Hour 23: Are we nearly there yet…?

Battle for the lead

Hour 23: Are we nearly there yet…?

The penultimate hour of the 68th Le Mans 24 Hours had that end of term feel about it, with the three Audi R8s in the role of the clever kids that had walked their exams and were just waiting for the final bell. In a way, in the long hours since Allan McNish's long-range duel with race leader Frank Biela had petered out, the Audis had been going through the motions - they were going to win anyway, so roll on home time.
For the rest - maybe bar the child prodigy masquerading as the GT-shredding Dick Barbour Racing Porsche GT3R - the final two hours could still provide shocks and disappointments. The Courage Peugeot C52 looked like a lock-in for fourth, but with the Panoz fleets in a seemingly constant state of flux, the top 10 could still take on a different complexion.

Speaking of Panoz and disappointments, Mario Andretti's barrier scrape was fixable - a new nose and a check-up on the left front suspension being the main things - but it was decided to put Jan Magnussen in for the final hour or so. Nevertheless, the American veteran had conducted himself well - name a Panoz driver who hadn't got into some sort of scrape over the last 23 hours.

Back to the front of the class and what was the plan for the final few laps? Team orders? A formation finish? Let 'em race?

"There is still just over an hour to go," said Audi Sport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "Nothing is decided - everything can happen. But if you look at where the cars are relative to each other, it would seem correct if they kept to their own pace."

So, no team orders, but a certain implied etiquette nonetheless. And as the minutes ticked by, a time to start being rueful over what might have been, especially if you were in the second-placed car.

"We had problems during the night with the turbo and the gearbox," recounted Stephane Ortelli, 'and if we hadn't lost that time, you can draw your own conclusions."

And if my auntie had a pair of you-know-whats, she'd be my uncle. That's a 24-hour race for you.


They'd had their ups and downs, but with a single hour to go, it was looking like an ORECA Viper day in the GTS class. The Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy machine had finally broken clear of the pack and the expected Corvette/Viper scrap hadn't really materialised for the lead, but it had been an absorbing back-and-forth scrap. In the GT class, the Dick Barbour Racing effort had been a class apart, while in the LMP 675 category, the number 32 Multimatic Lola-Nissan had soaked up everything Le Mans had thrown at it and come back fighting.


Heat exhaustion raised its sweaty head in the final stages of a scorching Le Mans 24 Hours. Temperatures soared into the early '30s, with temperatures in the closed cockpit GT and GTS cars taking drivers to the edge of endurance. For Corvette star Justin Bell, it was a case of a stint too far, the Englishman collapsing in his garage and being whisked away by ambulance.


Pos No Drivers Car Class Laps/Time
8, F Biela, T Kristensen, E Pirro, Audi R8 (900), 354 laps
9, L Aiello, A McNish, S Ortelli, Audi R8 (900), +1 lap
7, M Alboreto, C Abt, R Capello, Audi R8 (900), +3 laps
16, S Bourdais, O Grouillard, E Clerico, C Peugeot (900), +24 laps
12, H Katoh, J O'Connell, P H Raphanel, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +26 laps
23, T Suzuki, M Kageyama, M Kageyama, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +28 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper (GTS), +33 laps
22, K Tsuchiya, M Kondo, A Iida, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), +38 laps
53, D Donohue, N Amorim, A Beltoise, Dodge Viper (GTS), +39 laps
, 64, A Pilgrim, K Collins, F Freon, Corvette (GTS), +41 laps


Class No Driver Car Time
900 9, A McNish Audi R8 3:37.359


Class No Drivers Car Class Time
32, S Maxwell, J Graham, G Wilkins, Lola Nissan 2K/40, +92 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper, +33 laps
83, D Muller, L Luhr, B Wollek, Porsche GT3R, +48 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
54, G Martinolle, J C Lagnez, B Derichebourg, Dodge Viper, engine, 180 laps
56, M Hezemans, D Hart, N Hugenholz, Dodge Viper, accident, 210 laps
17, P Gache, G Formato, D Cottaz, Courage Peugeot, engine, 219 laps

For a full list of race positions at the 21-hour mark click here.

shares
comments
Hour 23: Are we nearly there yet…?

Previous article

Hour 23: Are we nearly there yet…?

Next article

Hour 24: Audi wins Le Mans

Hour 24: Audi wins Le Mans
Load comments
The rise of a GT squad responsible for a unique 24-hour racing feat Plus

The rise of a GT squad responsible for a unique 24-hour racing feat

It's a significant achievement to win one 24-hour race in a year, let alone two, and with different manufacturers, but that's exactly what ROWE Racing did in 2020 at the Nurburgring and Spa. This weekend's German classic offers the DTM newcomer a chance of another unique double to add to its growing collection of accolades

GT
Jun 3, 2021
The new threat facing motorsport's greatest success story Plus

The new threat facing motorsport's greatest success story

The manufacturers were unconvinced – and even hostile – when Stephane Ratel launched GT3 in 2006. Now, 15 years on from its debut, they’ve sold more than 2000 cars and counting, but its continued expansion puts the increasingly globalised category at risk of losing its roots

GT
May 25, 2021
The Lamborghini teams plotting to stop a RAM raid on British GT Plus

The Lamborghini teams plotting to stop a RAM raid on British GT

With the Silver pairings that dominated 2020 now banned, Mercedes pair Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie could be in the box seat after winning last year's Pro-Am crown. But a swarm of Lamborghinis, with the defending outright champion among them, will ensure they face tough opposition

GT
May 21, 2021
How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations Plus

How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations

Time in a thoroughbred racer leaves you searching for time in yourself, especially when the rewards for total commitment are so high, as our man discovered at Snetterton

GT
Apr 28, 2021
How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy Plus

How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy

Raffaele Marciello once appeared to be Ferrari’s next Italian F1 star, but is now under the pay of its German arch-rival in GTs – and he’s very happy with his life

GT
Apr 8, 2021
Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers Plus

Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers

The convergence between the World Endurance Championship and IMSA over LMDh regulations offers a bright future for sportscar racing, but the imminent demise of IMSA's GT Le Mans class creates wider issues to which no catch-all solution exists

GT
Feb 3, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Plus

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it

GT
Jan 23, 2021
Why a lost F1 hope is still in demand aged 65 Plus

Why a lost F1 hope is still in demand aged 65

There's a saying among retired folk that life begins at 60, but endurance specialist Alain Ferte has never used the 'R' word. Some 40 years since his crowning glory in F3, he's still a driver in demand and gunning for more 24-hour racing success this weekend

GT
Jan 15, 2021