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LMES - Spa-Francorchamps - First Hour
We'll be bringing news to you 'live' during the 144 lap race, with just a slight pause after the start, as we gather some collected thoughts on the busiest period of what should be a superb race.

Starting Drivers
#3 Minassian
#8 Kaffer
#88 Herbert
#5 Capello
#7 Erdos
#6 Barbosa
#17 Ayari
#69 Hignett
#14 Lupberger
#20 Keen
#13 Cochet
#26 Eyckmans
#32 Francioni
#11 Blanchemain
#86 Bouchut
#31 Fargier
#61 Bosch
#52 Leslie
#35 Haesebrouck
#27 Ingram
#87 Goueslard
#85 Ortelli
#92 Maassen
#80 Pompidou
#41 Hughes
#70 Melo
#93 Kirkaldy
#81 Long
#77 Nishizawa
#84 Collin
#90 Ickx
#40 Greensall
#79 Sugden
#96 Vergers
#75 Masarati
#76 Casadei
#91 Hyde
#59 Alzen
#62 Hezemans
#36 de Fournoux
#99 Rostan.

It was an amazing first ten laps. Minassian and Kaffer touched at Eau Rouge on the first lap, which gave the Frenchman an instant puncture, spinning him around at the top of the first corner.

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Kaffer and Herbert then touched at Les Combes, which cost them both time, Dindo Capello taking the lead.

That lasted until the tenth lap, Kaffer hounding Capello towards Raidillon - and taking the lead. Herbert had already been delayed in traffic, and had dropped a few seconds back. Then Ayari had a big accident in the Pescarolo, at the left hander before Pouhon - so we had a Safety Car. Or rather two of them. We believe he went off on oil...

Pompidou had at this stage been fourth in GT, but stopped on the track - then made it back to the pits, for fuel only. Freisinger led from Farnbacher and Hughes in the RSR TVR. Kirkaldy was an early pitter with problems with the floor of the 360 GTC.

Pompidou's problem was a rare one - a lump of flying rubber had hit the electrical cut-off and left him with a dead car - until he hopped out and switched it back on. PK Sport had this rare problem at Sebring a couple of years ago. Sebah called him in for wets soon after the early fuel stop, but with Marc Lieb at the wheel, the car was soon back in for slicks.

The prototypes had been putting on a very good show at the front, Barbosa running very strongly in fourth in the Dallara. Ayari had been fifth until his accident, with Hignett sixth, Erdos slipping back a little over the opening laps to seventh, the Lister eight and the Nasamax ninth.

The Courage was dominating LMP2, while the amazing Alzen was up to second in class after ten laps, only three seconds behind the class leading #86 Larbre Ferrari.

Minassian lost two laps after that first corner incident.

Just before the SCs appeared, Kaffer made a mistake and let Capello back into the lead.

The SCs pulled off - with the second of them having gone round so slowly that it lost Herbert and everyone else nearly a lap - to Capello and Kaffer. Bizarre. Herbert completed lap 15 102 seconds behind Capello!

Lap 17 and Capello led by 2.2 seconds from Kaffer - with the DBA up to 18th place. The Nasamax, Lister and Jota Zytek all pitted under the SC.

The Lister then pitted again, the engine apparently not running as it cruised down pitlane. It was pushed into its garage. Radiator troubles, we believe.

"Justin was hit by a Porsche, and then under the Safety Car, he spun on his own water," explained Marc Goossens.

There are spots of rain about - as there were during the first ten laps.

#62 has a five minute stop-go penalty!

Minassian has set a 2:07.098, the second fastest lap of the race, as he moves sweetly up to twelfth on lap 19.

20 laps: heavy rain on the pits straight.

The Palmyr Lucchini pits with front end damage. It would return to the track two hours later.

Barbosa closes right up on Herberts Audi but then pits for fuel

The #40 TVR is pushed into the garage to attend to braking problems as the rain stops and a strange orange disc appears in the sky - Apparently this is called the sun!

The #8 Audi appears in the pits rear end deranged, rear bodywork missing and the rear of the car well alight, the safety car is deployed and incredibly Kaffer takes the R8 the full length of the pitlane back to his own pitbox.

The #41 TVR meanwhile is stationary at the Bus Stop with heavy frontal damage - did the T400R and the R8 get together on the circuit? Possibly, Kaffer reports to the team that he was hit, he isn't sure by whom. We understand that it was a Ferrari - at Blanchimont. The TV pictures tell the story, a large portion of Audi rear bodywork is removed from the circuit at the same point as the stationary TVR.

The #79 Perspective Porsche suffers a freak mishap, as the car leaves the pits the rear spoiler catches a trailing air line which rips off the rear spoiler and engine cover, the car is wheeled back for attention.

Herbert takes the opportunity to pit for fuel, Capello pits in the leading #5 car next time around. This time the safety car works in Herbert's favour and the Englishman takes the lead.

"I was turning into the right hand part of the Bus Stop and saw nothing coming at all - then there was a massive impact, as the Audi seemed to fall out of the sky," explained Warren Hughes. "I presume he was going backwards - it was a very big impact."

We understand that poor Pierre Kaffer was tipped into a spin at Blanchimont, by a Ferrari, the German's accident carrying on all the way to the Bus Stop. "I'm assuming he came across the grass at me, so didn't lose any speed at all," added Hughes. "I'm gutted, we could have won this race."

"I'm very pleased with what we've achieved here," said car owner Lawrence Tomlinson. "We had a good chance of winning this one. Next stop Sebring."

The other TVR was stationary with a brake problem: "Only rear brakes," said Nigel Greensall. "It was great fun, setting it up for the corners like McRae, but no way to race here for six hours." The master cylinder was being worked on...

Preparations were made for a rear end change on #8, but those plans were soon abandoned, and #8 was retired.

Pierre Kaffer has explained that he and the Cirtek Ferrari were going through Blanchimont when the incident began: "I was on the outside line and we made contact and lost the car on the wet part. I knew the car was on fire, but I thought it was only a little fire - I never realised it was this bad."

Correction: Kaffer was on the inside line at Blanchimont, and slithered along the barrier on the left, all the way to the Bus Stop.

These photographs don't need further explanation.

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