With just three hours of the gruelling Le Mans 24-hour endurance race remaining this afternoon, the two Aston Martin DBR9s continued to claw their way back after a series of misfortunes.

Car number 59 driven by David Brabham was less than a minute behind Chevrolet Corvette number 64, the leader of the GT1 class.

In a battle which was keeping the packed grandstands enthralled, the second DBR9 with Pedro Lamy at the wheel was less than two minutes in arrears.

All were on the same lap, as was the fourth placed GT1 car, Corvette number 63. The four cars were in sixth to ninth places overall.

A problem with the front splitter affected number 58 when in the GT1 class lead, and repairs took several minutes at a crucial time in the race. Shortly afterwards number 59 sustained a puncture which also led to an unscheduled pit stop.

Earlier in the race number 59 had incurred three time penalties due to course infringements, and Team Director, David Richards said: "We've certainly had a few setbacks on that car - three penalties and a puncture - but it's made good progress to recover.

Corvettes on the same lap. It's going right down to the wire."

The intense heat, which was hitting more than 30°C, made driving extremely uncomfortable. The Aston Martin Racing drivers' in-car water bottles hold 1.5 litres, but the drivers lose about three litres in sweat in each stint.