The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Hours 10 - 12

"The motor's gone." That concluded Intersport's race, some time after midnight.

The leading #7 Bentley stopped at 01.15 and had its engine cover removed, but it was a very quick inspection, then straight back into the race. Kristensen led Brabham by half a minute, the pair of them a lap ahead of JJ for Champion, another lap ahead of the Goh Audi.

01.40 and the Goh Audi is rotated into its garage: this is the first real drama for the four surviving VAG cars. Jan Lammers' Dome is four laps behind in fifth place.

The #31 675 Courage is in bits again....

Werner rejoins the race, having lost seven minutes. Lammers' Dome is two laps behind - and two ahead of the #11 Panoz. Magnussen had a spin at the Ford Chicane, and damaged the front suspension.

Enge profits from Jim Matthew’s (previous hour) misfortune, the GTS leader taking 11th place from the accident damaged Riley and Scott. Enge is pressing on with laps into the 3:58s.

Team Corvette confirm that the problem for the #53 car was actually the pulley that holds on the alternator belt.

Marc Lieb has now caught and passed the Seikel Porsche and the JMB Ferrari, the 360 having had a minor off with de Simone at the wheel. The Orbit car is now back up to fourth before it has to stop for a flapping front fender (bumper to those more attuned with the Queen’s English). Lieb rejoins back in sixth in GT – déjà vu!

Drama as the leading Job / Petersen GT car pits with a water leak. Ironically the radiator has ingested the protective grille fitted to protect the component from flying stones. It’s a long stop and Maassen rejoins the fray in fifth place in class, four laps behind the now class leading Taisan 911. Typically he is immediately in hot pursuit, a string of very quick laps chipping away at the advantage of the Seikel Porsche ahead.

David Warnock pits with front end damage in the PK Porsche after a 10 minute crawl back round to the pits - after a r/front puncture.

Lieb’s pace has again taken him by the Seikel Porsche, this coupled with the problems for the #83 911 and #70 JMB Ferrari have put Orbit back up into third place in class again. By the top of the hour Maassen is in fourth, the race is truly on again!

Positions at Hour 10
#7 158 laps
#8 -2m
#6 157
#5 154
#15 151
#11 149
#13 -16s
#18 -3m25
#12 148
#17 146
#4 145

675 is now heading the way of the Reynard again, with no Intersport Lola and Nielsen's DBS stationary for a long while. Is it out? No, a long stop for...? The closest challenger to the Reynard is....the #24 WR, a repeat of last year?

GTS
#88 144 laps
#80 143 laps
#72 141 laps
#50 140 laps

GT
#77 134 laps
#95 132 laps
#87 131 laps
#83 +1:4
5

Hour 11

The gaps in the GTP / 900 class are settling down at last: #7 Bentley leads by a lap from #8, which has a lap on Champion's R8, which is three ahead of Goh's Audi, three more ahead of Lammers' Dome, one ahead of the #11 Panoz, one more ahead of the #13 Courage...and so it continues.....Pescarolo #18, Panoz #12, Pescarolo #17, and the R&S is 11th.

Maury-Laribiere spins the #29 Reynard at Dunlop, loses a couple of minutes, but it doesn't seem to matter, as the #24 WR is ten laps back. The DBA had a failure of the front floor, but has had a long repair....leaving the #25 WR in third, but it's smoking.

The top positions remain static, Tommy Erdos though is still making progress, 22nd overall in the #64 Saleen 7th in GTS.

A spin for one of the Prodrive Ferraris (#88?) at Mulsanne Corner – confirmed it must have been #88 as #80 is stationary in the pits and being caught for second in class by the #72 Luc Alphand 550.

But the #72 car hits trouble too and the #50 Corvette grabs third in GTS at 02:55.

The class leading #77 Taisan Advan 911 pits at 01:05 and is pulled back into the garage, possibly for the replacement of the driver's door.

Work is progressing apace on the PK Sport Porsche front end reconstruction: it finally leaves at 01:13 after a delay of at least half an hour.

Johnny Mowlem, Ferrari, Risi Competizione and ACEMCO take the lead in GT as the Taisan 911 remains pit-bound. Maassen continues to duke it out with Lieb, the AJR ace now into the 4:09s This looks the best battle anywhere on the circuit at the moment.

The Seikel Porsche, until now a model of reliability (in contrast to every other Porsche runner this year), has stopped out on the circuit.

Maassen takes advantage of a routine Orbit pitstop to grab second place for AJR. Mowlem pits and ‘Super Sascha’ is back into the GT lead, with Peter Baron in the Orbit car now in second slot.

Johnny Mowlem will not be a happy bunny, no sooner had the #95 Ferrari taken the class lead than the engine self destructed, along Mulsanne – the race swings back in Porsche’s direction. Team Owner Jeff Giangrande: "This was my first Le Mans, and I am delighted to have been part of this historic event. Our car was very competitive in the hands of some fine drivers and we can take heart from our performance this weekend."

Now its Maassen’s turn to have problems, it’s the radiator again, same side as last time! Collard gets aboard when the car returns to the fray and now Lieb is aboard the class leading Orbit car – Here we go again!! AJR looking to close a 90 second gap.

GTS
#88 158 laps
#80 157 laps
#50 154 laps
#72 +2:02

GT
#87 144 laps
#93 +1:18
#77 142 laps
#75 141 laps

Hour 12

At 03.30, the Goh Audi made its second stop for repairs - and after one lap out circulating, it was back in for another stop, again four to five minutes. Wallace in the #15 Dome has cut the margin from four laps to one.

39 cars still running approaching half way - and the Bentleys and....the Panoz are the ones in the least bother. The JML Panoz team is having a race to inspire John McLoughlin. They're sixth and ninth.

The bio-ethanol Reynard has covered 123 laps, but is stuck in its garage with the rear end in pieces to repair the diff.

It's much the same among the top 11, but Jean-Marc Gounon sets #13's best lap of the race so far, a 3:47.

The Durango slips out of the top 20 after a remarkable (nearly 12 hour) run for the Italian chassis.

Either the Reynard will win 675, or no one will. That class is that clear cut. The WR and DBA are so far back that if the Reynard fails, victory by the others would be silly.

Amazingly, the top nine six hours ago are in exactly the same positions at half way. The top 13 cars then are the top 13 now - the only change is #4 and #17 exchanging places. Static or what? That's not altogether fair: positions have changed, but they've reverted back to the six hour order.

Frederic Dor, now behind the wheel of the #72 Ferrari loses ground to Ollie Gavin’s Corvette. The #50 'Vette establishes itself in third place. It was more or less at this point last year that the lone Prodrive 550 expired...

Maassen is now hacking great lumps of time out of Peter Baron’s advantage, 36 seconds in arrears at 03:20, down to 15 seconds at 03:30, 5 seconds at 03:35 and a 13 second advantage at 03:39!

Gavin is slowly, steadily chipping away at the advantage of Turner ahead of him at 2-4 seconds per lap. There is still a two lap deficit to overcome however. Pressure, even from two laps back, may tell...or may not.

The driver to watch in GT just now is Jorg Bermeister - the latest comeback kid, this time for The Racers Group, back in 30th place overall, sixth in class.

All of a sudden it seems, Perspective pop up in third place in GT, part of a Porsche freight train which covers the first eight positions in class.

 

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