Holding steady for the finish Holding steady for the finish

There is little more than an hour left in the 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and it is certainly clear in the driving style. The teams are driving conservatively, babying the cars to ensure a finish, and not blow 23 hours of hard work on a foolish mistake.

The gaps between the cars are generally at least a lap each (or approximately four minutes of time), and in the few exceptions, the two closely separated cars are teammates, and sure to be bound by team orders.

Emmanuele Pirro, in the leading #1 Audi (with teammates Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen) is still lapping steadily in the 3:39 to 3:40 range, as is the second-place Johnny Herbert in the #2 Audi.

But most other teams are running lap times 5-10 seconds slower than their typical speeds through the first 23 hours -- no one wants to throw it all away now.

Team ORECA Dallara-Judd LMP.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Behind the leading three Audis (Pirro, Biela, Kristensen; Herbert, Rinaldo Capello, Christian Pescatori; and Michael Krumm, Philippe Peter, Marco Werner) is the lone Bentley, thirteen laps adrift of the lead, but still more than three laps ahead of the Orecas behind him.

As for the Oreca Dallara-Judd, it certainly looks like it could be an impressive finish for John Judd's Engine Developments. A Judd V10 has never before finished at Le Mans, but now the Judd engines are still running at 23 hours, in fifth, sixth, eighth and 19th places.

The eighth-placed Dome-Judd team, with Jan Lammers at the wheel, had a late scare, though, with the Dutchman pulling into the pits with smoke pouring from the back of his car. But a leaking oil line was quickly repaired, and the team was back on track without losing a position.

Another Audi 1-2-3 finish? Another hour will tell the tale.