Le Mans: The race is on

David Hobbs

Partisanship is a strong force at Le Mans and with just one hour gone there has already been plenty of opportunity for the fans to cheer or groan - and the teams as well.

Once Ferrari boss Luca de Montezemolo had waved the flag to get the race started, the Peugeot factory trio led by Franck Montagny got the local and vocal support on their feet - if they weren't already - as they swept past the lead Audi of Allan McNish to establish a French 1-2-3 within the opening two laps.

Audi's problems worsened a lap later when Alexandre Premat hit the barrier after making an error at Indianapolis in the #3 car. Damage was minor though and he returned to the track soon after nursing the car back to the pits.

But it was Peugeot who suffered the greatest embarrassment when Pedro Lamy was struck by the Pescaolo-run Peugeot of Jean-Christophe Boullion during the first round of pitstops. If Premat's error had drawn a load cheer from the crowd, the debacle in the pitlane was met with a disbelieving silence.

Lamy's frustration endured a full long lap though as his rear left tyre began smoking before he reached the Dunlop Bridge and was shredding the bodywork by the time he reached the Mulsanne Straight. The drama has well and truly begun.