Bentley dominated the opening hour at Le Mans. Rinaldo Capello, starting from pole position, and Johnny Herbert, in the sister car, pulled away into the distance at the started and eased out a comfortable gap over the chasing Jan Magnussen in the...
Bentley dominated the opening hour at Le Mans. Rinaldo Capello, starting from pole position, and Johnny Herbert, in the sister car, pulled away into the distance at the started and eased out a comfortable gap over the chasing Jan Magnussen in the Audi at the rate of three seconds per lap.
The Audi trio settled down with Magnussen ahead of Biela and Lehto, lapping some 5 seconds slower than the Bentley pair and each running about three seconds apart. The Audis will need fewer fuel stops, though, so the gap is not as large as it first appears.
On lap 9 the Bentley pair swapped round to allow Johnny Herbert into the lead. Herbert then flew into the pit lane, twitching wildly as he hit the brakes, and stopped for a routine pit stop which cost a total of 53 seconds.
There was a lot of activity in the pit lane during the first hour as cars pitted with early mechanical problems. Jeff Bucknum pulled into the pits on lap 7 and his Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam was inspected by his crew and then pulled into the garage. The Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette of Oliver Gavin pitted twice but continued.
Futher down the field the RN Motorsport DBA Zytek, driven, by Hayanari Shimoda, comfortably led the LMP675 category and was running ninth overall.
At the half an hour mark the cars literally queued up for the first round of pit stops. The leading Bentley of Capello pitted on lap 12 for a fuel stop and made up a couple of seconds on the sister car. The Team Goh Audi then made a fuel stop and checked the condition and pressure of all the tyres -- Magnussen was stationary for just over one minute. Biela then made a very quick fuel stop and rejoined in fifth place. The final Audi pitted at the end of lap 15 and Lehto took on more fuel.
The first incident of the race involved a DeWalt Racesports TVR Tuscan. Richard Stanton ran wide at the exit of a left-hand corner at the Porsche curves and clouted the concrete barrier causing significant damage to the right rear of the car. The driver tried to continue but was forced to stop out on the circuit.
The St Team Orange Spyker C8 Double 12-R driven by Tom Coronel approached the pit lane and his right front wheel fell off. The car pulled straight into the garage for repairs.
Shimoda's RN Motorsport DBA Zytek had to pit with mechanic problems, handing the LMP675 lead to the Intersport Racing Lola MG of Duncan Deyton, which was running in 14th place overall and two laps down.
After the first round of pit stops, at the end of the first hour, Capello lead teammate Herbert by 0.9 seconds with Magnussen 53.3 seconds behind in third.