Kristensen, Smith hang on to lead at midway point

Tom Kristensen put in an extremely fast series of stints behind the wheel of the lead Bentley during the early hours of Sunday morning to build a comfortable cushion over the second-placed Bentley and the chasing Audi pair. Two further extended...

Tom Kristensen put in an extremely fast series of stints behind the wheel of the lead Bentley during the early hours of Sunday morning to build a comfortable cushion over the second-placed Bentley and the chasing Audi pair. Two further extended pit stops for the Team Goh Audi R8 allowed the fifth-placed Racing For Holland Dome Judd of Andy Wallace to close up even more.

Jean-Luc Maury-Laribiere, the leader of the LMP675 class, spun his Noel del Bello Racing Reynard Lehmann off the circuit at the Dunlop curves and required a lot of assistance from the marshals to get going again. He held a seven lap lead over the car Rachel Welter WR-Peugeot, and was able to maintain his class lead.

The number #8 Bentley made its fuel, tyre and driver stop on lap 167. Mark Blundell replaced David Brabham, joining the circuit 2 minutes 30 seconds behind the leading Bentley of Tom Kristensen.

The Courage of Soheil Ayari in 9th place was putting the Panoz of Scott Maxwell under immense pressure. Ayari gradually closed the gap over several laps and successfully passed the Panoz in the final sector of his 157th lap and quickly pulled away.

The Veloqx Prodive pair of Ferrari 550 Maranellos continued to head the GTS class with Jamie Davies one lap ahead of Darren Turner. Turner had a scare on lap 162 when the car initially failed to pull away from his pit after a stop but he was able to restart the engine and pull away.

The lead Bentley pitted on lap 173 for tyres, fuel and a new driver. Kristensen stepped out of the car and was replaced by Guy Smith. The car was in the pit lane for 1 minute 17 seconds and returned still comfortably in the lead. The Bentleys backed right off around lap 180 and were lapping around 3m 50s.

Marco Werner pitted the Team Goh Audi R8 on lap 177 and pulled straight into the garage. The bodywork was removed from the back of the car while a significant amount of work was done to the car. The car was successfully fired up and rejoined the circuit after 4 minutes 51 seconds in the pit lane.

Unfortunately the car pitted again on the next lap and returned straight to the garage, loosing a further 5 minutes 43 seconds before returning to the circuit. The car returned 3 minutes 20 seconds ahead of the following Dome Judd of Wallace.

Jean Marc Gounon was running in seventh place in his Courage Competition Courage Judd 55 seconds behind the JML Team Panoz of Gunnar Jeannette. Gounon tried to close the gap but Jeannette was always able to respond.

Smith started to put on the pressure in the lead Bentley and started lapping between two to five seconds faster than the second-placed Bentley of Blundell.

The Kondo Racing Dome Mugen of Masahiko Kondo was pulled into its garage yet again on its 157th lap while it was running 30 laps behind the leader. At the same time the Racing For H olland Dome Judd came into the garage without any bodywork on the front of the car and it was pushed into its garage for repairs.

Halfway though the race, at 4am, the two Bentleys were on the same lap with Smith in the #7 Bentley running 1 minute 20 seconds ahead of Blundell in the sister car. Johansson was running third in the Champion Racing Audi with the Team Goh Audi R8 of Marco Werner a further five laps behind.

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Andy Wallace , David Brabham , Tom Kristensen , Guy Smith , Masahiko Kondo , Darren Turner , Jamie Davies , Gunnar Jeannette , Marco Werner , Soheil Ayari , Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière , Jean-Marc Gounon