LMES - Nurburgring 1000 Kms - Race Report 3
Hours 4&5

30 minutes into the fourth hour, and the Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx pattern has been established - again.

Herbert and Kaffer - who must both be about to pit to conclude their racing for the day - are now separated by just 12 seconds, with Dindo Capello almost holding ground to Herbert but dropping away from Kaffer. The young man has been the hardest charger in this race....

It's looking like a McNish versus Davies last two-fifths of the race, with the #8 car having been consistently the quicker so far.

JC-W has gone a lap down in fourth, with Pescarolo's car still just 11 seconds ahead of Martin Short in the battle for fifth, three laps down.

3 hours 40. 109 laps. 8 pits, Kaffer to McNish. One lap earlier, #88 had pitted, Herbert to Davies. Capello leads, his schedule being a few minutes later than the rival R8s'. When he pits, he drops to third again.

Bloody hell fire! On his first flying lap, Jamie Davies sets a high 1:47, this car's best lap of the race. On his first flying lap, Allan McNish - who we gather was champing at the bit to get in the Kaffer car - sets a stunning 1:45.879, eight tenths quicker than Minassian's pole... the first for Dunlop since we can't remember when, incidentally.

Within a few moments, it seems, McNish catches and immediately passes Jamie Davies, for the lead. We still can't find out why the 88 car has been consistently a little off the pace of the 8 car. Johnny Herbert has so far not given any indication why that might be.

McNish is absolutely on it here.

A little before this action, the Belmondo Courage ground to a halt, out on the track, race over. Can the Gounon / Hancock C65 hold on ahead of... who is second in LMP2 now?
Randaccio - 9 laps behind Courage's C65
WR - 12 laps behind Gounon etc.
Bruneau's Pilbeam - 14 laps
Tracsport - 19 laps.

In other news, we believe the #81 Rockenfeller etc. Porsche has been disqualified for ignoring a stop go penalty. The Lister has dropped well down with a transmission / driveshaft malady - but the misfire has been cured (apparent from its early pace).

McNish doesn't quite continue at that formidable pace, but within 10 laps he's passed Davies and pulled out just over seven seconds. The pattern in three classes is very similar to Monza... three Audis... a Zytek / DBA (or both in Italy) and (then) the Rollcentre and Pescarolo cars fighting over the next place, fourth then, fifth here.... a good old scrap in GT, the same two cars ahead in GTS (Vitaphone two laps ahead of Larbre now).... and, well, very similar in LMP2, except that the factory Courage is the class of the field here (it didn't race in Monza).

We've reached four hours, and don't quite feel the need for a full run down, as the changes in the order are more subtle now.

The 8 / 88 battle isn't quite like Monza though, where it seemed to see-saw throughout. Here, #8 has an advantage - exaggerated by the fact that we find that the 88 car has been given a stop / go penalty, for speeding in the pit lane. On the way in (Herbert) or on the way out (Davies)?

Patrick Pearce is in the Dallara for the first time approaching four hours, and brushes the tyre wall on his first lap out of the pits, which partly explains why Rollcentre has dropped two laps behind Pescarolo. We can imagine M. Short gnashing his teeth in the pits.

GT is really hotting up. Ortelli is 1 second behind Jones for the lead of the class, while the JWR car is 8 seconds behind the Sebah Porsche for third, and catching at a second per lap.

4 hrs 25 and the JWR car takes third in GT, head of the Sebah 911.

Ah, wrong info.: the race director or his team announced the wrong number for the stop and go, and it certainly wasn't for the 88 Audi. McNish, Davies and Capello continue to run 1-2-3, the gaps easing out a little between the first two, Capello hanging on in third.

Four and a half hours and the Perspective Porsche of Ian Khan, which had been as high as fifth in class, sadly retires with a broken gearbox.

4 hours 45 and the three Audis have just completed another pit top sequence - and rain starts to fall, lightly for now.

Mid-Race Quotes

Nicolas Minassian, #3 Creation Autosportif DBA Zytek: “That was lots of fun but very, very hard work. I really didn’t want to make a mistake but the car was fantastic. We had great pace in the wet and great pace in the dry too. The tyre blew on the straight, I think a bit of debris. It was a real shame, the Dunlops have been fantastic.

“The Audi boys race hard but then I’m not playing around either!”

The tyre was punctured by a piece of debris, we believe.

Kazumichi Goh: “It is very difficult for the drivers and for the team. We have been pretty lucky so far with our tyre choices – So far so good!”

Sascha Maassen, #93 Cirtek Porsche: “So far we have guessed right with the weather .We’re out on intermediates right now and will go as far as we can until it gets dry and then slicks.”

Robin Liddell, #71 JWR Porsche: “For the first half of the lap I was pulling in Collard a wee bit, there were a few spots of rain and as I came around Turn 5 I seemed to get onto a patch of something. I don’t know whether it was water, oil or just a damp patch of tarmac and the back end came around on me. There must have been something there as there were three other cars in the same gravel trap within a couple of laps.

“I knew I’d have to fight may way back, the team wanted to pull me back in when the first shower started but I said no, we should tough it out and wait to see if it passed. It did pass but the second shower was much heavier and the call was to go for inters – it was exactly the right move and we’ve made a lot of headway as a result. We saved a chunk of time in not pitting when the others did and we’ve pulled back another chunk on pace too.

“When it was wet out there it was horrendous on slicks. I aquaplaned at least twice on my in lap – not nice at all.”

We believe there was oil on the track at the fifth corner, at the start of the race.

John Gaw - #36 Tracsport Lola (on being tagged by Pierre Kaffer in the #8 Audi): “What happened? He came out of nowhere. The impact sent me round and he’s wiped off the diveplane but other than that the car is fine.”

Emmanuel Collard, #85 Freisinger Porsche: “Slicks and a big shower was not a nice mixture. I wanted to stay out though as we had 20 minutes of fuel left. The team though told me to pit, I think too early, for wets. We’re on inters now which is the right choice but we made the wrong call and lost time.”

Fiona Pearce, Lister Storm LMP: “The driveshaft went, we think, out on the circuit and we’re trying to get the car back now. (The car was recovered and the Lister team are now trying to locate and fix a mystery transmission glitch). “At least we’ve fixed the misfire,” a remarkably chipper Laurence Pearce said to a ruefully grinning John Nielsen.

Soheil Ayari, #17 Pescarolo: “It has been a quite complicated race so far. We pitted sooner than some of the other cars, particularly the Zytek (DBA) and that cost us badly. Too many stops and a right rear puncture when I was in the car have done us no good at all. We’ve just had bad luck on timing so far.”

Thomas Erdos, #27 RML MG Lola: “The plan was to double stint with me in the car. We started on slicks and at the first fuel stop went for inters. That was very much the right way to go. Slicks were too dangerous, it was very slippery out there. Our tyre choice paid off very well indeed.

“We’ve only had three stops and there are others on five or even six (Kaffer stopping for a sixth time as Erdos was speaking). One of our three was apparently for overtaking under yellows – if I did then I must have missed the yellows in the spray.”

Marino Franchitti, #80 Sebah Porsche: “It’s going great. We ran on wets in those showers but inters would have been perfect. We had a big problem with the radio – we could hear the team but they couldn’t hear us. That cost us when we could have told them which tyres would have worked best. All in all though we’re delighted.”

Joao Barbosa, #6 Rollcentre Dallara: “The car was very difficult in the wet with massive oversteer. I saw heavy rain coming down and we took a chance on changing to wets. The car was pretty good, very driveable. For a couple of laps I couldn’t upshift. I had to slow down and come down one gear and then it would clear it. Perhaps water in the electrics? Either way it’s fine now.”

Ian Khan, #79 Perspective Porsche: “Wet, Dry, Wet, Dry, Spray, Wet, Avoid spinning the car, Magic!”

Roman Rusinov, #70 JMB Ferrari 360: “We have a problem with the starter, the team are changing it now. The frontal damage was from early in the race when Stephane had a coming together with a Porsche.”

John Hartshorne, Peninsula TVR: How do you feel John? “Elderly! I was going to get in third but when Graeme came in for wets we sensibly decided to change drivers, but we couldn’t find Richard (Stanton) so they shoved me in instead.

“I found the car had a misfire at the first corner so I decided to come in just in case it stopped the car out on the circuit. We changed the ECU and I went out again, it had all but cleared up. The wiper though was pretty useless, you still had to use it because without it you can see nothing at all when a prototype passes.”

Approaching five hours and the rain is coming down hard, cars are spinning into the gravel at regular intervals - including the #88 car, which briefly met some gravel - and although the sun is out at approaching 21.00, the circuit is very wet. The DBA has come in for more appropriate rubber, but the Audis haven't. The Courage C65 spun at the first corner, and is struggling to fire up again...

Davies stays out in #88, but McNish pits for different rubber. As at Monza, the two Veloqx Audis are being run in whatever ways their strategists choose. McNish takes on fuel too.

Short visits the gravel, but quickly continues.

At 21.00, McNish re-passes the struggling Davies for the lead: inters seem to be the tyre choice on #8.

Immediately afterwards, the JWR Porsche spins and hits (is hit) by Capello's Audi, which has taken a hard enough hit to do some real damage to the left rear suspension. The italian crabs his way back to the pits.

McNish 2:14 lap, Davies 2:26 lap. One hour to go.


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