Champion Racing led the Le Mans 24 Hours after 18 hours with JJ Lehto nearly two laps ahead of the nearest competitor. The Audi R8 led all night and remained comfortably in the lead during the morning, despite a small twitch where Tom Kristensen...
Champion Racing led the Le Mans 24 Hours after 18 hours with JJ Lehto nearly two laps ahead of the nearest competitor. The Audi R8 led all night and remained comfortably in the lead during the morning, despite a small twitch where Tom Kristensen selected the wrong gear and ran slightly wide over the gravel. The #16 Pescarolo Sport Judd of Eric Comas was comfortably in second place ahead of the second Champion Racing Audi R8 of Emanuele Pirro in third.
Frank Montagny remained in fourth place in the Audi Playstation Team Oreca R8 and was putting in some strong lap times as he was just over one lap behind Pirro. Sebastien Loeb had a long pitstop in fifth place after he ran off the circuit in his #17 Pescarolo Judd at Indianapolis and filled the sidepods with gravel but he had three laps in hand over the Team Jota / Zytek Engineering of Sam Hignett that had been running solidly in sixth position.
The two Paul Belmondo Racing cars were running at the head of the LM P2 class with the #37 car of Paul Belmondo half a lap ahead of the #36 car of Karim Ojjeh. The pair were two seconds ahead of the Kruse Motorsport Courage Judd of Tim Mullen which sat in the pits for ten minutes being worked on by the mechanics.
The cars at the head of the GT1 class were now running in the top ten overall standings with the two Aston Martin Racings and two Corvette Racing C6Rs still pitched in their race-long battle. The #58 Aston Martin of Tomas Enge was running a lap ahead of the Corvette of Olivier Beretta and behind, but on the same lap, were the #59 Aston Martin of Darren Turner and Corvette of Johnny O'Connell.
The lead Aston Martin of Enge pitted unexpectedly on lap 269 and was pulled straight into the garage. The mechanics dived under the front of the car as the Corvette closed up and moved past to take the class lead. Enge rejoined after five minutes in the pitlane and fell to the back of the four car battle.
The battle for the lead of the GT2 class was still raging with the Porsche GT3-RSRs of Alex Job Racing, driven by Mike Rockenfeller, and White Lightning Racing, driven by Timo Bernhard, now on the same lap and just over one minute apart while still lapping within seconds of their fastest lap times. The following cars were also Porsche GT3-RSRs with The Flying Lizard Motorsport GT3-RSR of Seth Neiman now running in third place nearly a lap ahead of Romain Dumas in the Raymond Narac car.
By the end of the 18th hour there had been 16 retirements from the race. The most recent were the #91 T2M Motorsport Porsche GT3-RS which left the circuit and retired and the #5 Jim Gainer International Dome Mugen which retired with gearbox problems.