71st Le Mans – So How Did The #7 Bentley Win It?
A Clear Strategy

Paul Truswell’s table, posted here on Tuesday June 24, has certainly generated some interest. There are a number of points that come out of a close study of the stints and pit stops completed by Capello, Kristensen and Smith.

The sequence of driving went like this:
Capello – double stint
Kristensen – triple
Smith – triple
Capello – triple
Kristensen – double
Smith – triple
Capello – quadruple
Kristensen – quadruple
Capello – double
Smith – triple.

Notice that the driving order changed late on, Dindo Capello completing a double stint at 13.56, which allowed Guy Smith to finish the race – with a 12 lapper, an eight lapper and another 12.

Excluding those three, odd-length Smith stints, and Capello’s opening race 12 lapper, the drivers completed 25 stints: of these 19 were of 13 laps, four were of 14 laps and two were 15 lappers (when the safety car was out and consumption therefore less).

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Paul Truswell has an interesting theory on the validity of squeezing an extra lap per stint:

“I am developing an opinion that "going the extra lap" isn't really all it's cracked up to be anyway. The logic goes like this: Suppose you can run an extra lap (15 instead of 14). Then after 14 stints, you'll require one less stop. Each stint is about 45 mins, so 14 stints is 10.5 hours. So after 10.5 hours you can save about minute. Put Kristensen in the car and you save that anyway.

”Look at it another way: You're going to run 210 laps. If you can run 15 laps on a tank you'll need to make 13 stops (and come in on lap 210. If you can only run 14 laps on a tank, you'll need to make 14 stops - only one more (and come in on lap 210). Now any first class driver worth his salt should be worth say half a second per lap, shouldn't he? Over 210 laps, that's a minute and three-quarters. Which is time for two pit stops.”

Thank you Paul. Which brings us neatly to those 13 laps stints. We highlighted the staggering consistency of Kristensen and Capello in the table. Capello for example completed consecutive stints lasting 47 mins 48 secs, 47:47 and 47:47 – and then the fourth of the quadruple was 48:09. Kristensen was just about as consistent, Guy Smith a little less so, but he did admit to being less ruthless in traffic.

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And then there were the pit stops. Time after time the #7 stopped for 51, 52 or 53 seconds – just for fuel of course. #8 matched those times of course, but whereas #7 didn’t have a stop longer than one minute 28 seconds (it didn’t actually have one single problem, in effect, and therefore had no unscheduled stops), #8 had three stops with problems: the loose headrest and two battery changes.

With the drivers managing to make the Michelins last so long, there were remarkably few stops involving tyre changes, all of which coincided with driver changes: so Bentley managed to turn the so-called problem of slow driver changes in the coupes into something that wasn’t a problem at all. Very clever.

28 minutes 44 seconds. That is a record, isn’t it? Didn’t the Joest Audis get below 30 minutes?

So, although we began Le Mans week wondering about issues such as Bentley reliability, perhaps also thinking that visibility out of the coupes had been an issue at Sebring and had caused one or two contacts there – less likely to be a Le Mans problem of course, because there are so few corners in such a long lap, although there was a contact with a Porsche in Qualifying – by the mid-point of the race, it was already a crushing performance. The Audis, and everyone else just could not live with lap times of 3:37 or so – or looked at another way, those 47 minute 47 second stints meant average lap times of 3:40.5, including entering and leaving the pit-lane.

To Tom Kristensen, Rinaldo Capello, Guy Smith and all the technical and managerial staff behind the Bentley operation goes the award for the most complete, the most nearly perfect Le Mans performance ever.

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