CAPELLO CRASHES BUT AUDI STILL LEADS AT LE MANS

Disaster struck the leading Audi and Rinaldo Capello with less than eight hours left in the 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday morning as the No. 2 Audi R10 TDI broke a left-rear wheel and went off at Indianapolis Corner. Capello was sent hard into the gravel and tire barrier as the outlook suddenly turned very bleak.

Frank Biela inherited the lead as Capello's car was sitting on the side of the track. The Italian held a two-lap lead before his shunt. He and the Audi crew in the pits seemed stunned as that made two of the diesel-powered racers to go out of the race. Capello was trying to get the car, with which Allan McNish had turned the fastest race lap, in position enough to nurse it home but had to abandon it with the steering arms bent and locked.

It appeared that on the previous pit stop, the wheel was not on straight when the car was set down off the air jacks. The crew raised the car back up and corrected it.

"I am fine. Our car really showed that from the safety point of view it is as tough as it can get," said Capello, who turned 43 on Sunday and leads the American Le Mans Series P1 championship with McNish. "The impact I had was so big. It was something unpredictable. When I suddenly lost the car I thought the car ahead of me had lost oil but realized when it started going sideways that I was on only three wheels. There was no chance to bring it back."

Biela had four laps in hand on Marc Gene in the lead Peugeot. Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner are trying for their second consecutive win for the R10 TDI.

"It doesn't change the game plan but it changes the situation of course," Biela said. "We saw with the other car that anything can happen. The bigger the gap the more time we have to repair something. We still need to go fast without much risk. I saw the yellow and Indianapolis and then I saw them there. It was a shame to see."

The No. 3 Audi had gone out of the race in the second hour when Mike Rockenfeller wrecked at Tertre Rouge.

In GT1, Corvette Racing's lone remaining Corvette C6.R had moved up to second place as one of the factory Aston Martin DBR9s fell by the wayside when the No. 007, with Johnny Herbert, suffered damaged to its splitter and lost time in pit lane. That moved Ron Fellows into second in class and a lap behind Rickard Rydell.

The No. 63 Corvette was on its own following the retirement of the sister car of Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Max Papis. Gavin was at the wheel when the car's propshaft failed nearly two hours in. Gavin tried to bring the car back using the starter motor but wasn't allowed to by the course marshals.

Like Audi, Risi Competizione suffered a major blow while leading and lost more than 40 minutes after a shunt off-track. Jaime Melo ran into an oil slick on the Mulsanne straight and ran into the tire barriers. The resulting damage to the Ferrari F430 GT meant replacing the radiator, nose, splitter and front bumper. It also dropped Risi from two laps ahead and leading to sixth place and 13 laps down.

The sister car was running fourth in class following an off-course excursion of its own with Colin Braun at the wheel.

The Scuderia Ecosse Ferrari was leading in class with American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long chasing in the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche.

In LMP2, the factory Zytek 07S/2 of Adrian Fernandez, Haruki Kurosawa and Robbie Kerr was running fourth in class but 18 laps down from the leader. The pole-sitting car had suffered a variety of issues including a brake line leak, a wheel bearing failure and a shunt at Arnage with Kurosawa at the wheel.

The New Hampshire-based Binnie Motorsports Zytek-powered Lola was leading in class by 12 laps.

-credit: alms