Race Weekend Central

The Critic’s Annex 86- Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts

Hello, race fans. Welcome back to the Critic’s Annex, the section of Thursday’s Newsletter where I take an additional look at motorsports-related programming. Even with the trio of races in Talladega last weekend, motorsports offerings on television were actually quite thin.

However, on Saturday afternoon while the Nationwide race was on ABC, SPEED quietly debuted Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts. It is the sequel to 2009’s Truth in 24, a look into Audi’s preparations for the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans with their R10 prototype. That year, Audi emerged victorious despite having a inferior car to Peuegot’s 908 HDi FAP. ESPN aired the special in a time buy situation on ESPN 2. For those of you who have not seen the documentary, it is available for download on iTunes right now. Its on my iPod Touch so I can watch it on the flight to Orlando from Albany on July 3 if I so choose.

Truth in 24 II goes back to the same well once again. This time, its 2011, and Audi is preparing their new challenger, the Audi R18, to do battle with the Peugeot 908 at Le Mans.

However, unlike the first Truth in 24, significantly less time is spent covering the car’s development. To me, that really took away from the documentary. As a result, the show is 30 minutes shorter than the first Truth in 24. If the R18 were a proven piece, I might be able to understand that strategy, but it wasn’t. Le Mans was only the second race for the R18 (the Spa 6 Hours, held in May, was the car’s first outing). I would have liked to see a fair amount of coverage on how the R18 came to be, and what went into aspects like the car’s crash testing. Anyone who checked out Le Mans last year (or, simply checked out a website like speedtv.com or jalopnik.com the weekend of the race) saw the kind of…abuse the R18’s were subjected to during the race.

The Peuegot 908’s were a little more race tested prior to Le Mans. Then again, their debut at Sebring didn’t go all that well either. They got trounced by a combination of the privateer ORECA team with a 2010-spec Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and Highcroft Racing with their gasoline-powered HPD ARX-01e (Note: Highcroft Racing has not raced since Sebring last year since they are currently developing the Delta Wing for Le Mans next month). They were also given a run for their money by Audi with their obsolete “R15++” (Seriously, that is what they called it).

The beginning of the program was spent more or less recapping some of Audi’s previous adventures at Le Mans, including the 2008 victory covered in the first Truth in 24. However, in 2009, Audi’s team was beaten for the first time since 1999 (yes, Bentley won in 2003 with their Speed 8, but that was an Audi factory effort) by Peuegot. After a return to victory in 2010 in a still-inferior R15 after the Peugeots all broke, the company set out to build a brand new, closed-cockpit challenger.

The three driver pairings and their engineers were introduced to the audience (No. 1- Timo Bernhard, Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Dumas, Race Engineer: Kyle Wilson-Clarke, No. 2- Benoit Treluyer, Andre Lotterer and Marcel Fässler, Race Engineer: Leena Gade, No. 3- Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, Race Engineer: Howden “H” Haynes). However, either the documentary switched the cars for Wilson-Clarke and Haynes, or John Hindhaugh screwed it up. One of the two. Regardless, it caused a little confusion.

There was a brief recap of practice and qualifying, where two of the three Audis crashed. One ran afoul of a GT car in what was claimed to be the Arnage corner (slowest on the track), while Tom Kristensen spun the No. 3 into the tires at Tertre Rouge, the corner that leads onto the Mulsanne Straight. The wrecks put the team behind, but they were still able to outqualify the Peugeots, something that hadn’t been done in years.

The race was a battle for the ages. Audi set a blistering pace over the 24 hours, desperate to make up nearly two minutes on the Peugeots due to a pit strategy that would require the cars to make roughly three extra pit stops over the 24 hour distance. For car No. 3, the race ended right at the end of the first hour when Allan McNish had contact with the No. 58 Luxury Racing Ferrari while passing the No. 1 Audi, sliding through the sand trap and going into the barriers. This sent debris flying down on a group of photographers and other credentialed people.

McNish recapped what he saw during the wreck, and his emotions afterwards. He got out of the car unscathed, but the car was a complete write-off. When Rockenfeller had his huge crash (caused in part by the slower Ferrari No. 71 driven by Robert Kauffmann) on the run to Indianapolis, they did the same thing. The only difference is that there wasn’t as much footage of the crash since it occurred after 10:30pm and it was dark outside. When its dark outside at Le Mans, the French camera operators go back to their hotel rooms for the night, leaving only a few cameras manned. Since I watched the race live last year, I saw the coverage of the wreck and the fear of what was going on at the time was palpable.

As the race continued on, the focus was more on the battle between Peuegot and Audi, and how Peugeot’s slower cars were effectively running blocker. Such a strategy would get Peugeot’s cars sent to the penalty box in almost every series on earth, but they were not penalized for their actions, which Hindhaugh declared to be way over the line.

Ultimately, a decision to quintuple-stint drivers and tires (five tanks of fuel, roughly 55 laps or four hours) helped preserve a 13.8 second victory over the No. 9 Peuegot. After the race, there was some coverage of the podium ceremony and general wrap-up of the event.

I simply did not enjoy the sequel as much as I did the original. Its as if they assumed that if you’re watching this, then you watched the first one. I don’t think documentaries like Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts are supposed to work that way. The setup for this was a lot more like Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters. After reading that last sentence, you’re probably wondering Why I would compare a racing documentary to a low-budget movie based on an Adult Swim cartoon? Because both films assumed that the viewer had a significant amount of previous knowledge of the subject matter. The Aqua Teen movie expects viewers to know who Dr. Weird and the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future are. You probably wouldn’t have a clue if you never saw the show. You’d look at the “movie etiquette piece prior to the film”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo9v_GIuDBk (contains profanity and insane stuff, viewer discretion advised) and wonder just what the heck you were getting into.

Having said all that, I still enjoyed the documentary. Its just not as good as the first one. I’d definitely recommend viewing the first one prior to watching the sequel.

Also, don’t expect a Truth in 24 about this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, scheduled for June 16-17 (Michigan weekend). Peuegot’s surprising pullout earlier this year and Toyota debuting a new hybrid prototype at Le Mans has basically given Audi the race on a platter with French fried potatoes. Even then, Audi has developed an improved car called the R18 Ultra and a new hybrid version called the R18 E-Tron Quattro (the car has electric motors attached to the front wheels, creating a quasi-four wheel drive setup). In other words, if one of Audi’s four entries doesn’t win Le Mans this year, it will be a massive upset.

Thank you for checking out this look at Truth in 24 II: Every Second Counts. Check out the Annex next week for another look at additional motorsports-related programming. Until then, enjoy this weekend’s racing in Darlington, Salinas, CA (Laguna Seca), Millville, NJ and Barcelona.

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