Hour 15: Audi leads. The sun also rises.

Battle for the lead

Hour 15: Audi leads. The sun also rises.

Perspective's a funny old thing. If you're a member of the Audi board, then you're probably beginning to think fondly of the 68th Le Mans as a classic. But if you're one of the thousands of spectators who stayed on sentry duty around the track during the night, hoping against hope for dicing and real drama at the sharp end, you've probably got a sinking feeling that there's another nine hours of this to go.
But when things get a little too processional, there's always Allan McNish. It's probably going to take more than just McNish's standard-setting pace and consistency to change things at the sharp end, but that doesn't stop the Scot from trying. Over the course of hour 15, McNish outpaced Pirro's lead Audi by something around two seconds a lap, but still looked the most comfortable of the three R8s. It may not be their year again this time around, but the McNish/Aiello/Ortelli package is probably the strongest line-up in sportscar racing today. McNish is the flair player, while the French duo are more solid and dependable than the Arsenal defence.

Behind the Audis, the number three Cadillac continued to plough its lonely furrow - too far behind, but too far in front. In contrast, the number one Caddy, down in 21st, continued to periodically throw its toys out of the pram, the latest problems being a power-steering failure and a more than cautionary gearbox change.

"We've had these niggles," said lead driver Andy Wallace, "but the car's mostly been running pretty good. We'll just keep going and basically treat it as a learning experience for next year."

One place further back, the number 12 Panoz had a moment at Arnage, with Katoh going wide but just failing to kiss the barriers. At the top of the hour, it was wheeled back into its garage - time for yet another major check-up and a change of gearbox.


Relentless - that about sums up the progress of the ORECA Vipers. It's no longer really a GTS thing, it's more a question of how far the Vipers can climb in the top 10. Given the inherent ability of much of the top 10 to self-destruct, a top five may not be out of the question. By the way, the Archer/Duez/Huisman example now leads the Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy car again.


The surviving Mopar Team ORECA Reynard had a gearbox change early in the 15th hour at the end of the latest Didier Theys stint.


Pos No Drivers Car Class Laps/Time
8, F Biela, T Kristensen, E Pirro, Audi R8 (900), 228 laps
9, L Aiello, A McNish, S Ortelli, Audi R8 (900), + 1 lap
7, M Alboreto, C Abt, R Capello, Audi R8 (900), + 2 laps
3, E Bernard, E Collard, F Montagny, Cadillac LMP (900), + 8 laps
12, H Katoh, J O'Connell, P H Raphanel, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), + 11 laps
16, S Bourdais, O Grouillard, E Clerico, C Peugeot (900), + 13 laps
23, T Suzuki, M Kageyama, M Kageyama, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +17 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper (GTS), + 21 laps
52, T Archer, M Duez, P Huisman, Oreca Viper (GTS), + 21 laps
22, K Tsuchiya, M Kondo, A Iida, Panoz Spyder (900), + 21 laps

Class No Driver Car Time
900 9, A McNish Audi R8 3m37.877s


Class No Drivers Car Class Time
32, S Maxwell, J Graham, G Wilkins, Lola Nissan 2K/40, + 68 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper, + 21 laps
83, D Muller, L Luhr, B Wollek, Porsche GT3R, + 29 laps


No Drivers Car Laps Reason
4, M Goossens, C Tinseau, K Kolby, DAM'S Cadillac LMP (900), fire - 5 laps
5, Y Dalmas, N Minassian, J P Belloc, ORECA Reynard-Mopar 2KQ (900), oil pressure - 1 lap
20, J Lammers, P Kox, T Coronel, Konrad Lola B2K/10 (900), retired, 38 laps
33, J D Deletraz, R Kelleners, D Terrien, ROC VW (675), engine, 44 laps
77, C Bouchut, J Chereau, P Gouselard, Porsche GT3-R, accident, 34 laps
34, J-C Boullion, J Gene, G Policand, Reynard Volkswagen (675), engine, 72 laps
24, S Johansson, J Matthews, G Smith, Reynard Judd 2KQ, engine, 126 laps
21, M Schiattarella, D de Radigues, E Naspetti, Lola Judd B2K/10, stopped, 154 laps

For a full list of race positions at the 15-hour mark click here.


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Hour 15: Audi leads. The sun also rises.

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