The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Hours 13 - 15

The order of the top ten / eleven continues to remain remarkably static. The Bentleys pound on, Champion still lead the chase - and the rest are seven laps or more behind.

675 is still led by #29 Reynard in 16th place - and the nearest rival is now the recovering DBA, in 31st place, 29th place.

At 04:05 Ollie Gavin blows away the cobwebs, posting the fastest lap of the race so far for his #50 Corvette still third in GTS a 3:59.872. He improves again next time around with a 3:59.566.

Collard is now aboard the GT leading #93 AJR Porsche and continues to pull away steadily from the Peter Baron pedalled #87 Orbit Porsche, a 16 second gap by 04:10.

The #83 Seikel Porsche, listed as missing in action some time ago, has now been posted as an official retirement.

04:20 - Drama as the #80 Ferrari, running second in GTS and 13th overall is off the road at the outside of Mulsanne Corner. Anthony Davidson is out of the car but lying on his back, helmet still on, some distance from the car.

There is heavy damage to the rear left hand corner of the car: Fiona Miller says that Davidson is shocked and bruised but otherwise OK.

The car is obviously out of the race on the spot.

Ollie Gavin, just out of the #50 Corvette now up to second in GTS, 13th overall, has seen the accident site and offers the thought that the accident looked like a substantial impact and hopes Davidson is OK. The F1 tester is stretchered to a waiting ambulance at 04:50

Meanwhile in the GT lead battle the AJR / Orbit battle seems to be going very much the way of Alex Job Racing / Petersen Motorsports, the lead now 79 seconds.

Spyker fans will be heartened to hear that the much delayed #85 car is still circulating, Whoops, typed too soon! Tom Coronel takes over and the car refuses to fire up, back into the garage for a further injection of Dutch courage.

The GTS leading #88 Ferrari 550 pits and the team take particular care to check the brakes, a very sensible precaution in light of the misfortune of the sister #80 car.

GTS
#88 186 laps
#50 183 laps
#72 181 laps
#53 179 laps

GT
#93 172 laps
#87 171 laps
#75 166 laps
#84 163 laps

Hour 14

Just into the 14th hour, Mark Blundell pits, wth a low voltage warning light flashing, and no radio in #8 Bentley. A new battery is needed. Herbert takes over, now two laps down on the #7, which has seemed a slightly better proposition all week.

Time in pits, first five:
#7 Bentley 17m04s
#8 Bentley 20m04s
#6 Audi 16m46s
#5 Audi 34m31s
#15 Dome 24m26s.

The Riley & Scott is stationary in the pits, with an apparent brake problem. It drops out of the top 11, the surviving Veloqx-Prodrive Ferrari taking over that position.

05.30 and the short night is almost over.

Just before 06.00, and the R&S returns to the race. Pirro sets the Champion car's best lap of the race, and subject to pit stops, the best placed R8 is on the same lap as the #8 Bentley.

Marc Lieb takes up the pursuit of the GT leading #93 Porsche, the gap now down to 44 seconds. The Racers Group Porsche continues its pursuit of the leading GT group, sixth in class and 15 laps down after their earlier woes.

In GTS its still quite static, Peter Kox doing his best to rouse the early morning spirits, posting the #88 Ferrari’s fastest lap so far on Lap 197, a 3:56.9.

Ron Fellows has the hammer down too into the 3:59s in the #50 Vette.

Back in GT, another delay for the AJR / Petersen car, a problem with the front splitter causes a 4 minute delay in the pits. Its enough for the Orbit car and Marc Lieb to take the lead once again now 1:45 up on the #93 car.

The Taisan Porsche has now dragged its way back up to fourth in GT.

Positions at Hour 14

Overall
#7 221 laps
#8 219 laps
#5 219 laps
#5 214 laps
#15 211 laps
#11 209 laps
#13 209 laps
#18 208 laps
#17 206 laps
(#88)
#12 200 laps
(#50)
#4 196 laps.

GTS
#88 202 laps
#50 198 laps
#72 196 laps
#53 194 laps

GT
#87 185 laps
#93 +1:45
#75 180 laps
#77 176 laps

In 675, the #29 Reynard is 16th on 190 laps, the DBA is 29th on 162 laps - and the two WRs have completed 130+ laps, but are in heat exchanger and head gasket trouble. Just after the hour, the #6 Audi is in its garage...while Herbert laps in 3:36.

It’s that wonderful moment in a 24-hour race. The sky is quite light (and rather cloudy), meals are being cooked and drowsy mechanics, journalists, and fans awaken. Then it hits everyone - sante merde, there are still 10 hours to go.

The big drama of the last hour was the slight Bentley hiccough. The battery was replaced in no. 8. Was it an isolated incident or the harbinger of something more ominous?

A lesser development has been the steady dropping down of the poorer of the Panozes, no. 12. It is a testament to the relatively inexperienced John Bosch that he is lapping quicker in the no. 15 Dome than the pursuing Olivier Beretta in the no. 11 Panoz. Beretta is perhaps one of the best-rounded sports car driver in the world. The three Courages are now running together in 8th through 10th, although the no. 17 Pescarolo entry is several laps down. The other two, representing different engines and entrants, are in one of the tighter contests.

In GTS, the Corvette has made no headway against the Ferrari. It is becoming more apparent that only a Veloqx-Prodrive collapse will help GM.

Far and away the closest fight is in GT. The Job car made a long stop and the Marc Lieb in the Orbit entry has taken the lead. While the two are very close, one of the stories in GT has been a rash of minor to major mechanical problems among the usually solid 996s. Partly because of this factor, no other Porsches remain in striking distance. As many predicted, the 360 Modena challenge in GT has evaporated. Indeed the highest placed non-Porsche is the very, very distant and troubled standard gearboxed XL Ferrari 550.

Hour 15

Pirro attempts to apply pressure on Herbert in second place - with a 3:39.5, the Champion car's best lap of the race. Herbert doesn't think much of that...as he sets his car's best of the race, a 3:35.6, less than six tenths slower than his qualifying time. Andrew Cotton spoke to Mark Blundell, who was surprised that the Audis hadn't performed more strongly. Hmm, the Audi men are doing their best.

So are the Courages and the #15 Dome, all four setting their best race laps either side of 07.00.

The #12 Panoz was delayed with front suspension bothers.

The #88 Prodrive Ferrari has moved up to tenth overall, as #4 and then #12 slipped out of the top ten.

06:15 The Spyker splutters into pitlane and straight into its garage

Marc Lieb is easing away from the AJR / Petersen 911 as the GT battle swings Orbit Racing’s way.

The GNM Saleen is closing in rapidly on the Larbre Viper but Chaves has to pit as he closes up on the bootlid of the #86 car. The Saleen rejoins but is soon back into the pitlane, straight into the garage, engine cover off.

Jerome Policand is pressing on in the third placed in GTS #72 Ferrari 550. He improves the best lap time for the car on three consecutive laps, all in the 3:59s.

 

Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.