Le Mans 24 Hours - Too close to call

A titanic battle is ready to be played out in the Le Mans 24 Hours which has all the ingredients of being remembered as a true classic and a once in a generation fight for supremacy.

Le Mans 24 Hours - Too close to call
#8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval, Oliver Jarvis
#9 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: René Rast, Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi
#7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Marcel Fässler, Andre Lotterer, Benoit Tréluyer
#18 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Romain Dumas, Neel Jani, Marc Lieb
#17 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley
#19 Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid: Nico Hulkenberg, Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber
#2 Toyota Racing Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Alexander Wurz, Stéphane Sarrazin, Mike Conway
#1 Toyota Racing Toyota TS040 Hybrid: Sébastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, Kazuki Nakajima
The 24 Hours of Le Mans trophy

On the face of it, the morning warm up is a meaningless exercise, but this year it swung a lamp over true race between the six Audi and Porsche race winning protagonists.

The session started in spectacular fashion with two of the Audi R18 e-tron quattros deliberately slipstreaming each other down the iconic Mulsanne Straight.

This must have been a specific instruction from the team to see how they react in the tow and what benefits there could be in working together to try and decrease the Mulsanne flavoured sector two area of the lap.

Battle on between the two German carmakers

Porsche, with its 8MJ energy-retrieval deployment has a significant advantage here. The No.19 Porsche set a 1m16.083s time in this sector compared to a best from the No.9 Audi of 1m16.650s.

Intriguingly however, Audi hold the advantage in sectors one and three where they had seven and four tenths of a second in hand over Porsche in the relatively more sinuous sections.

A key figure within Audi told Motorsport.com last night that should reliability allow, Audi could employ varying tactics to try and ‘mess with Porsches heads a bit.’

It was meant in the sense that Audi’s experience with playing the long game could unsettle their rivals when it comes to tyre management in particular.

Porsche hiding their race pace

What muddied the waters this morning though was that both the No.18 and No.19 Porsche 919 Hybrids aborted potentially quicker overall laps this morning.

In short, Porsche is keeping its powder dry and its overall race power a wondrous secret until this afternoon.

The speed trap figures this morning registered the best Audi, which also set the overall fastest speed, at 212mph. This was compared to 210mph for the best Porsche – the No.17 919 Hybrid.

Toyota banking on reliability

Toyota? Essentially the reigning WEC champions are looking for some big sized crumbs to be tossed from the top table.

If reliability and incidents come to haunt Audi and Porsche throughout the next 24 hours, expect Toyota’s lengthy work on reliability to pay off handsomely.

The scene is set then for perhaps the most eagerly awaited Le Mans 24 Hours in a generation. The atmosphere is already building and is set to reach fever pitch before the 15.00 local time start.

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