Minassian leads after 3 hours at Silverstone

Nicolas Minassian, driving the Creation Autosportif DBA Judd, dominated the opening three hours of the Le Mans Endurance Series 1000km race at Silverstone circuit. Minassian kept his car on the track as many drivers suffered incidents in the ...

Nicolas Minassian, driving the Creation Autosportif DBA Judd, dominated the opening three hours of the Le Mans Endurance Series 1000km race at Silverstone circuit. Minassian kept his car on the track as many drivers suffered incidents in the appalling and highly changeable conditions. The Audi Playstation Team Oreca Audi R8 of Allan McNish and Stephane Ortelli was running in second place.

Jean-Christophe Boullion in the Pescarolo Sport was the quickest driver at the start and, from third place, pulled alongside Chilton?s Zytek as the cars headed towards the first corner. He continued this momentum and dived inside Minassian?s pole position Creation Autosportif DBA Judd at Copse to take the lead. Chilton then spun off at the entrance to Club and dropped down to 18th. Boullion ran wide in the latter part of the lap and fell back to third and handing the lead back to Minassian.

Heavy rain in the hours before the race and significantly worsened as the start approached, causing a series of accidents in the opening laps. Gabbiani (Racing for Holland) collided with Kutemann (JMB Racing) under braking for Copse and retired from the race. Chilton spun again on lap two at Abbey and had to be towed out of the gravel. Claray (Paul Belmondo Racing) spun off the circuit under braking at Abbey chicane and got stuck in the gravel

Boullion spun on lap four at the entrance to the Hanger straight and hit the wall with the back of the Pescarolo causing significant damage to the back of the car. He was able to rejoin and toured slowly back to the pits with the wing learning to the right, although he spun again at Brooklands and lost further time. The car was to remain in the pits for the next 40 minutes and eventually rejoined 17 laps behind the leader.

Xavier Pompidou (Sebah Automotive Porsche 966) made a very strong start in the GT2 class and was running in ninth place overall and well ahead of Rockenfeller (Autorlando Sport Porsche 966) who was running second in the class. Wolfgang Kaufmann (A-Level Engineering Porsche 996) held a large lead in the GT1 class over Peter Kox (Menx Ferrari 550 Maranello).

Erdos dropped down to fourth place overall on lap 8 allowing Kurosawa (Team Jota Zytek) up to second and McNish, just behind, up to third. McNish passed him on the next lap and started lapping one second faster than Minassian in an attempt to close the 28-second gap. Minassian responded to this pressure and the gap stabilised at 27-seconds on lap 13.

Shimoda took over the wheel of the Zytek Motorsport from Chilton and set the fastest lap of the race on his first lap out of the pits, lapping five seconds faster than Minassian, although the car had rejoined in 42nd place overall.

Greaves (Renstal de Bokkenrijders Courage C65 Judd) and Pearce (Team LNT TVR Tuscan) were both given stop-go penalties on lap 15. Pearce was running in fourth place in the GT2 class at the time and took his two-minute penalty on the next lap. Greaves pushed too hard to make up the time before taking his penalty and spun off into the gravel at Abbey chicane and had to be towed.

Primat (Rollcentre Racing Dallara Nissan) pulled into the pits with steam pouring from rear of the car on lap 18 and the mechanics removed the engine cover and worked on the car. Hancock (Binnie Motorsports Lola McLaren) pulled off the circuit at Abbey but was able rejoin to tour back to the pits, and Sugden (Gruppe M Racing Porsche 996) went off the circuit with a handling problem at Brooklands and had to be pushed out of the gravel.

The rain started to ease and McNish pushed again and set the fastest lap of the race so far as he gradually reeled in Minassian who was leading by 23 seconds on lap 17. This time was soon eclipsed by Shimoda who continued his rise through the field but McNish maintained a very consistent pace. On lap 22 the lead was down to just over 10 seconds and McNish did the first sub-2 minute lap on the next lap.

Pompidou?s amazing run at the head of the GT2 class started to ease at the end of the first hour and he fell back to within 12 seconds of Rockenfeller, but he still pushed hard and his car control around the circuit in the difficult conditions was spectacular.

The ran started to fall heavily again and both McNish and Minassian twitched wildly as they fought to push hard in the difficult conditions some twenty seconds slower than before. McNish lost out most and the lead fell back to fifteen seconds. The Safety Car was then brought out because of the difficult conditions and this caused a flurry of pitstops over the next fifteen minutes.

The leaders were running in the middle of the pack and at the restart the cars disappears into a cloud of spray. Minassian held on to the lead and kept a small cushion of 1.5 seconds over McNish with two cars in between, but Minassian pitted at the end of the lap for fuel and tyres and then McNish pitted soon after and handed over to Stephane Ortelli.

The second hour was mainly filled with Safety Car periods as the conditions continued to be very difficult and cars spun around the circuit each time the race restarted. The most notable incident was Hancock who lost control at the exit of the final corner and spun wildly along the pit straight and lightly brushed the wall.

Shortly after the start of the third hour the Safety Car returned to the pits and the rain eased, allowing the prospect of a return to some serious racing. Minassian was running one lap ahead of Ortelli in second with Erdos still third. Erdos?s strong run was brought to an end on lap 54 as the RML MG Lola pitted with a suspected misfire and was pushed backwards into the garage.

Amanda Stretton (Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport Lola Judd) had a high speed spin along the pit straight on lap 58. The car spun through 180 degrees and clipped the pitwall sending bodywork across the track. The car then spun back round and came to a halt about a hundred metres further down. This brought out the Safety Car for its seventh appearance of the day so far just as more heavy rain started to fall. The team managers were called to a meeting at the end of the third hour.

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Allan McNish , Nicolas Minassian , Stéphane Ortelli , Peter Kox , Jean-Christophe Boullion , Wolfgang Kaufmann , Xavier Pompidou , Paul Belmondo , Amanda Stretton
Teams Team LNT