1000 Km – Hours 4-5
GT Is A Cracker
Wim Eyckmans, in the #13 Courage, got back into racing after a two
year 'retirement': "I've been doing some test work for Courage
via a friend of mine. I was interested in doing the 24 hours too
but financial reasons kept me out. But I managed to keep on testing
and I got this opportunity to drive the 1000 KM. I'm glad I can
race as it's different from testing. I hope to continue next year
as the team plans to do the series and the 24 hours. But I still
believe my future is in single seaters. This race is a great event
and we're performing well even If we cannot match the speed of the
MGs. But in the rain, as we proved this morning, we're able to beat
them. I'll start but I won't take any risks at all. Top-3 is the
aim but the wildcard of course is an ambition."
The safety car period
lasted some 20 minutes while gravel was cleaned up at the “S
Bleu” area. It was a messy affair with the cars never really
bunching up behind the Corvette pace car, but rather breaking into
two or three groups. The interruption came at a point when there
was already more than a lap separating most key positions so the
effect on the contest was minimal—with one major, major exception.
Liddell, leading GT, has Seiji Ara behind him (and ahead of the
chasing Montermini and Ortelli) when the safety car came out. That
gave the Scot the chance to hurry round and gain three quarters
of a lap. The only minor (?) hurdle was that he had to battle through
the slower GTs at the tail of the queue – which he did with
Another important change
was that Larry Connor took over the no. 18 Lola from Jon Field.
Roman Rusinov was now in the Courage and while still ahead in 675,
he was unable to capitalize on the situation and pull away.
Jon Field: “The
car was terrible on rain tyres, but I was leading the class early
on – and working much harder than everyone else. We just don’t
have the downforce of the bigger cars, but the track tried, the
car came to me, and I was the first car out on slicks. I was going
to do a double stint, but the other drivers wanted me to stay out,
until the track really dried. So I did a triple.”
All said with
a big grin on his face – and there was another one on Duncan
Dayton’s, also much happier than after the warm up.
Lagorce was the fastest
car on the circuit after the restart, turning a 1:33.948 for the
overall fastest tour. His time eclipsed Field’s previous best
overall time and Ara’s best in LMP 900. The Courage undid
one of its laps in arrears of the Audi and is gained at about three
seconds per lap.
The top three GTS protagonists
were running together in the overall standings. Turner was sixth
overall and a lap clear of the other Veloqx Ferrari (Kox). Vosse
is about one minute further down in the Viper. Liddell has a relatively
comfortable lap lead over Montermini’s Ferrari in GT. Ortelli
clawed back up after passing Pompidou for third in GT.
At about 3:45 (15:45
clock time) mark, the Audi made its regular stop. Ara stayed aboard
but the halt allowed Lagorce back onto the lead lap. Andy Wallace
has been holding a very steady third place but two laps down. The
long-suffering Riley & Scott has been taken out of its misery.
John Graham explained that the clutch wouldn’t bite. They
bled and bled it, but to no avail. The overall gap grows again as
Seiji Ara once more reset the fastest lap (1:32.554).
16:00 was important moment.
On a certain Sunday in June this signifies the end of 24 hours of
racing. It marked the two-thirds point of the November race, destined
to run to its six-hour limit as opposed to the full 1000 kilometers.
The time point also passes with ever darkening skies. It is partly
the autumn dusk but also may be a harbinger of more rain. Headlights
are now in force.
The Panoz has returned
to the race and the Goddard Reynard also was being readied to come
back as backmarkers. The XL Ferrari has been retired.
16.10: The Panoz has
been pushed into its garage. Starter problems. No, stuck in gear.
No, alternator. In fact, the old girl had all three, the last eliminating
been Christmas for the whole year, so we can’t complain,”
remarked David Saelens.
Wim Coekelbergs (T2M):
"I don't know what's happening, my teammates try to discover
as many gravel traps as possible. The car is OK but we aren't"
(just before her stint): "I'm quite confident, the car runs
well, it's just a bit less developed than the 'brother' car. But
it seems to be reliable and well handling in the rain. I will now
take over the wheel and try to get the car into the top-20."
Michael Caine: “The
plan originally was for me to do about one hour 20 minutes, but
the weather conditions changed that and I ended up staying in for
3 hours 15. The first few laps were like a sprint race and it was
a case of staying out of trouble – cars were spinning off
everywhere! I got nudged through the gravel by a Porsche and the
Lister spun in front of me, nearly taking me out. The car is generally
good – we’ve had a slight gear selection problem, going
up the shifts, but that’s it!
“I changed to slicks
a lot earlier than anyone else – we’d already decided
that the timing of the change would be mine and once I was doing
two minute laps on wets I made the call. That was probably an hour
and a half into the race and on my second lap I did a 2:02. I couldn’t
believe how long the other teams stayed with wets; I think some
of them have still got them on! At one stage in the race we were
the fastest GT.
“We need to find
about another second and a half, but we found a problem with the
car on Monday that we’ll be able to sort after the race. Despite
that, we qualified just a few tenths behind Collard and that shows
the progress we’ve made. The highlight for me so far was passing
the Freisinger Porsche – I enjoyed that!”
The TVRs are carrying
no ballast at this race and have gone up a restrictor size. They
are looking for a podium and praying for bad luck to befall the
Porsches ahead. Bob Berridge is planning testing in Spain in February,
then off to Sebring in March – with that front suspension
issue (something to do with roll centers) all sorted out.
JC-W was in the Lister
again – after stints from Kinch and Coronel. The car had only
covered 81 laps at 16.15, 60 laps behind, but JC-W was fastest man
on the track, apart from Seiji Ara.
Audi R8 1:32.269
Lister Storm LMP 1:33.372.
The Lister has
taken eight laps out of the WR ahead of it since rejoining.
ACO moment. We are sure that the race will halt at 18.00, but M
Cotton has found an official document that says that the race will
stop at seven hours duration maximum. You decide.
The Viper was two and
three laps behind the Veloqx Care Racing 550s (88 ahead of 80 still).
Vincent Vosse: “Our advantage lies in the determination of
Sébastien (Dumez) and the Michelin rain tires. We will now
try to keep the pace as high as possible in order to put the pressure
on both the 550s. In the dry, we'll have problems to keep up with
them as we're not running in ALMS spec, this gives them a small
With about 100 minutes
left, Larry Connor vacated the Intersport Lola, after a good, steady
stint – in second place in 675, to the steady (and slightly
quicker in that stint) Courage. Connor stopped slightly early with
a left rear puncture. Duncan Dayton got in to finish the race.
The Saleen suddenly became
the fastest car in GTS – but so far, far behind…..
10 to 16 were where the GT battle lay. PK remained out in front
(Liddell at the wheel) with Vassiliev pedalling the Freisinger Porsche
less than a minute behind. The Russian was being slowly reeled in
by Klaus Engelhorn in the Cirtek Ferrari, just fifteen seconds further
back and lapping in very similar times. Four and a half hours in
and the top three in GT on the same lap!
Another Ferrari making
progress has been the Scuderia Ecosse 360 in the hands of Chris
Niarchos. The owner of the car followed on from Franchitti and is
setting very respectable times – respectable enough to pass
Richard Stanton in the #46 TVR.
Two other GT cars in
the top twenty overall deserve a mention at this stage. The Morgan
continues its march in 18th having completed 134 laps; while Les
Femmes are doing very nicely in 19th with 130 laps under their belts
– Liz Halliday currently back in the car, with Fanny Duchateau
down to complete the race.
16.50. PK Sport Porsche
pits with 90 minutes left, loses the lead, and Jean-Philippe Belloc
took over at the wheel. That should have been PK’s last stop
out of the way. BUT – a left front puncture for the Frenchman,
who pitted for two new fronts, leaving the class much more open.
No. 5, Kristensen, Audi, 169 laps
No. 2, Bourdais, Courage, - 2 lap
No. 8, Wallace, Dome, - 3 laps
No. 13, Rusinov, Courage – 7 laps
No. 18, Dayton, Lola –9 laps
No. 88, Turner, Ferrari, 1st GTS 159 laps
No. 80, Sugden, Ferrari – 1 lap
No. 9, Lavaggi, Lola
No. 86, Vosse, Viper
No. 39, Vasiliev, Freisinger Porsche, 1st GT 155 laps (still to
make its last stop)
No. 47, Engelhorn, Cirtek Ferrari –20 secs (just about to
stop, for the last time)
No. 38, Belloc, PK Porsche – 31 secs
No. 33, Tinseau, Jubin Porsche
No. 36, Collard, Sebah Porsche
No. 30, Mullen, Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari
No. 24, Terada, WR
No. 46 Berridge, TVR
No. 49, Sharpe, Morgan
No. 12, Bruneau, Pilbeam
No. 32, Munsterhuis, Porsche.