H8: Peugeot #9 extends its lead
The #9 Peugeot continued to lead the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours as the race reached one-third distance, and indeed had stretched its lead as the #1 Audi has an extended pit stop just before the turn of the eighth hour.
Marc Gene enjoyed a lap advantage over teammate Sebastian Bourdais, whose #8 Peugeot recovered to second after its earlier problems.
The French Formula 1 driver moved up to second as Tom Kristensen was rolled into the garage for what appeared to be a routine clearing out of the R15 TDI's air ducts 10 minutes before the end of the hour. The Audi lost two laps in the process and is now third.
Bourdais was, in fact, consistently the fastest man on the track during the hour, regularly lapping three seconds faster than the rest of the field in a mammoth multiple stint. Jean-Christophe Boullion has recovered the Pescarolo Peugeot to fourth ahead of the Lola Aston Martin of Stefan Mucke.
Charles Zwolsman is now sixth in the first of Kolles Audi R10s, an excellent effort given that the squad is down to two drivers following Narain Karthikeyan's fall off the pit wall.
The reason for the privateer Audi's rise was misfortune that befell the #008 Aston Martin, which endured an extended pit stop that cost it five laps and dropped it to 12th.
"Darren Turner touched another car," explained team principal David Richards. "That broke a wheel and we had either steering rack or wheel bearing damage, we are not really sure. There is still a long way to go though."
Casper Elgaard continued to lead LMP2 for Essex Porsche though only just, as its lead over the similar RS Spyder of Team Goh was just five seconds.
Johnny O'Connell has a 2m20s lead over Corvette teammate Olivier Beretta in the GT1 class.
In GT2, Jaime Melo enjoyed a similar margin of comfort over Tim Sugden as Ferrari continues to control the class lead. Patrick Pilet is third in the Imsa Porsche.