. We've given him a breakdown of events and he seems happy. Between the three of us the nuts aren't going to last long.

0640 - The #97 Aston Martin has just barrelled off the track at Indianapolis, the tyre smoke and flying gravel made it look worse than it was and Mucke makes his way back to the pits for what may be substantial repairs.

0630 - Some worrying scenes on Brundle watch, the Greaves Nissan is sitting in the pit garage and Lucas Ordonez is out of the car. It has settled down otherwise though and we are hoping that the rising sun will have the same effect as a cup of tea. We should have brought a kettle. Sam Tremayne has gone home, after gentle ribbing about Ms Cole.

0619 - Lotterer is now lapping quickly in the e-tron, but our attention has wandered to a shirtless spectator opposite the press gallery who is dancing a merry jig,his assorted peers look less than impressed as they survey the scene of devastation from last night's festivities.

0606 - After Lotterer's quick fuel-only stop, the gap between the Audis stands at 33s. And there's been a pit-influenced change in GTE Pro. A long stop for the #59 Luxury Ferrari had allowed the Aston up to second, but now Mucke has pitted, it's a Ferrari one-two again.

0557 - It's currently 'happy hour' - the time when conditions can be at their most conducive to very rapid motoring. The Audi e-trons have both just delivered 3m32s laps and Lotterer set the fastest first sector time of the race at the start of this lap before making his next pitstop.

0553 - As the long silence hints, not a great deal of note has happened of late. The sky is now looking fairly daylight-esque, and we've had a bit of training in slightly technical things so that our web genius Geoff Creighton can get some sleep.

0534 - Harold Primat has spun the sixth-placed Rebellion Lola-Toyota at the Porsche Curves. The Swiss driver didn't hit anything, but his attempts to get the car pointing in the right direction again featured an element of comedy before finally a helpful shove from the marshals allowed him on his way. Primat then pitted and rejoined, still comfortably clear of the Starworks car.

0528 - The race restarted with just 3s between the lead Audis, but before any battle could commence, McNish pitted the #2 car from first place to hand over to Capello.

0525 - Right, safety car about to come in, let's get ready for action. Slight hint of daylight starting to brighten the sky too.

0523 - AUTOSPORT magazine's crew is delaying its night time shift change a few hours later than AUTOSPORT.com's. Judging by the state of mag man Sam Tremayne's face - and his admission that if Cheryl Cole tried to woo him right now, he would vote for sleep - the online team's strategy was superior.

0514 - We'd give him a pat on the back too, because 'Dindo IS charming' is high up AUTOSPORT's rookie contingent's list of 'things people always say about Le Mans that ARE definitely true', alongside 'the Corvettes DO sound awesome', 'the Audis ARE incredibly quiet' and 'some of the Le Mans officials ARE less than sunny in temperament'.

0510 - It's Dindo Capello's birthday and the morning of his final Le Mans. And that's definitely a good enough reason for the Audi crew to give him a hero's welcome as he appears in the garage, helmet on and seemingly ready to claim the #2 soon.

0508 - There was some chatter along the lines of the third-placed GTE Pro Aston hitting trouble, but it just growled past us still looking fairly perky with Mucke at the wheel.

0503 - Safety car number one rolls past us with the #2 Audi at the head of the queue and the #1 Audi nine lapped cars behind and 12.5s down on the timing screens. So that will be an intriguing restart not a super-tense spectacular one.

Cameras now show a lorry removing the very broken Prospeed Porsche from where it came to rest.

0502 - Now there's a profound milestone: the timing clock on the monitors now starts with a single-figure number of hours (9:57:28...) No sign of sunrise just yet.

0457 - While marshals do very intensive things with brooms, quite a few cars have pitted under the yellow, including the race-leading #1 Audi, which has taken on fuel and tyres, but relinquished the lead to the #2, which was running behind a different safety car.

0452 - We have our second safety car period of the race. The #75 Prospeed Porsche has crashed heavily at the Porsche Curves and some tidying up is required.

0446 - Some lead battle intrigue is building. After McNish's stop, Lotterer is back in the lead. A 3m27s suggests the #1 Audi is still in good health, and the lead is now 10s.

0442 - The Murphy crew just jogged down the pitlane with some urgency in the hope of assisting their car back to the garage, but appear to have been dissuaded by the ever friendly Le Mans officials, as they came trudging back again a few minutes later. Out on track, tantalisingly close to the pitlane, there still seems to be some kind of negotiation going on between marshals, Brendon Hartley, a tractor, and an ORECA with broken suspension.

0437 - AUTOSPORT's mid-race driver change took place just after 4am, with the rookies springing back into the press room utterly revitalised and the stalwarts departing for sleep. The good news is they left us custard creams, bananas AND pistachio nuts. Breakfast of champions.

0431 - The Murphy ORECA is stopped broadside across the pit entry road and now being retrieved by a tractor, which is not ideal for its chances of keeping fifth in LMP2.

And it looks like trouble for the highest-placed Porsche contender too - Lieb's Felbermayr car, fifth in GTE Pro, appears to be parked somewhere out in the wilderness. It's a bad time to be fifth in class, clearly. Tread carefully, #3 Audi and #75 Prospeed Porsche...

0426 - After that stop, Lotterer is 52s behind McNish. Big question is, will the slightly wonky rear bodywork hamper the #1? With a 3m32.0s compared to the #1's 3m31.8s, all seems well.

0423 - Major pre-sunrise drama at Le Mans: the seemingly invincible race-leading #1 Audi e-tron spun in the Porsche curves and glanced the wall. Fassler brought the car in and handed over to Lotterer, but no repairs were undertaken in the 1m37s stop. That's put McNish into the lead.

0418 - ORECA 03s are really quite indestructible. Olivier Lombard's #23 Signatech version has just appeared in the pitlane in fairly tidy form despite bouncing off the Mulsanne corner barriers. The team wheel it into the garage to check.

0405 - Lucas Ordonez has had an off in the Mulsanne Corner vicinity in the Brundlewagen. In other news, Oliver Gavin is back out in the #74 Corvette after gearbox fettlement.

0402 - Predictably the footage of Romain Dumas ripping his Audi's front bodywork off has made it to YouTube. But how long until some wag re-edits it to the tune of Orange Juice's seminal hit Rip It Up?

0401 - With our co-commentators/bloggers having failed to locate the awake button we continue on and observe that the real gap between the two leading Audis is now 2m16s now that neither has a game, we mean pitstop, in hand.

0341 - Tweet from Oliver Gavin: "This is not our day... After all the incidents, we now have a drivetrain/high speed oscillation... Changing all of drivetrain now..." We're not sure what to make of a racing driver being able to spell 'oscillation'. Shakes our view of the world to the very bones it does.

0340 - Simon Dolan has a lights-out moment in the #38 Zytek and spins out into the gravel at the exit of the Esses, as you would when your electrics trip out while travelling at that velocity in the dark. But off he goes again.

0335 - 3m27.756s for Allan McNish. Then a 3m28.838s. Marcel Fassler has just done a 3m31.351s and a 3m37.315s. Interesting dynamics between the leading crews because Treluyer only double-stinted before handing over to Fassler, who is viewed as the 'steadiest' driver of the #1 triumvirate, while Dindo Capello had been next in the #2 rotation but McNish got in instead. Go figure.

0327 - Still some hammer-and-tongs racing going on out there. Tom Kimber-Smith has a lap's advantage in LMP2 but Soheil Ayari and Roman Rusinov are just a few seconds apart.

0320 - #73 Corvette is still in the garage. Unprecedented scenes for Chevvy, who usually enjoy great reliability. Toni Vilander leads GTE Pro in the #51 Ferrari by two minutes from Jaime Melo.

0310 - Quote of the night: "I'm not sure how much longer I can listen to Northern people."

0306 - We were wondering how Nissan's cast-of-thousands "Social Media Crew" would occupy themselves now that the DeltaWing has gone to the great experimental garage in the sky. Well, they're holding a press conference at 8.30am dontcha know. AUTSOPORT functionaries Beer and Mallet, currently in the land of nod, have been volunteered to report from it. This video is well worth a look though...

0305 - In the press room we await with scarcely concealed mirth the reappearance of photographer and l'endurance mag editor Jake Yorath, last seen exiting the press room in full pitlane set-up avec comedy helmet. The poor fellow looks like one of the Village People, or perhaps a recalcitrant workman giving Norman Wisdom some grief in an unnecessarily dug hole in the road. Mr Grimsdale!

0301 - Funnily enough Lucas Ordonez, who shares a hairdresser with Jon Bon Jovi, is next in the driver rotation after Alex Brundle in the #42 Greaves Zytek, currently 11th in class after its alternator belt woes.

0300 - Whoah-oh-oh! We're half way there. Whoah-oh-oh! Livin' on a prayer. Etc.

0235 - An eventful few moments for Audi as Romain Dumas gets a tap from Christophe Bourret at the Ford Chicane after lapping the #70 Corvette. The resulting spin leaves Romain beached in the gravel for a few moments until help arrives. Meanwhile, Benoit Treluyer is just handing over the lead Audi to Marcel Fassler when Raymond Narac - whose IMSA Performance team is based in the next garage along - presents his GTE Am Porsche for service and parks inconsiderately in the Audi's exit route. A quick push back from the Audi Sport mechanics and Marcel is on his way.

0230 - Woe for JMR as Karun Chandok pits and the car is immediately wheeled back into the garage. Clutch failure is to blame.

0225 - One in, one out: as the shutters come down on the #58 Ferrari's garage, the #15 Oak LMP1 is wheeled out of its enclosure. Dominik Kraihaimer - who really needs to have a word with whoever chose his mugshot for the official programme - is at the wheel.

0220 - Neel Jani is in the #12 Revolution Lola currently occupying fourth place. Neel's cousin used to be a classified ads salesman on AUTOSPORT, fact fans.

0215 - Anthony Davidson confirms to AUTOSPORT via the medium of SMS that he has sustained fractures to his T11 and T12 vertebrae.

0210 - #58 has seen some action at the front and rear at the first chicane, and the left-hand side is going to need some panel-beating too. Frankie Montecalvo is the man whose name is imminently to be mud with his mechanics.

0205 - With the legendary Neville Hay apparently taking a turn in the Eurosport commentary booth, how appropriate that yellow flags at the south end of the circuit should be waving to signify 'Carnage at Arnage'...

0155 - Retirementwatch: Toyota's closing of the shutters takes us up to eight, which means they've reached the bottom of the second timing screen. In some previous years this freeing-up of a TV slot would have had some of the shiftier members of the press contingent furtively dialling through the channels in search of a late-night dirty movie... but not in the internet era. The assembled scribes are still bashing away at their keyboards.

0151 - Good moaning race fans. It would appear that Inspector Crabtree from 'Allo 'Allo is in the house, as evinced by a note from Race Control to the effect that car 66 (Johnny Cocker) will be getting a 30sec stop-go for "refueller without googles".

0147 - Some great Tweeting tonight from @takiinoue, whose impassioned scorn about Kazuki Nakajima has been matched for comedy value only by F1 medical car man Gary Hartstein's retort concerning Taki's Hungarian GP tumble...

0145 - Some good news from the Corvette pits: Richard Westbrook is on his way again, having only required a new diffuser in addition to a replacement wheel.

0140 - Sad scenes as the Toyota crew walk away from the car and look as if they're ready to pack up. Distantly a sound can be heard from Sebastien Buemi's motorhome: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

0132 - Alex Wurz returns to the pitlane in the #7 Toyota, which after a brief pause and a little head scratching is hoisted on to the dolly and guided into the garage. Mystery power loss is the reason. In other Toyota news, Anthony Davidson tweets from his hospital bed: "Well that was a big one! Lying in a French hospital with a broken back wasn't what I had in mind at this stage in the race."

0126 - What do we want? Coca-Cola. When do we want it? Now! Editor Strang returns from his forage bearing a fistful of Red Bull Cola. Not someting this correspondent would usually volunteer to consume but beggars can't be choosers. And what a retro experience on the tongue it proves to be; very much like Panda Pops cola. We really have regressed to the 1980s. Coming next: Brother Beyond.

Corvette Le Mans 2012

0120 - Giancarlo Fisichella is aboard the #51 Ferrari that now leads the GTE Pro class from Chevrolet's Jordan Taylor. The Ferrari has done one fewer pit stop. Dominik Farnbacher is third in the #59 Luxury Racing Ferrari which, like Taylor's car, has done 10 stops.

0115 - Personnel swap in AUTOSPORT corner as editor Strang departs, muttering darkly about trouvez-ing some boissons. Meanwhile, Richard Westbrook departs the pitlane, and as he passes under the Dunlop Bridge his left-rear tyre departs his car. That'll make a nice souvenir for one of the marshals.

0049 - GTE Pro might not be producing the thrills and spills of the first few hours, but we're no 10 hours (almost) in and there is still less than 60s separating the front two. Tommy Milner still leads in the #74 Corvette, while the frugal #51 AF Corse Ferrari - currently in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni - is second.

In fact, the top six are all still within two laps of each other, with Frederic Makowiecki (#59 Luxury Racing Ferrari) trading third with the second Corvette and Darren Turner recently stealing fifth from Richard Lietz in the #77 Porsche.

0045 - A few incidents in LMP2, as the #41 Zytek takes a trip across the grass at Indianapolis, while there in concern for the #24 OAK Racing Morgan-Judd, which had been leading the class several times earlier on in the race. A spell in the pitlane has dropped it down to 11th so far however, and it is yet to get back underway.

0040 - While we were preaching, Toyota released another statement about Anthony Davidson which confirmed that the Englishman will stay in hospital until Monday. His team-mates Sebastien Buemi and Stephane Sarrazin have visited him in hospital and the news is that he appears to have escaped that monumental shunt without injury, thankfully.

0028 - Up at the front this is about the time we are beginning to really miss Peugeot. It did seem weird arriving on Wednesday and not seeing the huge great mobile chateau it used to build at the start of the pitlane. Even stranger not to see a mass of black, white and blue flags, and everywhere has seemed that little bit quieter this week.

And then of course there were some doubts, happily proved wrong, about the pace of the Toyota. It was never going to last, that was too much to ask for such a new car, but boy it was quick while it did!

Now we have an Audi 1-2-3. And while the pace of the race is steady, and the German team has dialled it back to 11-lap stints all the while maintaining a steady momentum, you have to give it credit for its rock solid consistency. It's not been a completely trouble-free run for any but the #1 machine from Ingolstadt, but as we creep slowly up on half distance, they appear familiarly impenetrable.

It's not Audi's fault it has no one to beat, and one suspects that the #2 car has far from given up on a fight for the lead just yet - after all, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish would love to give Dindo a fourth victory on his last crack at the race.

So to sum up this little sermon... don't give up on this race just yet, because we haven't.

0027 - @FlyingLizard confirms our suspicions about sometime Formula Ford Zetec racer Patrick Long... "No. 80 will not be able to make it back to the pits. @pLmotorsport is in a safe spot off the course and is getting out of the car."

0016 - After a brief technical issue/interlude/pistachio break, we're back. The #80 Porsche of Patrick Long appears to have spun at the first chicane on the Mulsanne. Meanwhile the #28 Gulf Racing Lola with Badey also appears to have buried itself in the tyres at an unidentifiable place on the circuit.

And that's not all... Tracy Krohn is in the gravel at Mulsanne and we think the Boutsen car is also stopped on the side of the road. So, if Columbo was here, maybe he would surmise that the track is currently quite slippery...

2351 - Gary 'Hawkeye' Watkins - its a new moniker - has spotted a very slow first sector and lap for current race leader Andre Lotterer, who clocks a 77s first sector - around 40s slower than normal. Any fears of a problem are quelled when he posts respectable second and third splits, but he still surrenders a significant chunk of time to the chasing #2 e-tron quattro of Allan McNish as a result.

2335 - Well it's gone a little quiet at the moment. Calm enough at least for AUTOSPORT to look around the press office. There's a man to the right of us playing patience - he's not doing very well though. In other news, the #7 Toyota is back out on the track and running 47th overall in the hands of Kazuki Nakajima. Presumably he's been sent out 30 laps down as punishment for his earlier misdemeanour.

Audi meanwhile in the familiar position of running 1-2-3 as Lotterer has a lap's lead over McNish with Rockenfeller third. Nick Heidfeld is going great guns in fourth ahead of Rebellion team-mate Andrea Belicchi. Loic Duval is also firing in massively quick times as the #3 car, damaged significantly by Romain Dumas's earlier shunt, fights its way back up the field.

2328 - Jonny Kane just spun the Strakka HPD at the Ford chicane. He decided to bring it in the pits and it was rolled in the garage to check for damage.

2326 - Apologies for the confusion on the timing, we've gone a bit mad here. Sanity has been returned now that Stuart Codling has opened his drawers and released a pride of Lion bars. Good chap.

2316 - But he's not looking at Twitter because @Highcroftracing has just tweeted it's all over: "We're done. Despite @SatoshiMotoyama's superhuman effort to repair the car, damage was too much."

2314 - Marino Franchitti admits that the DeltaWing was quite 'significantly damaged' after its Toyota shunt and that it was too much. Nevertheless he is hoping that they might still be able to get out.

2310 - We should also report that Andre Lotterer is now back in the lead #1. McNish in the #2 car is 1m58s behind the German as the two e-tron quattros continue to hold sway at the front.

2308 - Dumbreck says his tyre just exploded, which is why he went off at the Dunlop chicane. "A little bit of damage on the car, but it's out again now, so let's hope for the best."

2201 - Alex Wurz has climbed out of the #7 Toyota but work is continuing on the TS030. It is a shame, they put on a cracking show for us. Lapierre's move on the grass out of Mulsanne earlier, to be fair, was not far off legendary.

2257 - Peter Dumbreck just brought the JRM HPD into the pits with a puncture and the team's rolled the car in to its garage for an investigation. Let's hope he's not in there for long though because he was in the top six before this all happened.

2256 - Sorry for the delay. We did put another update up but the internet stole it from us and since then other things have happened. So to sum up, Capello handed over to McNish who is now chasing Fassler for the lead up front. And Warren Hughes is in the lead of LMP2 - go Wazza!

2237 - Toyota has just wandered over to our desk, not the whole company you understand but a very nice PR lady, to inform us that it has changed the alternator on car #7 after a failure, and also took the opportunity to check a few other things and make some running repairs.

That doesn't appear to have done the trick though as the car in front of us on the screen has stopped at the end of the pitlane. Alex Wurz is at the wheel of it and the car has now dropped to 44th overall, 20 laps away from lead. It's being rolled back again. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear...

2234 - Dunlop's @andystobart has informed us that his favourite tweet of the race so far is from @level5racing: "Luis into the pits for a new steering wheel as problems with his paddle shit. A slick stop by the team and he is back out on track." That seems as good a reason as any to us!

2228 - As fun as babbling on about former Formula 1 drivers and Jaguar stars is, it had rather distracted us from linking to the latest hourly report. Well actually we forgot, so here it is... Hour 7 report.

2218 - Brundlewatch: Editor Strang is back from his pit scout and reports that Brundle senior is most miffed about the alternator belt snapping. "We had one go in the first session on Wednesday," said Martin. "We've changed the belt, the engine, we've even changed the brand of belt and it still snapped. So that means we've not found the problem. Maybe it's something to with the harmonics or something.

"It's annoying because we've been going well out there. We're all triple stinting, we've been staying off the kerbs we agreed to stay off, and we've been executing the plan. We've lost four laps."

Brundle added that he was really enjoying his return to the race. "I loved it. I was a bit over-cautious to begin with because I really don't know this car that well at all. It's so easy to flatspot a tyre when the brakes and the tyres are cold. So I was tip-toeing a bit. Then I settled down."

The Greaves boys are now five laps down on Maxime Martin in the leading LMP2 Morgan - but there is a long way to go until dawn and much can change between now and then.

2210 - The #99 Aston Martin has been retired. It completed 31 laps before Kristian Poulsen pulled into the garage. There are now five cars showing on the timing screens as retired.

2205 - The sky remains clear at the moment which is good news for those wishing to stay dry, but it will also mean a reduction in temperatures, causing lap-times to drop off and circuit-side fans to wrap up. It is worth pointing out that the #12 Lola-Toyota, currently being driven by Nicolas Prost, is in fourth position. Any more problems for the leading Audi's and a privateer team could return to the podium.

2155 - Brundle watch continues with Martin confirming that it was an altenator problem that caused the Greaves Zytek-Nissan to drop down the order in the fourth hour, he still wants a podium though!

2145 - Editor Strang has gone to find out what is happening in the Toyota pit garage. He says there is 'massive' amounts of work going on, he confirms the nose is missing and says the floor is being removed after the clash with the Nissan DeltaWing earlier.

2140 - Nakajima is back in the pits in the sole remaining Toyota and the front of the bodywork has been removed dropping Toyota out of the podium positions. There are close battles through the field though, with Antonio Garcia in the #73 Chevrolet only half a second behind Jaime Melo in his #59 Ferrari.

Despite the Pescarolo problems there are still some diehard fans flying the famous green flags in honour of the successful French privateer. Other fans are settling in for the evening as the lights on the cars become increasingly vital.

2128 - Following our earlier story Toyota has issued an official update on Anthony Davidson's condition: "Anthony Davidson was taken to the circuit medical centre following his accident during the Le Mans 24 Hours. Doctors at the circuit have confirmed that Anthony is suffering from shock and back pain, however there are no signs of any injuries and he is walking and talking with no problems. He will be taken to a local hospital for precautionary checks but the team is relieved and happy to hear he is okay."

2122 - The #2 Audi has moved into second position, dropping the #7 Toyota to third. Audi now hold the top two steps of the podium with the R18 e-tron.

2115 - After the restart Kazuki Nakajima made contact with the Nissan DeltaWing driven by Satoshi Motoyama. The Deltawing is still up against the wall while Nakajima returns to his garage for urgent attention to the rear of the #7 Toyota.

2112 - The safety car will be in at the end of the next lap with Marcel Fassler in the #1 Audi leading Kazuki Nakajima in the #7 Toyota away.

2109 - The AUTOSPORT hourly report has just been written. The order has been shaken up in the last sixty minutes so click here to catch up.

2102 - Audi bring two sets of safety cars to Le Mans each year and the safety car period has now run for long enough for a switch to take place as the first set run low on fuel. Race control estimates that the race should be back underway in 11 minutes though.

2056 - Stuart Codling has written about Anthony Davidson after speaking to Rob Leupen from Toyota.

2049 - Anthony Davidson is in the medical centre now and AUTOSPORT's Stuart Codling has been to Toyota to find out how he is.

2042 - The sun is setting meaning the drivers will have to deal with visibility issues. Tinted visors will be vital over the next hour before a swap to clear visors for night racing. Meanwhile, the cars continue to circulate, weaving to keep some heat in the tyres.

2032 - The barrier repairs will take about 30 minutes according to race control. The images in the media centre show track workers rebuilding the barriers where the Toyota and Ferrari impacted. There are now two LMP2 cars in the top 10 as the LMP1 field thins.

2022 - #31 Lotus spun while following the safety car. In the meantime the #1 Audi has taken the lead by virtue of a faster pit-stop, Marcel Fassler is the man to take over. The Le Mans track team has sprung into action too with the removal of Davidson's Toyota getting closer to completion.

2018 - The ambulance is now taking Anthony Davidson off the circuit while the safety car continues to circulate.

2004 - Race control is investigating the incident between #8 and #81. The extraction team has righted the Ferrari and removed it from the barrier.

1958 - SAFETY CAR. Terrible shunt between the #8 Toyota and the #81 AF Corse Ferrari at Mulsanne Corner. Davidson sent it through the inside and Piergiuseppe Perazzini simply turned in, clipping the Toyota's left-rear. The TS030 Hybrid went airborne - sideways - and flipped before landing on its wheels and slamming into the tyre barrier. The Ferrari followed him in and is still on its roof. Davidson is out of the Toyota and after seemingly attempting to get the car going again has submitted to attention from the medical team.

1955 - Seth Neiman explains that his Porsche snapped hard left unexpectedly as he went through Indianapolis. "I ended up bouncing off the guardrail a little bit... we're trying to get it fixed but we had no water in it for a while."

1954 - Benoit Treluyer brings the #1 Audi in for its routine stop, leaving without changing tyres, and as he leaves the pitlane the #7 Toyota flashes across the finishing line. They're nose-to-tail all the way to Mulsanne Corner and then Lapierre gets by on the grass. Treluyer is having none of it and sticks it up the inside at Arnage. Lapierre isn't taking that lying down and drives past the Audi again on the boost, swiping across the nose of the Audi as he takes the lead. Take that, sir!

1950 - Who is the beneficiary of Seth Neiman's grassy moment in the erstwhile GTE Am leader? Frankie Montecalvo in the #58 Luxury Racing Ferrari at first, but then he ducks into the pits. Julien Canal now has the lead in the #50 Larbre Competition Corvette, ahead of Christian Ried's Felbermayr-Proton Porsche, but both of them are a pitstop behind the Luxury Racing car.

1945 - Three-and-a-bit wheels on his wagon: Dumas makes it back to the Audi garage and the #3 R18 ultra pops up on its dolly, to be ushered backwards into the Audi garage. The cameraman makes to follow but one of Audi Sport's mechanics, who makes the lady at the gate of Parking 6 seem like a veritable shrinking violet, sends him backwards with a force not seen since Kimi Raikkonen put Paul-Henri Cahier on his derriere at the British GP.

1937 - Seth Neiman spins at the exit of Indianapolis with damage to the rear of the car and a hint of fire. Paging Mr Mallet: to the Flying Lizard garage please, pour trouve les actualites...

1935 - Romain Dumas is in the wall at the first chicane in the #3 Audi. Replays show him coming up to lap GTE Am class leader Seth Neiman's #79 Porsche and then sliding wide at the left-hand part of the turn without making contact with the Porsche. Cue press room hilarity as Dumas gets out and rips the majority of the front bodywork off before getting back in and driving off with the right-front wheel barely attached. The marshals aren't too impressed with this and begin gesticulating, but he pays them no heed - a little bit like editor Strang's often fractious relationship with the lady at the gate of car park 6. Desolee!

1929 - While we were Brundling along, Giancarlo Fisichella has sneaked by Richard Westbrook for the lead of GTE Pro. The Ferrari is now just under a second ahead of the Chevrolet after four hours of racing. Adrian Fernandez is third in the Aston, a minute and a half behind but having made one more stop.

1927 - In Brundlewatch news, the #42 Greaves Motorsport car has been in for some attention to its alternator. We are now in post-Brundle mode; Lucas Ordonnez has just departed the pits for his first stint in the car, now 17th in class and 30th overall.

1925 - What a great stint by Sebastien Buemi, closing up to within three seconds of the leader in the final lap of his quadruple stint. In he comes, handing over to Anthony Davidson.

1916 - The bottom of the timing screen lights up in purple, signifying a curt instruction for the team manager of cars #7 and #8 to present himself to race control. We haven't seen any sign of poor on-track etiquette, so perhaps this could be a discussion related to the rear wing endplate element which departed the #7 car at speed 30 minutes ago.

1911 - Seems like comestibles are on everyone's mind as AUTOSPORT's publisher Rob pitches up and helps himself to our stash of biscuits.

1907 - Our man Codling returns from a "comestibles procurement mission" and reports an encounter with former Audi driver Emmanule Pirro. "They're giving us a good run for our money, no?" said the Le Mans legend.

1905 - Latest weather report suggests no more rain, with temperatures dropping to 10C overnight, then dry and sunny tomorrow with temperatures around 20C.

1857 - While the lead Audi enjoys a cushion of just over a minute, the next three cars are all within 10 seconds of each other. Lapierre's #7 Toyota is inching closer to Buemi's #8 Toyota, and Dumas' #3 Audi ultra is creeping up on both of them.

1847 - The Toyotas are absolutely flying at the moment. It's a bit deceptive as they're about to pit, but Buemi and Lapierre had been carving chunks from Treluyer's lead. Buemi is set to quadruple stint.

Gulf Lola-Nissan, Le Mans 20121846 - Just one car declared an official retirement as the four-hour mark approaches: the #29 Gulf Lola-Nissan that Marc Rostan crashed earlier. That car had a bit of a nightmare even getting onto the grid after a qualifying crash, and was a long way off the pace throughout the event. It looked good, though...

1845 - With social media such a big part of motor racing these days, it can be hard for drivers to find time to drive... and eat fruit... as JWA Porsche's Markus Palttala demonstrates: "Need to stop tweeting and start gearing up for a triple stint. Every second turn from then on till morning. Where are the bananas?"

1834 - As you would expect with its cars running second and third after nearly four hours, and closing on the lead Audi, the mood in the Toyota camp is pretty buoyant, as its press spokesman told our Tom Mallett: "We are doing better than expectations, we are running without any trouble so far and to see the cars running P2 is fantastic. It is a long race though, Audi has had trouble with a puncture or some tyre debris for an extra stop, but for us it is going as we would expect and that is well. The challenge is where we are after 24 hours. What we have done so far is fantastic."

1831 - The television pictures suddenly show a Gulf-liveried Aston Martin in the barriers after a crash at the Porsche Curves. But it's not the GTE Pro lead threat #97 car, it's the #99 GTE Am class car, which had already endured a troubled race, with Kristian Poulsen at the wheel.

1819 - 2003 British Formula 3 champion turned Formula 1 medical car driver Alan van der Merwe's Twitter feed suggests he's having a mixed time at Le Mans... "'WOW everything at Le Mans is so well organised and everyone is so helpful and well-informed!' - no one". We'll refrain from commenting...

1810 - Fastest man on track right now is Kristensen, who is storming along in 3m28s-3m30s laps as he tries to make up ground. The Toyotas had been matching the leading #1 Audi's 3m32s pace prior to the latest pitstop sequence.

Earlier in the week the Toyota drivers were speculating that qualifying might their chance to shine (something Alex Wurz admitted with a grimace as he prefers to prioritise race preparation at Le Mans) as with relatively little endurance testing (well, relatively little testing full stop), they couldn't be sure how far through Saturday and Sunday they would get. But they've reached one-eighth distance at a very strong pace and with no blips so far.

Pescarolo Dome, Le Mans 20121805 - This is not a happy weekend for legendary Le Mans team Pescarolo. Its Dome has just spent another 13 minutes in the garage.

1803 - Brundlewatch latest: we have a change of Brundle. It's now Alex at the wheel for his first Le Mans race stint.

1757 - A hint of a fire at Norma, very swiftly and thoroughly dealt with by the fire crew. All quickly under control.

1750 - Sounds like a similar rubber pick-up/handling/imbalance precautionary check issue for the #2 Audi as seen on the ultras earlier. Toyotas up to third and fourth.

1747 - While the #2 Audi rejoins, the GTE Pro leading #73 Corvette pits. For readers who have never been to Le Mans or a major sportscar race: everything you may have heard about the Corvette's stunning noise and rumble is true. It's a beast, in the best possible way.

1746 - All smooth for the race leader though, as the so-far unstoppable #1 e-tron completes its fourth pitstop without drama. Treluyer stays on board and keeps the same set of tyres.

1743 - Sudden drama at Audi as the #2 e-tron, which was running second, is wheeled into the garage.

1741 - We're nearly two and three quarter hours into what has been a flat-out race, and Martin Brundle is still at the wheel of the Brundle-mobile. Good effort from one of the less young drivers in the fray.

1737 - The weather at Le Mans is increasingly glorious after a wet start to the day. That's making things pretty warm in the pits, to the discomfort of this shift's AUTOSPORT pit investigator Tom Mallett, who was very pleased to ditch the mandatory pitlane overalls when he returned to the media centre. Tom was, however, wearing a respectable amount of other clothing underneath.

1736 - As a mechanic from another team watches from the pitwall while messily eating some form of pasty, Turner brings the erstwhile GTE Pro-leading Aston into the pits.

1731 - All change at the front of GTE Pro. Turner hung on as the top trio weaved their way through a group of slower cars while also being passed by a gaggle of much faster cars, but just after getting back into clear air, the Aston slid wide at Arnage, and Milner and Bruni were able to pounce and demote Turner to third.

1723 - While the lead AF Corse car closes in to make it a three-way GTE Pro lead battle, the sister #71 Ferrari is just rejoining in Andrea Bertolini's hands after a long stop for attention.

And yes, GTE Pro is an Aston/Corvette/Ferrari affair at the front right now, but earlier this week Corvette man Oliver Gavin was pondering the way that the Felbermayr Porsche often gets ever-quicker over a race distance. It's lurking in fifth at the moment...

1713 - Another nice way to follow the race, we've just discovered, is through JRM's official website which is streaming its own activities live. So far as we can tell @karunchandhok has yet to thump the HPD over any kerbs today as the LMP1 runs a reliable 10th overall.

The team also does a fantastic line in beef stew and dumplings, as the kindly fed Team AUTOSPORT.com on Wednesday night.

1705 - Marco Bonanomi makes his race debut at Le Mans as the Italian takes over from Mike Rockenfeller in the recovering #4 ultra. It's currently in seventh behind the Rebellion Lola of Nick Heidfeld - which spun at the Ford chicane about 10 minutes ago (we forgot to mention that)

Meanwhile that cracking battle in GTE Pro becomes for the lead as Bruni pits and it's now Milner in front as the American passes Turner on the run-up to the Porsche Curves.

1700 - As we move into the third hour, Allan McNish hands over to Tom Kristensen in the #2 Audi. The leader, Lotterer, meanwhile is also pitting and hands over to Benoit Treluyer.

Meanwhile in GTE Pro there is a stonking scrap between Aston Martin's Darren Turner and Corvette's Tommy Milner - which is occupying our attention on the screens in the press room. It's a fantastic fight actually. Gianmaria Bruni meanwhile is leading the class in the #51 Ferrari.

1655 - Brundlewatch: The Greaves Zytek is seventh in class at the moment as Martin continues his triple stint. We should also mention that the #17 Dome driven by Bourdais is back on track but is now 26 laps off the lead.

1650 - Sarrazin had been flying prior to the #8 Toyota's third pitstop. The Frenchman has now handed over to Le Mans newboy Sebastien Buemi. The order at the top is still the #1 Audi leading ahead of Allan McNish is the second of the two e-trons. Alex Wurz remains third in the #7 Toyota ahead of Loic Duval in the first of the Audi ultras.

Olivier Pla leads LMP2 in the Oak Racing Morgan-Judd ahead of Soheil Ayari in the Pecom Oreca.

1641 - Fans of the DeltaWing should know that the prototype remains bitpound currently, according to our intrepid Tom Mallett, as the Highcroft team chases a small gearbox issue. The GTE Pro-winning #59 Ferrari meanwhile has lost some time when it ran out of fuel and is currently running last in class.

Our favourite car so far from out and about around Le Mans in 2012
Our favourite car so far from out and about around Le Mans in 2012 © autosport.com

1635 - In other news, and just because we loved it, here is a picture of the best of the painted up cars that fans of Le Mans travel down to the great race in (at least that we've seen). Among the special machines we've witnessed are a replica DeltaWing, a stretched Granada and a car running in Maverick Top Gun colours - but for us nothing beat this Ford Zepher parked up in the Arnaga highstreet on Friday night! Brilliant effort lads - Keep calm and carry on, as they say.

1627 - Olivier Beretta has just spun the #71 AF Corse Ferrari into the gravel at the Esses. He was running fifth in the GTE Pro class but is obviously now dropping down the order as the car is retrieved by one of those natty tractors. He's got going again but he'll be pitbound shortly.

Meanwhile Stefan Mucke has recaptured the lead of that class and is currently 3s ahead of Oliver Gavin's Corvette. Both driver crews have spent great deal of time this week convincing AUTOSPORT journalists that the other has the faster car. It seems there's not much in it after all.

1625 - The gap between the leading two Audi e-trons, that of Lotterer and McNish - is hovering around the 20s mark as they work through traffic. Loic Duval is now back in third place after his puncture issues, ahead of the Toyotas driven by Wurz and Sarrazin.

1616 - Some untidy moments to kick off hour two: we've had Jorg Bergmeister spin the #80 Porsche into the gravel, Marc Rostan put the #29 Gulf Lola-Nissan in the wall, and Michel Frey visit the gravel in the #40 Race Performance ORECA-Judd.

1610 - The Pescarolo team said it is yet to make a decision on the future of the #16 Pescorolo. The car is sitting in the pit garage with no work taking place on it. The team told AUTOSPORT that it knows what the problem is but that it is struggling to fix it. Pescorolo is currently evaluating its strategy after also encountering problems with the Dome driven by Sebastian Bourdais.

1606 - Still less than a second covering the top two in the superb GTE Pro lead battle, as Mucke's Aston fends off Gavin's Corvette. The best of the pre-race favourite Ferraris is Beretta's Luxury car in third, 26s away.

1602 - A mere 23 hours to go now, and problems for our GTE Pro polesitter as the #59 Luxury Ferrari stops in the pitlane entry and has to be pushed down the road.

1553 - The Toyotas are lapping 1-2s off the Audi e-trons, and are 35s and 40s off the lead with nearly an hour gone.

Toyota's TS030 Hybrid project leader John Litjens, who began his racing career as a systems integration engineer on their mighty GT One Le Mans car in 1997, explained to AUTOSPORT's Stuart Codling that uncertainty about the hybrid rules forced his team to make compromises. While the finished car harvests energy and redeploys it through the rear wheels, a front-mounted hybrid system was also evaluated and the space for it remains in the monocoque.

"Certain things, we were not really sure how the regulations would evolve. When we were starting to think about the monocoque it was still not clear whether the boost would be 500 kilojoules or one megajoule, that was why we had a front and a rear motor designed on. We had to package that, so it was an extra challenge. When we had to make the call for the monocoque, we had to leave the space for the front motor. So I think there are a few compromises which for sure give us some opportunities with next year's car."

1545 - Not a great first hour for the Audi Ultras, as Duval brings the #3 back in again for a change of tyres just one lap after its first pitstop.

1541 - Tom Mallett brings news from Audi about the #4's problems - no real drama, just a precautionary check after balance problems. Rockenfeller continues in 23rd overall.

1538 - Strakka's HPD is six laps down after a pre-race gearbox problem, but the team is undaunted: "We lost six laps but the aim is the same. We want to be best after Audi and Toyota. We qualfied seventh and we can do that. It's a long race. We've had no problems before and we reckon we've fixed it."

1537 - Our man in the pits Tom Mallett reports from Pescarolo with news that the Dome has alternator and driveshaft problems. There's lots of work going on as Bourdais talks to journalists outside the car.

1535 - First routine Audi stop of the day, here come the two e-trons, as the #3 Ultra stays out. The #4 Ultra is now on the way back out after losing a lap.

1533 - First sign of trouble for Audi, as the #4 Ultra is being brought into the garage.

The DeltaWing made its first routine stop after eight laps© LAT

Toyota just pitted both its cars after nine laps, while the DeltaWing's stop was brought forward to clear some debris from the race's most intriguing vehicle.

1529 - The DeltaWing has just made a routine pitstop for fuel only after eight laps. And Pescarolo's not-so-great day hasn't got any better, because its Dome has come in and been wheeled into the garage for attention. Up to now, that car had been part of the best LMP dice on track, fighting for ninth with the JRM car and OAK.

1526 - Strakka has now joined the field, six laps down, as we watch Wurz's #7 Toyota skipping over a run-off area dodging a GTE Porsche.

1519 - Scary stuff from McNish as he slides the #2 Audi onto the grass at Tertre Rouge, but holds it and continues, 12s off the lead.

1514 - Some epic racing among the GTE cars, as Am class leaders Pilet and Simonsen hold off Pro men Cocker and Bergmeister in a dice that almost became four-abreast on the Mulsanne. It's close up front in GTE too, with Mucke leading for Aston Martin, but only just ahead of Gavin's Corvette.

1508 - Good news on the Brundle Watch front - the Greaves Zytek-Nissan may have tumbled down the timing screens but on the track all is well, the car just needed to reset its transponder to appear on the timing computer. It should appear in the correct position soon.

1503 - Lotterer completes lap one leading Duval by 1.2s, with reports from around the circuit that rain is falling. Looks like an early problem for our BrundleWatch subject, the Brundle/Brundle/Ordonez Zytek-Nissan, which has yet to come through as the Pescarolo joins and Strakka keeps working on its car.

15.00 - And they're off, with Audi quickly moving into 1-2-3 formation ahead of the Toyotas.

1454 - There have been last-minute dramas as the #16 Pescarolo and Strakka's HPD hit trouble. Strakka will start a lap down after a late oil leak, while Pescarolo has been working on an engine issue. It looked set to be withdrawn, but is now being wheeled out of the garage. We've been down to the pitlane to investigate, more to follow...

1452 - We've had the anthems and the ceremonies, now the cars have fired up and pulled off the grid for the formation lap.

1430 - Welcome back to our rolling news blog from the Circuit de la Sarthe, where we are now just 30 minutes away from the start of the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Despite the rather inclement weather the grandstands are packed, flags are flying and the fans are in full voice. As the excitement builds - helped in no small part by the grid entertainment - here's Audi's Tom Kristensen on what it takes to win the world's greatest endurance race.

"What you predict is one thing, the plan is one thing. But where you win or lose is how you optimise this race and by being adaptive in many ways. That is definitely the key," he says.

"We will see. It's different, even more so in different weather. At Spa we saw we were able to pull away when it was raining. It's just important to be positive and try to get a car that can quite easily adapt to different situations.

"The challenges are the temperature of the system, the weight in the car, but that's what we have. And we have the 3.3s boost that we are storing up. We know what we have so now we just have to go and deliver and find the sweet spot with the correct tyre and the correct circumstances."

Of course, it's not just finding that sweet spot that matters - it's maintaining it for the entire 24 hours. No small feat in itself, but with the morning delivering rain and the forecasts remaining unpredictable, it will get that much harder...

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news, action, and gossip from the world's greatest sportscar race.

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