AUDIS TO THE FRONT AFTER FOUR HOURS AT LE MANS Audi's Tom Kristensen had built a lead of nearly two minutes at the 75th 24 Hours of Le Mans as the four-hour mark came and went. The seven-time Le Mans winner put some space between...
AUDIS TO THE FRONT AFTER FOUR HOURS AT LE MANS
Audi's Tom Kristensen had built a lead of nearly two minutes at the 75th 24 Hours of Le Mans as the four-hour mark came and went. The seven-time Le Mans winner put some space between himself and teammate Emanuele Pirro, who had moved past one of the factory Peugeots into second place. The two Audi diesels were running the fastest laps of the race as clouds finally cleared for the first time all week.
Kristensen's Audi was faced with a couple of small maladies that did not figure to be serious. The team changed the nose of the car due to a faulty headlight and brought the car in to check out a potential overheating program when Audi's telemetry showed the engine getting hot behind the safety car.
The issue arose when Mike Rockenfeller in the third Audi crashed into safety posts at the entry of Tertre Rouge. The severe damage was concentrated throughout the rear of the car, which was retired during the third hour and brought out the safety car.
The other major development was the retirement of the three-time and defending GT1 champion No. 64 Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R. Oliver Gavin was at the wheel when the car's driveshaft failed. Gavin tried to bring the car back using the starter motor but wasn't allowed to by the course marshals.
"It's the very first time I've come here and retired," said Gavin, who was teaming with Olivier Beretta and Max Papis. "It's devastating for the team to have something like this happen. You prepare the whole season for this and then it seems like the rug gets pulled out from under you. We were running a carbon prop shaft and think the oscillation and vibration made the carbon unwind and brake. The whole thing seemed to unravel. Hopefully the other Corvette will come through and take the top spot."
In the absence of the No. 64, Aston Martin Racing's two Aston Martin DBR9s assumed the point in class. Darren Turner in the No. 007 led David Brabham in the No. 009 sister car by 26 seconds. The remaining factory Corvette with Johnny O'Connell at the wheel was a lap down but running strong.
The closest race was in GT2 where the lead Ferrari F430 GT of Risi Competizione and Jaime Melo was 30 seconds ahead of the second-place Autorlando Sport Porsche after 54 laps. Risi is back at Le Mans for the first time since 2003 and is the current American Le Mans Series GT2 team championship leader.
Also in GT2, the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche was sixth in class but on the same lap as the leaders. One of the Team LNT Panoz Esperante GTLMs, the one of Lawrence Tomlinson, Richard Dean and Rob Bell, was seventh and a lap down. The other entry of Tom Milner, Tom Kimber-Smith and Danny Watts was losing time in the garage with gearbox issues.
In LMP2, the factory Zytek 07S/2 of Adrian Fernandez, Robbie Kerr and Haruiki Kurosawa were running second in class after Fernandez qualified on the class pole in his Le Mans debut. The car was a lap behind the class- leading Lola-AER of Quifel-ASM.