As dusk approached and then overtook the famed Le Mans circuit, both minor and major engine troubles hit a number of the prototype teams, causing in-pit delays and dropping teams down the standings. Sunset, at about 10 pm, saw the...
As dusk approached and then overtook the famed Le Mans circuit, both minor and major engine troubles hit a number of the prototype teams, causing in-pit delays and dropping teams down the standings.
Sunset, at about 10 pm, saw the direct-injection V8 engine of the #5 Audi (Audi Sport Japan Team Goh) overheating. With the efficiency and experience that Audi has demonstrated over the past few years, the team replaced the car's cooling system -- in less than 25 minutes.
Still, the team dropped to 12 laps behind, falling from fourth, behind the #1 and #2 Audis and the leading MG, to 16th.
Just before 11:30 pm, the #11 Panoz of David Brabham, Jan Magnussen and Bryan Herta also began to overheat badly while on the circuit.
Brabham nursed the car into the pits, but the team took just about an hour to resolve the overheating problem -- and Magnussen returned after only a lap on the track.
With the Brabham, Magnussen and Herta now 38 laps off the leaders' pace, victory seems further and further out of reach now for Don Panoz' team, but the team is not yet ready to give up.
The #13 Courage-Judd seemed to get off the lightest of the problem cars; it experienced a clutch problem before 10 PM.
However, unlike Audi, Courage does not have the same level of experience and designed-in modularity and maintainability as the Audi, so the mechanics took, in the end, over an hour to replace the clutch, dropping the team to high 30s in the standings.
Meanwhile, at the front, Tom Kristensen in the #1 Audi continues to slowly pull away from teammate Johnny Herbert, showing the steady pace that has gained Kristensen, Emmanuele Pirro and Frank Biela the last two overall victories at Le Mans.
The fourth-place #26 MG, with Warren Hughes at the wheel is still keeping pace with the #3 Audi slightly ahead - and, with the resurgence of Bentley, just a lap further back, delighting the tens of thousands of British fans at the circuit.