Rain catches teams off guard at start

Le Mans (Motorsport.com) -- The start of the 2001 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was fast and furious -- but not only for the raw speed, but also for the speed at which cars spun off the track. The Sarthe region has had highly variable...

Le Mans (Motorsport.com) -- The start of the 2001 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans was fast and furious -- but not only for the raw speed, but also for the speed at which cars spun off the track.

The Sarthe region has had highly variable weather for the past several days, with coulds giving way alternately to rainshowers and to sunshine, and the pattern held true for race day. But not only did drops fall only minutes after the start, they drenched an entire side of the 13 km (8 mile) track, near the Arnage corner, while leaving the rest completely dry.

There were more than ten cars spinning off the track, though no serious impacts, and the pace car came out to slow down the field to allow the clearing of the wreckage.

The front-running Audis suffered the worst from the carnage, with Johansson (Gulf Audi R8) losing a nosecone in the gravel, and polesitter Rinaldi stalling in the pits after a tire change. The big beneficiaries were the Bentleys, with well-executed pit stops for wet-weather footgear.

At the end of the first hour, Martin Brundle held the lead in the #7 Bentley Speed 8, followed by Graf in an impressive Panoz performance, and then Frank Biela in the top Audi. Nielsen (Dome), Boullion (Courage) and Beretta (Chrysler LMP) filled the top six positions.

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Frank Biela , Martin Brundle