The leading Pescarolo Sport Judd of Erik Comas pulled into the pitlane at the start of the third hour with suspected gearshift problems. The team removed the rear bodywork and spent several minutes working on the back of the car. Comas rejoined...
The leading Pescarolo Sport Judd of Erik Comas pulled into the pitlane at the start of the third hour with suspected gearshift problems. The team removed the rear bodywork and spent several minutes working on the back of the car. Comas rejoined the circuit a few minutes later but slowed momentarily soon afterwards and cruised back to the pitlane where the car was wheeled backwards into the garage again.
Comas's misfortune handed the lead to the Champion Racing Audi R8 of Emanuele Pirro who was narrowly ahead of the sister car of Marco Werner and the Audi Playstation Team Oreca car of Stephane Ortelli. The opportunity for Audi to build up a gap was taken away from them, however, as the Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport Lola AER slowed on the circuit with oil pouring out of the back of the car. This left the organisers with no choice but to bring out the Safety Car while the marshals cleaned the circuit.
The Safety Car procedure at Le Mans involved having three Safety Cars join the circuit at various points around the circuit catching whichever cars are in that part of the circuit. The cars toured around for fifteen minutes behind the three vehicles before the one approaching the pit straight pulled off and allowed the cars behind it to rejoin the race. The Safety Car holding the leader Pirro was still touring slowly and the leader was visibly twitching as he was gradually being caught by cars behind him.
As the pace picked up Pirro locked up heavily going into Arnage and hit the tyre barrier with the left front of the car. The marshals pushed the car back onto the circuit and Pirro drove back to the pitlane slowly with sparks pouring from the rear of the car and the left front, as all the Safety Cars pulled off the circuit and the race restarted completely. The Audi eventually rejoined the circuit after repairs in fifth place with Allan McNish behind the wheel and lapping at an incredible pace.
The #17 Pescarolo of Eric Helary, which was running in third place at the time, suddenly slowed halfway around the circuit with a left rear puncture. The car cruised around the circuit to avoid any bodywork damage as the Rachel Walter WR LMP2 Peugeot of William Binnie went off the circuit at high speed and also crawled slowly back to pitlane. Helary's car eventually arrived in the pits and was immediately pushed backwards into the garage. He rejoined after ten minutes down in seventh place.
There were several other incidents around the circuit during the third hour as Philippe Haezebrouck went off the circuit in his Pierre Bruneau Pilbeam. Anthony Reid spun off at high speed in the Scudeira Ecosse and came to a rest lightly against the tyre wall but was able to rejoin by driving across the gravel. Also the Intersport Racing Courage AER of Juan Barazi ran wide at Arnage and hit the tyre wall causing light damage to the front of the car. Also the #64 Corvette Racing C6R, which suffered a left-rear puncture earlier at the hands of Olivier Gavin, pulled into the pits again with an identical puncture this time at the hands of Olivier Beretta.