The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Hours 16 - 18

Nine hours left, Bentleys bustling along at the front, Champion still in touch. The top four were all lapping round about 3:40, so lap speeds won't decide this race.

Frederic Dor had an off in the light blue Luc Alphand 550, and this one is in the garage towards the end of the 16th hour (driveshaft). It's between the Enge and Gavin cars for GTS honours, but they're four laps apart - and the #88 is 16 laps ahead of the delayed (alternator) #53 Corvette.

07:05 – Marc Lieb hands over the GT leading #87 Orbit Porsche to Leo Hindery. As he rejoins Lucas Luhr pits to hand over the #chasing #93 car to Sascha Maassen. The battle enters yet another phase.

07:20 and the irresistible force of Sascha Maassen overwhelms the resistance of Leo Hindery, taking the lead back – AGAIN – for AJR and pulling clear of the Orbit car. AJR / Petersen and Orbit are soon split by a lap, with the #77 Taisan 911 another lap down, and four ahead of the steady Perspective car.

The tailenders are the delayed entries from WR (both), Spyker and NASAMAX.

The DBA is 28 laps behind the #29 Reynard in 675, with Shimoda losing more time at approx. 08.00 with a viit to the gravel at Mulsanne Corner.

Hour 17

The NASAMAX'S valliant effort comes to a halt at 08.15 with a smouldering engine bay at the First Mulsanne Chicane. See you in November, old bio-ethanol friend.

R&S too perhaps? That joined the green machine in retirement, the big V8 giving up the ghost. We'll remember that qualifying time.

08.30. Routine stop for Brabaham in Bentley #8. How can such an amazing design be so routine?

The #12 Panoz has had a transmission change and drops into the mid twenties.

08.40. Lammers of all people spins the #15 Dome into the gravel trap at Indianapolis. He had two laps on the #11 Panoz, which Gunnar Jeannette immediately uses to out brake himself at Arnage. Lammers's spin was caused by a left rear puncture (numero deux).

Bentleys (and Audis) don't seem to attract punctures - even though Audis did last year. Why is that?

The #80 Ferrari 550 crashed out after suffering a wheel bearing failure.

08.50 and Magnussen sets the #5's fastest lap of the race, a 3:37.335 - also the fastest Audi lap of the race.

Hour 18

The #72 Ferrari rejoins after a repair to the driveshaft and almost immediately locks up and goes straight on at Arnage. Luc Alphand pits again for both front tyres to be replaced.

09:05 JJ Lehto in the gravel at the First Chicane.

09:06 The #8 Bentley comes in for a very unscheduled stop. It seems to be a second replacement battery for the car - and as before the team weren't expecting it.

Magnussen keeps the pressure on by chasing Kristensen, until the latter pits.

AJR / Petersen 911 leads Orbit version by a lap.

Six and a half hours to go....will the Bentleys last? It looks like it. Will the Reynard make it a hat-trick? Will Ferrari win at Le Mans? The best battle is between the 911s - and between Gounon in the #13 Courage and the #11 Panoz..

No. 25 has been chain smoking all night long. Its habit became much worse this hour.

09.15 and the #50 Corvette is pulled into its garage - pressure right off the GTS leader: Veloqx-Prodrive has an eight lap lead and growing. It's a major transmission bearing failure. It took about 15 minutes to fix. It is truly now Ferrari’s race to lose. The no. 80’s hour went well.

The GT contest has stabilized slightly, with the no. 93 Porsche about two laps up on the other American based entry. The overall positions may not yet be set in stone, but the masons have their tools at hand.

A distinct pattern for much of the race has been that those cars that have run well all weekend, have continued to run well all weekend. While those in trouble have continued in trouble. The only major exception was the demise of the no. 10 Audi. The bad going bad was epitomized at the end of this hour when David Saelens had a big moment with the hapless no. 12 Panoz, at Indianapolis.

 

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