The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Hours 22 - 24

Post Safety Car, Papis caught Gregoire in the #13 Courage and powered past on the exit of Tertre Rouge, heading down the Mulsanne.

John Bosch pitted and handed over to Lammers, and at 13.30, the Dutchman is 3 mins. 02 secs. behind Gregoire - the latter also having just pitted. With Papis taking over under the SC, the schedules for all three ae not the same.

Further down the list, Felipe Ortiz is catching Didier Andre in the 675 leading Reynard - for 14th.

GTS is Enge - 17 laps - Collins - 1 second - Fellows.

13:40 and the gap Gregoire-Lammers is now 2 mins 42 secs.

Stefan Johanssen meanwhile is seeing whether exerting a little pressure on the Bentley ahead of him has any effect - He posts two consecutive laps in the 3:39s, both of which better the previous best mark for his #6 Audi. The only discernible effect is a mild upping of the pace from Herbert to keep a respectful distance between VAGs premium branded sports prototype and that of their more everyday marque.

Two hours to go and Lammers is still on it - just over two minutes now the gap to Gregoire. Papis has turned up the wick now too, aware perhaps that a fifth place that would match Panoz's best ever finish here is under threat.

There is another battle in the offing now - third place in GT is up for grabs, with the Taisan Porsche having inherited the place from the Perspective Porsche.

The #13 Courage pits, Gregoire out and Gounon in. The gap to Papis grows to over two minutes whilst the deficit for Lammers to attack is now just 80 seconds at 14:15. Papis hands to Jeannette. This could all come down to timing of pit stops.

Bentley #8 has stopped for Herbert to hand over to David Brabham.

The first flying laps in the newly joined Lammers / Gounon match-up see the gap fall by five seconds. Lammers will definitely - RfH tells us - stay in the #15 to the end.

One of the other Courages has been hit by a flash fire in the pits. Not sure if it will continue - it looks as though it will. The Corvettes continue running in formation. It will be a long 90 minutes for the team.

The issue is heat. Dindo Capello is sitting in the garage area with a wet towel over his head.

Can we start rounding up this historic event? Historic? Yes, of course it is....with Bentley about to take a 1 - 2. And Audi a 3 - 4. It's been a merciless demonstration of...well, Bentley might / badge engineering. Rather too reminiscent of the last three years for some, but proof that if a company with these skills and resources available to it chooses to do something, it will.

Panoz, Courage and Lammers - each deserves to finish fifth, and Engine Developments has two chances to take the best non-manufacturer engine prize. All four Judds that started look as though they will finish.

14.42: Champion are rocking their R8, and perhaps adding a slave battery to check that their car will fire up.

14.44, Lammers is 1m53 behind Jeannette, 1m03 behind Gounon, but laps five and a half seconds faster than either Gounon or Jeannette. Interesting.

GTS is a Veloqx-Prodrive affair. "You'll have to be good to beat us," said Corvette Racing. And the Veloqx Prodrive combination was.

Lammers is lapping in 3:41s - this is great racing. It's lifting the whole event, we feel.

Erdos in the GNM Saleen stops beside the track: this could be very harsh.

GT. David Shep couldn't believe the fact that the Seikel Porsche was second in class last night - and then he couldn't believe the fact that the engine failed soon afterwards. GT was a war of attrition, and the toughest guys came through in the end. Well done Alex Job Racing / Petersen Motorsport, and all the many associated sponsors. But did Porsche themselves precipitate the apparent unreliability in some way, by granting each team a revised flat-six, on Friday? Lighter, more powerful?

Is the 911 GT3-RS the second best endurance racer, we asked Alex Job on Thursday morning. "It's a dead heat - the Audi has been incredibly reliable, but to take a road car and put it through the stresses we put them through..."

Gounon pits at 14.50, then Lammers straight afterwards...can they make it to 4 pm, with the slower pace that normally occurs at the end? But how can they go slowly, when they're racing? What about the safety of the marshals who narrow the track so drastically?

It's going to be an unusual last hour, we hope.

Hour 24

Gunnar Jeannette pits for definitely (?) the last time at 15.08, a quick refuel and check under the hood and he's away.

The Prodrive 550 pits, and is pushed into the garage - what for, a good clean? No, a thorough check over.

Not a quick enough check at Panoz....Gounon passes pit exit as Jeannette appears, and the Frenchman leads Gunnar by fractions next time through. Jeannette looks hard into the First Chicane, and passes at the second.

Gommendy has a monster spin and crash at Indainapolis...and continues!! At least to the pits, where he is distraught at what he has done.

Gunnar leads Jean-Marc by 0.324 past the finish line at 15.40...this is going to run and run.....for 40 minutes anyway. Lammers is 43 seconds behind the scrapping pair.

35 mins to go and GJ and J-MG are nose to tail. Lammers may not be catching quickly enough - or he might (35 secs now). Gounon sets #13's best lap of the race!

Rick Wilson tells us that Shimoda isn't the youngest ever finisher - Gunnar Jeannette is! Gounon locks up into the Esses.....Jeannette uses a Porsche to buy some breathing space. Gounon - big slide at the second Mulsanne Chicane.

25 mins to go: a second between them at Indianapolis, Lammers 28 secs behind. Do Gounon and Lammers have enough fuel?

Gounon doesn't. He pits at 15.40. The Panoz was the last to stop of the three.

Lammers is 23 seconds behind the Panoz, Gounon another 20 seconds back. Can Lammers make it home on his fuel, and catch - and pass - Jeannette?

The Panoz pits - and the Dome. Jeannette appears in the lead! It's back to where we were - Gounon on his tail. Lammers is 23 seconds behind. 16 mins left.

13 mins as they cross start-finish. Slow cars ahead. Jeannette uses them to pull out a few lengths - Gounon better on the brakes. More traffic on the way to Mulsanne Corner.

Big twitch for Gounon out of Indianapolis. Lammmers 18 seconds behind.

10 mins left . 0.464 between them as they cross the line. Gounon 3:45.608 - his car's best lap of the race. Lammers 3:44.793. Jeannette 3:44.408. Three laps to go. up? Five seconds back all of a sudden.

#7 crosses the line with 3 mins 45 s left. One lap for Guy Smith - to seal four in a row, five in all, for Tom K. First one for Dindo and Guy.

Lammers passes Gounon! Somewhere. Were Gounon's tyres knackered? Well done Gunnar Jeannette, beating those two old pros. Well done Panoz - well done John McLoughlin.

One of the Pescarolo Courages self-ignites on the start-finish line.

What an end to a motor race.

PS. The winning Bentley spent 28 mins and 25 s in the pits. Is that a record? Someone will know...

Gunnar Jeannette: "It was a great dice at the end. I tried not to overcook it under braking, into the corners. His car is far better than the Panoz under brakes and in corners. There were a couple of times when I looked in my mirrors and saw him locking up and thought...****" On Gunnar's move to put the Taisan Porsche between them...."I tried everything. The man is very hard to race against. The race itself was fantastic and the crew did an awesome job.

"It was always the plan that I would finish. I told them at the beginning that I would do it. When I realised what it meant, OK a small part of me was nervous but a big part of me wanted to do it."

Jean-Marc Gounon: "I had no clutch at all at the end. I had to back off. I wanted to keep it clean. The Panoz gave me a great race."

When these two got out of their cars, there were big hugs all round - and Jan Lammers congratulated Gunnar Jeannette too - as did the Champion Audi guys. "Yup, I'll take a seat off you any time."

Jan Lammers: "Fifth was our place, and we would have had it without two punctures and the problem with the battery. I know Jean-Marc well, and he's the toughest guy to drive against in that situation. He couldn't do more than 43s or 44s at the end and on a clear lap I'm totally confident we could have done a 39.The car's handling was fantastic for the whole race."

Andy Wallace: "Well we needed another lap didn't we? I really thought one or two of the cars in front would have had their own problems. The tyres on our car hadn't been changed for three hours. What a fantastic effort from such a small team going head head with factory teams and factory budgets."

Tristan Gommendy was very upset.....the #16 Dome took a very hard hit...

The top three in each class aren't necessarily invited onto the podium, which seems harsh. Bentley - two different spec. cars and different engines? - comes good third time round. Veloqx-Prodrive deserved their GTS success, the Reynard too in 675, while GT was eventually a fine scrap between AJR-Petersen and Orbit. Perspective deserved third, but perhaps others did too. A memorable event in so many ways.


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