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Le Mans 1000 Km – Hours 2-3
Faster & Faster

Mark Howson has seen spins galore into the escape road at Chemin aux Boeufs, the ‘kink’ on the back straight: The Panoz was the first of them very early on, then the System Force Porsche, T2-M Porsche, #46 TVR (straight across the gravel), the Saleen, the RML MG-Lola, the Sebah Porsche, the Taurus Lola – and the #45 TVR spun into the gravel and was pushed back out.

Sebastien Bourdais passed Jan Lammers for second place at turn 13, the penultimate right hander on the Bugatti track.

Kaufmann had a driveshaft break on the Saleen, and was fortunate to have it happen very near the end of the lap. Seiler resumed 18 laps behind the Audi.

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20 minutes after 13.00 and prototypes occupied the first five places overall, TK, Sarrazin, Lammers, Field, Eyckmans (above) – in five different cars. Kristensen led by over a minute though. Bouchut / Davies / Ortelli / Liddell were in sixth to ninth, with the slightly delayed Goddard tenth.

XL had a comic opera stop. Vannelet exited the car and butted helmets with his relief. After some wringing of their heads each driver went his own way.

Van Merksteijn (System Force Porsche): "I'm happy to drive in the rain, it's much better than the dry. It also opens new perspectives as many of the faster car will take risks during the opening stages of the race. I'll follow my own rhythm and try not to lose time on the track. The 24 hours are our aim and getting a wild card here would be great. We'll do the Le Mans series or the FIA-GT depending on the budget. FIA-GT is so much more competitive and more expensive so the LMES could be a great alternative."

Peter Kox and Jamie Davies both commented on a lack of grip but at the driver change (at about the one-hour mark) both cars went out still on their original wets. We suspect this is because they did not have any intermediates mounted and ready. Kox had had just one spin during his stint against Bouchut’s two, but Bouchut did lead at the first hour.

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Big news in GT as Robin Liddell has passed Stephane Ortelli for the class lead—PK in front! Ortelli noticeably faded over the intervening minutes and made a scheduled stop. Daoudi took over the car, now running intermediates.

The 675 class had flipped around with the surprisingly quick Courage of Eyckmans some 25 seconds clear of the Field Lola. The two are running 4th and 5th overall.

There were more surprises in GT as Sylvain Noel took over the class lead when the PK car stopped. The Lister returned to the race after having been stationary since lap 8. Meanwhile, the GTS battle heated up by several notches. Rarely were the two cars separated by more than a tenth of a second. On lap 57, Bouchut lost some 3 ½ seconds (spin?), leaving the Viper now behind Davies’ no. 88 Ferrari.

At 13:45 William David is spotted walking back to the garages, having abandoned his WR at Turn 9 (contact with the tyre wall). Several minutes later the little 675 car mysteriously reappears in pit lane. At the same time Noel made the Jubin Porsche’s planned stop (switch to Tinseau), putting the PK entry back into the GT lead (now with J-P Belloc aboard).

The 675 contest remained quite close as Jon Field steadily ate into Eyckmans’ lead. At the two-hour mark the gap was only 5 seconds. There were about 13 seconds separating first and second GTS, Davies ahead of Bouchut. The top three in GT are on the same lap, no. 38 (Belloc, PK Porsche) and no. 39 (Freisinger Porsche) are separated by 5 seconds while no. 47 (Cirtek Ferrari) is another 40 seconds behind. Belloc was pulling away though, for PK.

Two-hour standings:
No. 5, Kristensen, Audi, 66 laps
No. 2, Sarrazin, Courage, - 1 lap
No. 8, Lammers, Dome, - 2 laps
No. 18, Field, Lola, passed into LMP 675 lead
No. 13, Eyckmans Courage, -1 sec. But fading
No. 88, Davies, Ferrari, 1st GT
No. 86, Bouchut, Viper, -30s
No. 7, Goddard, Reynard
No. 9, Andrews, Lola
No. 80, Sugden, Ferrari
No. 38, Belloc, PK Porsche
No. 39, Daoudi, Freisinger Porsche
No. 47, Peter, Cirtek Ferrari
No. 33, Tinseau, Jubin Porsche
No. 10, Beretta, Panoz
No. 36, Collard, Sebah Porsche
No. 12, Rostan, Pilbeam
No. 30, Mullen, Haggis Ferrari

Edging into the third hour and the Courage took on cut slicks as Franck Lagorce hopped aboard the second placed car. Meanwhile, Earl Goddard went off course at post 14, ‘S’ bend before the entrance to the front straight.

Quick look back at GT events. Johnny Mowlem had two spins in his opening stint: “A prototype came down the inside of me and I slid into the gravel – straight into the hole that Robin had left there. He’d obviously driven out, but I was stuck in his hole! They pulled me out, losing us a couple of laps. Then I caught Pompidou into the unlop Chicane, and he was going incredibly slowly. I spun to try and miss him, but spin into him, which damaged a radiator – so we’re about 11 laps down.”
Robin Liddell pitted from the GT lead at 100 minutes, in the PK car. A late decision saw replacement wets replaced by inters. Belloc took over, and consolidated the lead over Freisinger’s Daoudi.

Liddell: “It’s very greasy out there. The biggest moment could have been when one of the WRs came out of the pit lane and spun right across me as I drive up the pits straight on full throttle! I had a couple of spins, and I must have had contact six or eight times. I passed Ortelli into the Chicane on the back straight. But as I was doing that, the Panoz passed me on the other side – so I slipped between them, making contact with both."

RML: Tommy Erdos pitted at 2 hours 15 minutes (a double stint), but we believe he had a gearbox problem. Chris Goodwin was looking forward to the challenge of the powerful turbocharged car on such a tricky surface. “Tommy is having a bit of a mare, I think,” was Goodwin’s observation, ten minutes before he was due to get in. But the car is in the garage at 2 hours 20. Erdos also had a severe brake problem, the pedal giving him retardation at different positions each time he wanted to stop.

Morgan. “It’s as slippery as a nun’s (expletive deleted) out there, and it was our first wet session with the car,” explained Neil Cunningham. A broken window (windscreen) sounds like a repeat of yesterday morning.

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2 hours 20: The Larbre Viper has been in and out of the gravel. It’s second in GTS. Fanny Duchateau has just got into the ladies TVR, and she’s got the black and yellow car flying along, just a second slower than the fastest cars in the class! “Les Femmes Pour Le Mans” are in 27th place, but it looks as though they won’t be for long.

At the front of the field, approaching 150 minutes, Kristensen is the only man to have driven the R8, and he’s a lap ahead of the Courage, but Franck Lagorce has just set the fastest lap of the race – on hand-cut slicks, we believe. Only seven hundredths faster than the Audi’s best – but lapping three seconds faster than the Audi at the moment.

The Dome is now two laps down, possibly struggling with tyres that were great in the wet, less so in the damp (but drying all the time). Freisinger’s Porsche seems to be going through the same cycle.

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Suddenly, on inters, Martin Shortscar in the Reynard is pressing on – a very low 1:49, the car’s best lap of the race…but we’ll see more of this as conditions continue to improve.
At 150 minutes, Ara is in the Audi for the first time, Kristensen seeming to have struggled for the last few laps of his stint – presumably with tyres that were going off. Wets? Lagorce (on inters) was six seconds faster than TK before the Dane stopped. All this has left Lagorce 47 seconds behind Ara.

Strugglers: The RML entry has been retired with gearbox trouble, the R&S (did we mention a tooth missing from the cwp in the warm up?) has done only 23 laps, but we believe Clint Field is still smiling here, as he laps up his first race at Le Mans. The Saleen has had a second very long stop.
Rules Change, Rules Change! Because the Nasamax was withdrawn from the meeting, leaving eight LMP 900 / GTP cars here racing, only two entries will be awarded in next year’s 24 hours from the top class(es).

Fastest laps they are a changing. Suddenly, Jon Field is the fastest man on the track, the first below 1:40, while Ara, Lagorce and Wallace are battling at around 1:41. Field is reeling in the 675 Courage for fourth place and the class lead. All this after Duncan Dayton described the Intersport Lola as “horrible” in the warm up. But the race seems to be coming back to the Lola B160 Judd.
Ara is the next man under 1:40. He pulled away from Lagorce.

dailysportscar.comAfter an hour from Daoudi, Ortelli is in the Freisinger Porsche again – on Dunlop slicks. Vassiliev might not see much of the inside of the Freisinger Porsche.

Stephane Ortelli (getting ready to drive again): "We are losing some time right now. They (PK Sport) have very good drivers in their car, it could be a good race. But we are losing too much time. We have to change drivers again."

Karl Baron (BE-Racing): "Our car is better than the Porsches in the dry but not as good in the wet. We have changed the setup in the morning so the car runs reasonably well in the wet and in the dry. The others have not made their second stop yet, so we are confident."

The Cirtek Ferrari is third in GT (above), and currently Montermini is ahead of Ortelli.

Jon Field drops into the 1:37s, and gets to within half a minute of Eyckmans in the fourth placed Courage C65.

Ortelli? On his slicks, he’s five seconds a lap faster than Belloc on the PK Porsche’s inters. So the PK Porsche pits next, for slicks.

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David Saelens has found the gravel in the Panoz – he was in 19th place. Another big car, the XL Ferrari 550, has had a brief fuel fire. The Goddard Reynard has pitted, engine cover off – but just a quick look and it’s back out in tenth.

Three-hour standings:
No. 5, Ara, Audi, 100 laps
No. 2, Lagorce, Courage, - 2 lap
No. 8, Wallace, Dome, - 3 laps
No. 18, Field, Lola, passed into LMP 675 lead, Field in the car the whole race so far – 4 laps
No. 13, Rusinov, Courage – 5 laps
No. 88, Turner, Ferrari, 1st GT
No. 80, Kox, Ferrari – 1 lap
No. 9, Keen, Lola
No. 86, Vosse, Viper
No. 7, Short, Reynard
No. 38, Liddell, PK Porsche – 8 secs
No. 47, Montermini, Cirtek Ferrari –12 secs
No. 39, Otrtelli, Freisinger Porsche
No. 33, Tinseau, Jubin Porsche
No. 46 Caine TVR
No. 36, Pompidou, Sebah Porsche
No. 30, Franchitti, Haggis Ferrari – 15 secs and catching
No. 10, Saelens, Panoz.

Coronel has improved his time on every lap since he got into the Lister: 1:44 , 1:41, 1:40. 1:40, 1:39, 1:38, 1:37. 1:37, 1:36

Saelens: “We're surprised by the behavior of the car in the rain, it's better than in dry conditions, but we've a major condensation problem in this closed car. We'll try to resolve but it was really bad.”

Something brings out the first safety car at 15.10. Ah, gravel on the track at the S Bleu - which has presumably been there since the start of the race, but in lesser quantities than now present.

 

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