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Le Mans 1000 Km – Hour 6
The Verdict

17.20…and it’s getting very gloomy. No significant changes in 900 and GTS, but in 675 the Intersport car has just lost ground (and had a battery change, and a bodywork change after contact from a GT car) to the Courage, which has had an amazing run – even more so bearing in mind its performance in June.

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So GT is the thriller. “Jean-Philippe has got to push,” said a worried looking R. Liddell - talking to Mike Pickup, above. But that was before the Cirtek Ferrari pitted for the last time, and before Vassiliev pitted to hand over to Daoudi.

Once those changes had filtered in, we were left with (at 35 minutes to go):
Belloc 169 laps
Daoudi – 56 seconds
Montermini – 3 secs.

The Ferrari then passed the Freisinger Porsche, but Daoudi looked like fighting back. When did we last have an ACO GT race like this? What about Le Mans two years ago?

This time it’s Pickup’s PK Sport, and the Schirle-managed Baron Engelhorn Ferrari, with Manfred Freisinger playing the big gun. Not so big though, because Montermini has left the Freisinger Porsche behind, but Belloc is too far up the road (+- 50 seconds).

The Debora becomes the fourth (yes, that’s all) retirement of the day: R&S, MG-Lola, XL Ferrari 550. The Panoz didn’t expire with alternator trouble: instead the team fixed it and got her out again.

The gaps are extending, if anything, in the bulk of the field, so we’re right to focus on the GT affair. 20 minutes left, Mike Pickup is chewing his lips to shreds, but barring the unforeseen, this should be PK’s finest hour so far.

A wider perspective would be that Manfred F. will be delighted to have Alex Vassiliev on the podium here, which after all is good enough to win that Le Mans entry – and it might have helped to secure Yukos sponsorship for 2004.

dailysportscar.comDisaster for PK – another puncture, with just 15 minutes left. Who wrote about PK’s finest hour? What idiot wrote that?

PK dropped to third, so can (does he need to?) Daoudi catch the black Ferrari of Montermini?
The key moments in this GT race have been Liddell leading when the safety car came out, gaining almost a lap on the chasers….and then two punctures. Perhaps third place will still see a Pickup smile, but lots of frustration too.

It’s effectively dark here, so with just 12 minutes left (and 200 laps on the board), it looks as though the Audi R8 will complete 207 or 208 laps. That should be four ahead of Pescarolo’s Courage, five ahead of the Dome (no guaranteed Le Mans entry for Jan Lammers), then the excellent Courage 675 performance, and the two Veloqx Care Racing Ferraris, split by Ian Dawson’s Taurus Lola. Eighth and ninth should be Duncan Dayton and then the Viper, and tenth the GT winner….with the Ferrari firmly 13 seconds ahead of Freisinger.

Courage and Intersport will receive the two 675 places next June: this class has finally seen a genuine class race at Le Mans, among top class cars.

Jan Lammers finished the race with a long brake pedal, and Graham Tyler passes on the information that the Dome was causing grief for Mr Wallace during a three hour stint - a very stiff throttle. Not what you want in a race of such tricky conditions anyway.

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Well done Mr Kazumichi Goh, Tom Kristensen and Seiji Ara: six out of eight here for TK. Blimey. The man is a god.

With thnks to the dsc team here - Mark Howson, Janos Wimpffen, David Lord, Joost Custers and Johannes Gauglica.
MC

 

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