72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Hours 4, 5 & 6
The fourth hour begins with Pierre Kaffer about to set off in the heavily rebuilt 8 Audi. This car is approx. 19 laps down on the Davies / Herbert / Smith race leader.

Cars to have been significantly delayed include:

25 RML Lola - 6 laps down
17 Pescarolo Courage ditto
35 Epsilon Courage ditto
63 Corvette 6 laps down on the 64 car
22 Zytek 10 laps down
14 Nasamax 20 laps down
27 Intersport 32 laps down.

Kaffer pits after an 'out' lap, and is straight back into the garage. The Panoz has spun off at the Ford Chicane.

Neil Cunningham - “The Morgan - in 40th place - will run at this pace all day, the engine is really good.” Sadly as Neil said it Adam Sharpe brought the car back in for a further engine check - but it was back out soon.

Martyn Pass passes on the message that Allan McNish has been taken to hospital for a precautionary check. It seems that the Scot my have been momentarily knocked unconscious in the earlier accident and, whilst he had got out of the car at the garage seemingly without problems, then felt unwell and laid down behind the pit garage. Audi doctors checked him over immediately and discovered nothing seriously awry.

Justin Wilson explains that the 16 Dome has been called back in by race officials, who have insisted that the gear cluster changed during their earlier problem is re-installed. Their insistance being based on the fact that that this is not permissible... everyone else seems mystified by this interpretation.

The Panoz spins again, at Arnage.

Just before 19.30, the Advan Dome is running rather slowly on the track, but a worse fate befalls the 16 Dome: it has apparently been disqualified for having its gearbox internals changed.

The Advan car is also in transmission trouble: careful.... allegedly the Xtrac technicians all have ACO passes in the name of Melanie.... a slight error from the ACO...

Paul Slinger’s Pit Lane Update
Intersport 27 Lola B160 Judd has been limping back from the scene of its accident . "He was struggling with an oversteery car," said Intersport’s Phil Bourne "and had quite a big one but he is trying to limp it back. The problem now is that because he is only doing 5mph the car is overheating and now (7pm) he is stopped at Porsche Curves trying to let it cool a bit."

Lawrence Tomlinson had just completed a stint he wasn’t expecting to have: “We are very lucky to be out there still – Nigel did an amazing job to get the car home with the ECU problem. It is going fine now but there is an issue with the diff. temperature which might come back and bite us in the arse later on.”

Nasamax’s Roland Kinch reported that the latest effort to cure the misfire was an entire wiring loom change, but it doesn’t appear to have cured the problem.

Taurus has a “gearbox or clutch problem" according to Calum Lockie, “and we are going to have look after the transmission like crazy if we are going to finish the race. We just need to get this fixed then cruise round in 4:30s if we are going to make it to the end. Still three hours is good going. The car is testing me – it has about 180kg more in the rear to anything else so as soon as you get any lateral steer, it’s gone. And that’s happened to me already.”

Kaffer is lapping in 3:41s in the repaired 8 Audi. "Unbelievable." McNish didn't go to hospital: he's been taken to the circuit medical centre, where he will have to stay for four hours. He appears to have suffered concussion, but is absolutely coherent now. Not only did he hit the barrier, he was also hit by Lehto's Audi.

Marc Lieb is now in the BAM! RSR, two laps down after Leo Hindery's off, and eighth in class. Lieb pitted with a vibration, but new tyres fixed that. Maassen has set a 4:09.494, fastest lap in GT, and the Petersen car is typically two seconds a lap faster than the second placed Freisinger RSR.

At 19.45, Enge sets the best lap in GTS, a 3:53.327: he's 17 seconds behind Magnussen who leads the class... in seventh place overall with all the LMP1 mayhem going on.

So approaching 20.00, the top six, largely untroubled LMPs are the 88 Veloqx Audi, the almost a lap down Goh Audi (one spin), the 18 Pescarolo, the 15 Dome, the 6 Dallara and the amazing 31 ("I've just got a new engine") Courage.

Just as we write that, Shorty brings the Dallara in with a left rear puncture. John Hindhaugh urges the team owner to take it gently, from a seat beside dsc in the media centre (Hindy gets a few hours off). The Radio Le Mans man mentions how appreciative he is of the X Markets sponsorship of Radio Le Mans. Well done Chris East.

As we write that, Joao Barbosa - two laps down on Ara - holds off the Goh Audi, preventing it lapping the Dallara.

The 16 RfH Dome is still lapping the track, but under appeal: the ACO has allegedly claimed that the Dutch team changed the gearbox casing and the gear cluster, while the team maintains that it only changed the cluster. Wilson and friends are 12 laps down in 36th place.

20.20: Lammers in the untroubled 15 Dome has passed Treluyer in the untroubled 18 Pescarolo car for third place, so it's two Audis, Dome, Pescarolo, Dallara and 31 Courage - then the GTS warfare, Magnussen still leading the 65, 66 and 69 Prodrive-built Ferraris.

Sam Hancock is spotted going slowly in the C65-AER, and makes it to the pits just as Magnussen pits, which sets off a GTS pitting session.

20.30 and Johnny Herbert has his first go in the race leading 88 Audi Sport UK Audi.

The recovery drive from the delayed 17 Pescarolo is proceeding at a very impressive rate. The car is now back up into 10th place.

Paul Slinger's Pitlane Update
Martin Short brought the Rollcentre Dallara in early with a flat left rear. “It went just before Indianapolis at 200mph – I’ve never had a puncture at that speed before! The car is suffering from criminal understeer which I am very disappointed about, because everyone has put so much work in to sort the front end out. Rob and Joao are much more talented than me and can drive around it but I am just an old tugger who can’t change my style. I just can’t drive an understeering car. We will fit some gurneys to the front at the next stop to try and sort it out.”

Martin was also struggling with a sore shoulder, as his lap strap did not engage and he had to brace himself with his left shoulder for the first stint. Fortunately he has two chiropractors with him (Vicky and Mark Horrell) and they are currently working on tugging the old tugger's shoulder back into shape…

There's a GT car in the top 15, a 4:09.127 is the fastest lap so far from the Petersen Porsche. He follows up with a 4:08.774

Herbert and Kaffer are circulating together (albeit 22 laps behind) - Kaffer swapping 3:39s with the Englishman in a car that looked ready for the scrapyard earlier this evening.

Bad news from PK Sport, the car was officially retired at 8:40 (electrics causing a terminal engine problem).

There's bad news for Freisinger fans as Robert Nearn (former production car record holder at the Nurburgring) goes off the road in the 86 car at the Porsche Curves. He tries valiantly to hold the car but strikes the wall on the inside causing considerable damage to the rear of the car. The car is towed backwards behind the wall.

The 15 Racing for Holland car is in fuel pump (filter?) trouble, the car is in the garage - Barbosa takes immediate advantage - Rollcentre Racing is fourth at Le Mans. It was only a few moments before that Chris Dyson was rejoicing at his car's third place overall.

John Hindhaugh is spending some time with dsc in the press room - ALMS Radio Web colleague Joe Bradley is absent this year, but is keeping abreast of events with Radio Le Mans, Eurosport, ITV and dsc.

He's supposed to be decorating his sister's house but clearly there's not much of that going on!

This seems a good point to say hello to other absent friends, in particular to our stalwart ALMS Editor Tom Kjos, who is recovering from surgery at the moment. All the best Tom from all of us over here - Wish you were with us this year.

Our previous Epsilon moment was from Gunnar Jeannette, much earlier the race. "The car is flipping great," we think he said. Gavin Pickering then had a stuck throttle as he passed the pits, "but I put it in sixth and brought it round the whole lap."

There is a slight stickiness in the throttle as of 21.15 or so, but the team, with IES' Graham Dale-Jones present, is sure they can fix it completely.

The Lister lost about 20 minutes replacing the starter motor, a task completed just before 21.00, the red and white machine dropping to 32nd place, now 15 laps down on the 88 leader.

21.30: the Lola-Caterpillar has definitely retired, as has the 86 Freisinger, while it won't be long before the PK 911 is officially withdrawn. Freisinger's lead car is struggling to keep up with the Petersen RSR, which seems to have more grip and that sequential gearbox.

RML's Lola has lost time with a cracked exhaust manifold.

The Zytek is back into the top 20, after its two punctures, although Shimoda has had a quick spin, but is lapping at 3:40.

With the Lammers' Dome still stationary (and now 13th, 11 laps down), we have just four prototypes that haven't been delayed, and only these four are ahead of the GTS war. The Darren Turner 65 Care Racing 550 has suffered a long delay, leaving just Gavin and Menu tussling over the class lead, 13 seconds apart after 80 laps. Both are lapping in 3:54. It's furious stuff here.

At 86 laps, there's a neat lap between each of the top four:
Herbert
Ara 85 laps
Treluyer 84 laps
Barff 83 laps.

Then Gavin and Menu on 81, the 17 Pescarolo and Taurus Lola (a great run here) on 79, then the recovering Champion car on 78 laps.

21.35: Biela gets into the 88 Audi, but the front bodywork is off, and they're having a close look at something. It's down in 37th place.

We're approaching one quarter of the race elapsed. You couldn't make up this script.........

Still on recovery drives, Darren Turner is 25th overall, but turning in a series of very fast laps, the most recent a 3:53.470. Paul Slinger has popped down to investigate what caused the delay (see Pitlane Update, below).

Lammers has rejoined in 21st, 13 laps behind the leader.

Clint Field pinched a dsc chip (fry) and beamed his satisfaction with the first five and a half hours of the race. "No problems at all. Dad isn't having such a good time though. He had a toe-link break, which put him into the wall. Then as he crawled back, the engine overheated."

Paul Slinger's Pitlane Updat
e
Colin McRae: "Clutch. We lost seven laps." The Scot walked away...

Joao Barbosa: "Everything is going really well so far, but we've discovered a new problem, because the windscreen is getting a bit dirty, and we can only just see over the top of it."
Martin Short: "We're already thinking how much worse this will make the night stints, so we might skim some of the windscreen off at the next stop (so we can see over it)."

Corvette news: Ron Fellows has just set the best lap for the 63 car, a 3:54, as this one claws its way back.

McRae had a spin at Mulsanne Corner in the 65 Ferrari, and after that the clutch began slipping, so the Prodrive mechanics changed it, at the cost of seven or eight laps.

More Audi dramas, as Seiji Ara goes off on his 90th lap, at the first chicane on Mulsanne.

Sugden sets the best Perspective 911 lap of the race, a 4:12, but then gets another puncture. The car has some GruppeM identification on the roof, Sugden's team in British GTs. The BAM! Porsche is in the 4:11s, in fourth place.

Darren Turner is the first GTS man into the 3:52s, almost as fast as this car qualified. Barff sets the Dallara's best time of the race, a 3:41.347.

Positions At 6 Hours - 94 laps
88
5 93 laps
18 91 laps
6 90 laps
64 88 laps
66 -1min 54
17 87 laps
4 86 laps
2 85 laps
9 -55 secs
69 -1min 57s
63 83 laps
90 -5 secs
22 82 laps
61 -1min 14
85 -45 secs.

Larbre's 550 (no 69) seems to be in engine trouble as the second quarter of the race begins. The Courage no.31 Courage lost a chunk of time with gearbox trouble, leaving the Epsilon C65 in th elead, 21st place, 80 laps completed, only a lap or so ahead of the Clint Field Intersport Lola. The Clint Special has lapped faster than it did in qualifying...

Allan McNish – The Incident in his Own Words
“I saw a puff of smoke just as I started to brake, but as soon as I braked I lost grip and as I turned into the corner I was just sliding.

“I knew then that it was obviously oil and all I did at that point, as I knew I was going off the circuit, was that I tried to go into the tyre wall at the best angle possible.

“It was quite a heavy impact, 5th gear and very little brake deceleration There were no flags but to be honest I saw a puff two seconds before impact so in reality I’d be quite surprised if they were able to react to something like that straight away.”

What happened when you got out of the car?

“I got out of the car because when you drag a car back with two or three wheels on it you get out so the guys can get to work. I think that’s just a natural reaction.

“The Audi doctor was already on the scene (in our pit). He took me through the back and sat me down to give me a complete check over at which point they decided to take me to the medical centre just for some verifications that I didn’t have any spinal injuries.”

The medical staff confirmed that McNish had briefly lost consciousness in the double impact accident (the first with the barriers and the second when struck from behind by Lehto’s car). The Scot will take no further part in the race. A sad end to this most welcome return to Le Mans for Allan McNish.

We'll start a new page for hours 7, 8 and 9.

 

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