72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Hours 16, 17 & 18

Sebastien Bourdais blamed Martin Short for holding him up, and refused to take any blame for shoving him off.

Things got worse for Martin Short, much worse, at 07.20: the right rear suspension appeared to give way under him through the Porsche Curves, and he spun and hit the wall very hard. That shook the driver up badly, and eliminated the Dallara on the spot.

The balance of the race in two of the classes is suddenly rather different. Davies is chasing Capello for the lead, but has well over a lap to make up - but is lapping in under 3:40, say a second and a half quicker than Capello. No, more than that: Davies sets a 3:35.643 at 07.35...

In GT, Freisinger and his pros. still lead, by over two laps from Marc Lieb in the BAM! Porsche - but with Sascha Maassen now having to drive flat out in the Petersen car, in third place, three laps down on 85, one down on 87. Rockenfeller had set a 4:06.387 between six am and 7 am, a new race record, and faster than the qualifying record, but Maassen beat that, just, with a 4:06.306. Last year's fastest race lap was a 4:09.

The Petersen car's original delay (gear linkage) had been followed by a stop to replace the throttle cable - and while that was being done, the crew changed the brake pads. Maassen / Bergmeister / Long must be all set up for the last eight and a half hours.

Oddly, the Petersen car in the gravel was a signal for it to move up a place, because the BAM! Porsche had pitted with gearbox trouble. Unable to replace it this year, the car was out of the race.

Davies goes even quicker, a 3:35.081 - then a 3:34.264 at 07.44. Pescarolo's no 18 has a two lap lead over Champion, but Pirro has lapped in 3:35.981. Then it's a distant Bourdais Pescarolo in fifth, Menu in sixth, Magnussen seventh.

At just about 08.00, Pirro goes straight on at Mulsanne Corner, burying the Champion R8 in the gravel. He's pulled out, pours gravel all over the place on the way to Indianapolis, and pits for Lehto to take over for a charge. The Finn sets the car's best lap of the race, a 3:35.419, as he attempts to close a two lap margin to the 18 Pescarolo car ahead.

The relentless pace is having an effect on all three Audis amonng the top four. Capello misses out a Mulsanne chicane and pits for Kritstensen to charge - and hold off Davies. It's stalematey again, the pace of each of them not different enough to alter the gaps enough to make a place change occur.

Similarly the gaps in GT don't look as though they'll change unless someone makes a mistake or has a problem.

The 62 Barron Connor Ferrari has stopped at the entrance to the Porsche Curves. The Kondo Dome still hasn't left its pit, and apparently has a clutch problem.

Patrick Long hangs onto third, despite a trip into the gravel - and then appears in second in GT, ahead of the BAM! Porsche.

Approaching 09.00, and the completion of 17 hours of racing, Kristensen is almost exactly a lap ahead of Herbert - who has taken over from Jamie Davies, missing Guy Smith out of the rotation.

Kristensen stays ahead until he pits a couple of laps later, which leaves a lead of about 2 mins 40 secs.

As we grind - and doze - through Sunday morning, we eventually arrive at the predicted point of an Audi 1-2-3. Treluyer puts the 18 Pescrolo into the gravel, which allows JJ to take over third spot, nine laps down on the leader. These three, plus the ultra-delayed no 8, are all lapping in under 3:40. Herbert is pushing Kristensen for al he is worth, but Tom is holding off Johnny for all he is worth. 3:37s and 3:38s - fantastic speeds for lap after lap.

18 Hours
5 282 laps
88 281 laps
2 273 laps
18 270 laps
17 265 laps
66 261 laps
16 256 laps
64 -26.7 secs
8 253 laps
4 252 laps
63 250 laps
15 248 laps
85 245 laps
90 242 laps
65 -1m 13 secs
69 240 laps.

It's stalemate in GTS, and in GT. Clint's Lola has spent 3 hours in the pits, more than the WR one place behind in 29th, but 17 laps ahead.

The RfH Domes are in slightly more representative positions of seventh and twelfth rather than the ninth and fourteenth, as of 8am. The black and white Domes have been a surprise of this race, for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately.

The Advan Dome joins the BAM! Porsche and Rollcentre Dallara as recent retirements, and Martin Short visited the Pescarolo garage, to see if Sebastien Bourdais "thought it was worth it."


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