Trouble comes in threes at Le Mans

Trouble comes in threes at Le Mans

As the sun rose over the Le Mans racetrack in La Sarthe after a grueling night of racing, the three Audis were still 1-2-3 -- and still in the numerical order of ...

As the sun rose over the Le Mans racetrack in La Sarthe after a grueling night of racing, the three Audis were still 1-2-3 -- and still in the numerical order of #1 - #2 - #3.

The dominant Audis have cause consternation and concern for everyone else, but as the sun began to rise, it was mechanical trouble that hit some of the main challengers.

Team Cadillac Cadillac Northstar LMP-02.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
First, Kevin McGarrity pulled off to the side of the track in the sole remaining MG, the #27 entry he shared with Mark Blundell and Julian Bailey, after the MG's engine let go in a spectacular way, with clouds of smoke billowing from the back of the car.

This brought to an early end an impressive sophomore effort by the two MG teams, with both the other factory entry and the KnightHawk Racing car already having succumbed earlier in the night.

Team Cadillac Cadillac Northstar LMP-02.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Then, just before 8 AM, Christian Tinseau in a Cadillac suffered a puncture, driving back into its pit with the tail scraping along the track surface -- followed by JJ Lehto in the other Cadillac, also with a puncture.

The #7 Cadillac of Lehto was able to rejoin the race fairly quickly, with Emmanuel Collard taking over the rains after the Cadillac pit crew "rebuilt" one of the diffusers using duct tape. Still, with the car's earlier problems, the car's cumulative pit time now exceeded 80 minutes.

It was the other Cadillac that had a more serious problem: the rear axle had been damaged, and the crew had to pull the car into the garage for a quick 15-minute replacement, dropping the #6 from fifth place to eighth, behind both the Oreca Dallara-Judds and Jan Lammers' Dome-Judd.

Bit further down the field, the Ferrari 550 Maranello (Tomas Enge, Rickard Rydell and Alain Menu) succumbed to a major engine fire, handing the LM GTS lead to last year's class winners, Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Oliver Gavin in the #63 Corvette.

At the front, though, the Audis march on: Tom Kristensen holds a two-lap lead in the #1 over the #2, with #3 a further two minutes back. The #5 Audi of Japan Team Goh, though, suffered a gearbox failure, something that troubled Audi last year, and required a rear end replacement.

The question of the morning, then: will the other three Audis' gearboxes last the full 24 hours?

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Jan Lammers , Tomas Enge , Tom Kristensen , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Emmanuel Collard , Kevin McGarrity , Mark Blundell , Julian Bailey , Eric Gilbert , Alain Menu , JJ Lehto