Le Mans 24 Hours
Hours 4- 6
40 minutes: the Safety Cars (three) are out for the first time,
and there seems to be fluid on the track at the first right hand
kink between Mulsanne and Indianapolis.
The last 40
minutes have been more of the same: Bentleys quicker, stopping at
13 laps, Audis doing 15 laps stints. The significant change among
the top 900 cars is the #16 slipping down the order, reason unknown
at the moment - except that it is in its garage. Ah, it won't fire
The #7 managed
to make the break when its Safety Car pulled off, the #8 Bentley
still stuck behind its car for another minute or so.
Marco Werner was stuck behind the third Corvette, so the gaps between
the top three are now two minutes then one minute. A pitstop for
Mark Blundell in #8 Bentley put Werner less than five seconds behind
the Bentley just after the hour.
presses on in the #80 Ferrari posting the car’s fastest lap
of the race at 10 minutes past the hour. A long pitstop though at
19:15 drops the car behind the Alphand 550.
show #60 as travelling slowly – a surprise as there is no
#60 in the race!!
At 19:30 the
GTS leading #88 Ferrari is in 11th place overall.
is forced into the pit lane by a very pushy #16 RfH Dome –
he will not be a happy bunny!
the GT class leading #93 Alex Job Porsche, a long (4-5 minute) stop
to try to repair a malfunctioning gearshift, and 2002 GT champion
Kevin Buckler takes the class lead in the #81 Racers Group Porsche.
#93 drops behind the #77 Taisan 911 into third place but then Buckler
pits too, another long one (2 minutes plus) putting the Japanese
911 into the class lead at 19:22.
Further back Marc Lieb
is hunting down the #95 Ferrari, by far the fastest GT car at present
with a 4:13
By 19:30 Lieb is around 10 seconds behind Mowlem and closing fast.
The #77 Porsche
pits routinely but gives up the lead to the Racers Group 911, Lucas
Luhr in the Alex Job car is just 13 seconds behind despite a still
less than perfect gearshift - and all of a sudden we have a cracking
GT class race on our hands again.
The #91 TVR disappears
from the timing screens, official retirement after a valiant attempt
by Richard Stanton to get the car back to the pits.
That Alex Job
/ Petersen gearshift problem seems to have resurfaced, the car dropping
back again after a three minute stop, the problem could well have
been sorted ou this time though as Luhr gets his times back into
the 4:14s after the safety car is withdrawn.
at Four Hours
#7 62 laps
#6 61 laps
#15 60 laps
position overall 56 laps
#80 13th overall +3:06
#72 15th overall 55 laps
#53 17th overall + 1 min
overall 53 Laps
#93 22nd overall -1:36
#77 23rd overall -26 seconds
#95 27th overall 52 laps
Did you expect
any change in the 900 / GTP class? Smith and Blundell are at the
wheel of the Bentleys, which apart from the Brabham headrest coming
loose, have performed immaculately. So have the surviving Audis.
Seiji Ara took
over the Goh Audi at 20.40 for his first turn at the wheel, and
John Bosch did the same in the #15 RfH Dome. #5 has had its nose
changed. These five are dominating the top group. Janos will provide
an overall view at the end of this hourly report. The Audis, on
new rubber, Pirro having his first run in the Champion car, are
now both performing at more or less Bentley pace.
Pilbeam is stopped out on the track, near the end of the fifth hour.
on that retirement: “I’m just so upset for
the team. The reserve light came on and the team told me to pit
the next lap. But coming out of the Porsche Corners, a Panoz was
in front of me and also through the fast Esses.
trying to keep my momentum and attempted to pass him on the left
side but I was surprised by his acceleration and found myself baulked
as the Panoz was beside me and I couldn’t turn across to the
pit-lane which meant I had to start another lap.
it would be almost impossible to get around and the car started
‘coughing’. I had to park it and then I tried to get
it back to the pits using the starter but it was impossible. I’m
#50 Corvette has now found its way by the lead battle in GT into
the top 20 at 20:05 and just a minute or so behind the Konrad Saleen
, 6th in GTS. By the top of the hour the gap to the Saleen is down
to just 20 seconds.
A problem (unknown
at present) for the #72 Luc Alphand Ferrari allows the #53 Corvette
back up to third in class, 14th overall.
20:40 and Kelvin Burt in the #80 550 inherits the GTS lead as Jamie
Davies hits trouble in the #88 Ferrari, a top up of coolant apparently
required. A two minute pitstop and Davies returns to the fray 20
seconds behind his team mate. Freon, now behind the wheel of the
#53 Vette is closing in on the LMP900 Durango for 14th place overall
as he continues to pressurise the Prodrive duo ahead.
for the #93 AJR Porsche evidently was cured at the second time of
asking, Lucas Luhr now lapping very rapidly and closing the gap
to Timo Bernhard in the class leading Racers Group car 90 seconds
ahead at 20:15.
Marc Lieb is
still closing in on Mowlem, the Orbit car now fully back up to speed
and lapping at a similar pace to Luhr .
20:35 and it’s
the Racers Group turn for a problem, Timo Bernhard reporting a slipping
clutch. The team are opting for a change of clutch which will drop
the car out of the battle for the lead - for now.
Marc Lieb is
in a position to take full advantage, the young German having passed
Mowlem for fourth in class now grabs third as a result of the Racers
The JMB Ferrari
360 pits out of sequence for attention to a loose rear diffuser
allowing Mike Jordan in the #92 TVR to draw much closer, now just
12 seconds behind the Ferrari in a growing battle for 6th in class.
The Ferrari though has the legs on the TVR and the gap grows to
20 seconds by the top of the hour.
20:55 and the
Orbit car pits and goes into the garage, Mowlem will grab back the
fourth in class by the top of the hour. It’s a left front
radiator change for the #87 car (10-11 minutes).
at Five Hours
#8 -1 lap (will sort itself out when #7 pits)
#23 45th (Brian Willman is working on it, out on the track)
#80 12th overall 71 Laps
#88 13th overall -20 seconds
#53 15th overall - 1 Lap
#72 16th overall -1 Lap
#77 23rd overall -1:30
#95 25th overall -1 lap
#83 28th overall -2 laps
One of the typical
patterns of a long race is now apparent. The top ten (eleven, actually)
contains the principal class while the next class down occupies
the following spots. However, that is GTS, not LMP 675, as the small
sports-racers are no longer a factor.
has been that tire consumption has not been the problem that one
would anticipate given the high temperatures. This can be attributed
to a combination of good planning by most teams and tire manufacturers.
A notable exception has been the Yokohama teams.
is having a good run in the Panoz, making it towards the back of
the leading group of six cars. Really, the top nine are going well
and this includes the Bentleys, two Audis, the lead Dome, both Panoz
and the no. 18 Courage. The biggest under-achiever in the top class
has been the Dome-Mugen. The Durango has been the biggest plus and
the Nasamax and Norma entries have been non-factors. The Riley &
Scott is still recovering from damaging on course action.
The 675 class
is mostly ill; the Pilbeam is effectively out with non-stop gearbox
and oil leak problems, with the other JPX engined car having similar
problems. The usual litany of bodywork troubles has slowed the WRs
while bad electrics have doomed the DBA. The no. 29 Reynard-Lehman
continues with a clean run. The Intersport Lola is on its tail though.
Even a slightly
long stop by the leading no. 80 Ferrari has had little effect on
the GTS contest. The 550s’ slightly better fuel economy and
quicker straight line speed is making it difficult for the Corvettes
to move forward. Although the Alphand Ferrari has slipped to fourth
in class, 'it' should be commended for a fine run. One Saleen (Konrad)
and one Viper (Larbre) continue to mix it up with the leading GTS
cars and a podium spot for the old ones is no longer a remote possibility.
The laws of
probability are now working against the Racer’s Group as a
badly slipping clutch has effectively put them out of the running
for a repeat class victory. The Job Porsche continues after gear
linkge trouble, and leads, but apart from Taisan, the other 996s
have hit turbulence, leaving a happy but surprised Risi Ferrari
#95 knocking on the door of the Porscches.
It now appears
that among the cars still effectively running, only Nicolas Minassian
in the no. 18 Courage has yet to drive in anger.
The 675 Courage
is having a snapped timing chain changed, hence its huge delay.
Duncan dayton took the 675 class lead, when the del Bello Reynard
made a long stop.
continues to surprise us, in 14th place, behind the two Veloqx-Prodrive
Ferraris. At 21.50, ten minutes before the quarter-of-the-race mark,
Guy Smith starts a triple stint, on the same tyres.
dark now, it hasn't rained, and the top six doesn't look like changing
bar mishaps - at the moment. Full rundown to be posted as soon as
we have the ACO positions. Prototypes occupy the first 11 places,
and the first nine have got this far without significant problems.
Tenth and eleventh are the Riley & Scott and the brake-delayed
#17 Pescarolo Courage.
Spoke too soon,
the eighth placed #13 Courage Judd is on pitlane - having been pushed
back to its stall. But it fires up, and Cochet is on his way.
Lola is a lap ahead of the Reynard, which is two ahead of the DBA.
The WRs are two and three laps begind the Nielsen car.
brings the class leading #88 Ferrari in for a routine stop early
in the hour, and driver change (to Darren Turner) which hands the
lead back to the #80 550. Turner gets right down to business posting
the fastest GTS lap of the race so far for #80 (3:59.266) the gap
between the two Veloqx cars is 77 seconds until the #80 car pits
and Peter Kox takes over. He retains the class lead, Darren Turner
just 10 seconds behind in #80
finally takes the #50 Corvette into 5th place in GTO as the Konrad
Saleen makes a lengthy pit stop, slightly lengthier that is than
the longish stop that Corvette itself had just made!
back into the #72 Luc Alphand Ferrari and is immediately up to speed
and in pursuit of the #53 Corvette.
At the head
of the class the gap shrank to four seconds before Turner made his
scheduled stop. Turner struggled to get the V12 to fire but rejoined
after a few seconds delay with 10pm just five minutes away.
rapidly falling, it’s a very steamy evening indeed, the cooler
air of the late evening will be a blessed relief to the drivers.
The Orbit Porsche
rejoins after a 10 minute stop to replace the holed left hand radiator.
Leo Hindery rejoins in 32nd place seventh in class.
The Alex Job
Racing Porsche now leads the class again, the problems of its main
competitors more than cancelling out the delay for the gear linkage
in the JMB Ferrari takes fourth in class as David Shep makes a routine
stop in the Seikel Porsche.
The Spyker crawls
into pitlane after a very slow lap indeed (approximately 30 minutes).
Tom Coronel gets out and starts to push the car towards the line
beyond which his pitcrew can offer assistance. Very sadly for the
popular Dutch coupe, Coronel is told by the marshals that he is
not allowed to psh the car any further, even though he is within
sight of his crew.
The surviving #92 TVR is in for a lengthy stop, apparently to change
is storming on from way back in the #78 PK Sport Porsche, only Maassen
is quicker in the class as 10 pm and 25% distance looms.
The night has
yet to bring much needed coolness and the predicted showers have
stayed away, although there is a light cloud cover. The crowd as
largely gone away, but it was a perturbing fact that the afternoon
spectator count did not appear to be huge by usual Le Mans standards.