Petrol v diesel: what can we expect at Le Mans?

Prodrive boss David Richards recently spoke out about the inequalities between the diesels and petrol-powered cars at Le Mans, claiming the disparity effectively puts his Aston Martin team firmly among the 'best of the rest'.

The issue has been one that the Le Mans organisers, the ACO, have tried to address each year and once again the diesels of Audi and Peugeot have had their power reduced in an effort to give the petrol cars greater competitiveness.

But is it really just a question of reigning in the diesels or is there a greater debate to be had?

Allan McNish believes it's more to do with the private teams taking on the manufacturers and the different approaches to the race that each have.

"You can do something about performance balance between diesel to petrol but you can't balance properly between the works and private teams," the Audi driver insists.

"Manufacturers go to Le Mans over a long period of time to prove their technology. Yes, we have to have a competitive race but it's a hard thing to balance every variable between all the teams."

McNish believes the gap between Peugeot and Audi is 'paper thin' this year and outing so far in the Le Mans Series have shown how much ground the Audi R15-Plus TDI has made up since 2009. So, what of the rest of LMP1?

"Aston Martin are weaker," McNish adds, "I expect them to be quick in qualifying but not in the race. The gap between us and them has increased this year."

McNish pinpoints Oreca as a real threat to the two factory diesel outifts. The French team is running a Peugeot 908 HDi FAP in 2010 specification and has a strong driver line-up of Nicolas Lapierrre, Oliier Panis and Loic Duval and McNish is full of praise for them, describing their showing in Spa recently as 'outstanding'.

"The Rebellion boys will be quick, those Judd engines are quite reliable, Highcroft will LMP2 while it's open warfare for the GT's this year!"

And what of the Mansell family entry in LMP1 with father Nigel leading his sons, Leo and Greg?

"It will be a big development for the boys, but I can't see Nigel risking it. Whatever you've done before, Le Mans is still a quick place."

Petrol v diesel or privateers v manufacturers, Le Mans 2010 is shaping up to be a classic.

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