20hrs: Corvette leads GTS
There has been more high drama at Le Mans as the twentieth hour ended with the Ferrari versus Corvette GTS battle turning upside down. The American car has just taken the lead, but only holds it by a matter of seconds after the Ferrari hit trouble.
Tomas Enge was looking comfortable in the class lead until a front left wheel-bearing seized as he went into the Dunlop chicane at the start of the lap. The Czech driver had to crawl back to the pits for almost the full lap distance, damaging the front splitter in the process.
"I was going through the chicane and I wasn't going very quickly," said Enge. "I felt the front left go down and when we got it back to the pits we found we needed to change the wheel bearing."
The Corvette (driven by Olivier Beretta) reeled off the several laps that had separated it from the Ferrari whilst the Prodrive team worked, and actually took the lead as it drove past the Ferrari garage to make its own pitstop. Just as Beretta handed over to Jan Magnussen, Prodrive pushed its car back out with Alain Menu at the wheel.
The two cars motored away at exactly the same moment, slotting back onto the track just moments apart. However, the Ferrari is now running lame because of the damaged splitter causing a loss of downforce.
At the front of the race, Tom Kristensen has handed over to Rinaldo Capello in the leading Team Goh Audi, while Jamie Davies has leapt into the Audi UK car. Davies immediately began to fly with a 3m34s lap, but then erred and spun at the Dunlop Chicane. The spin did not delay him for long but may have dented his confidence.
"It has been a hard race," said Kristensen. "We had a puncture initially which set us back and then we have pushed very hard all the way through the night. Then of course we had two more punctures this morning. This has meant that I have had to keep extending my stints, which has made it very hard physically. Now the Audi is running like clockwork."
Kristensen could be on his way to a record fifth consecutive win in the classic, but refuses to speak about making history: "We will see if we can win. We'll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully be there at four o'clock."
Another change in the top category was the demise of the lower-placecd Pescarolo-Judd car. It pulled over at the side of the track and has not returned to the pits.
Ara/Capello/Kristensen Audi R8 LM1 314 laps completed
Davies/Herbert/Smith Audi R8 LM1 314 laps
Lehto/Werner/Pirro Audi R8 LM1 304 laps
Ayari/Comas/Treluyer Pescarolo-Judd LM1 301 laps
Enge/Kox/Menu Ferrari 550 GTS 286 laps
Gavin/Beretta/Magnussen Corvette GTS 286 laps
Biela/Kaffer/McNish Audi R8 LM1 285 laps
Collard/Bourdais/Minassian Pescarolo-Judd LM1 282 laps
Fellows/O'Connell/Papis Corvette GTS 279 laps
Lammers/Dyson/Kaneishi Dome-Judd LM1 279 laps
Andre/Leuenberger/Vanni Lola-Judd LM1 278 laps
Kelleners/Ortelli/Dumas Porsche GT 272 laps
McRae/Rydell/Turner Ferrari 550 GTS 271 laps
Maasen/Bergmeister/Long Porsche GT 271 laps
Coronel/Wilson/Firman Dome-Judd LM1 271 laps
Bouchut/Goueslard/Dupard Ferrari 550 GTS 269 laps
Kurosawa/Nishizawa/Oriodo Porsche GT 266 laps
Burgess/Collin/Bagnall Porsche GT 263 laps
Alphand/Laveille/Almeras Porsche GT 262 laps
Donaldson/Fisken/Nielsen Porsche GT 260 laps
Wilson/Montain/Hugenholtz Ferrari 360 GT 260 laps
Newton/Erdos/Kinch Lola-MG LM1 256 laps
Stirling/Lupberger/McGarrity Nasamax-Judd LM1 256 laps
Berridge/Caine/Stockton TVR GT 251 laps
Khan/Smith/Sugden Porsche GT 247 laps
Tomlinson/Greensall/Evans TVR GT 239 laps
Binnie/Field/Sutherland Lola-Judd LM2 235 laps
Nielsen/Elgaard/Moller Lister LM1 230 laps
Terada/Roussel/Porta WR LM2 216 laps
Sharpe/Hyde/Cunningham Morgan GT 185 laps
Short/Barff/Barbosa Dallara-Judd LM1 230 laps
Hindery/Lieb/Rockenfeller Porsche GT 223 laps
Katoh/Michigami/Fukuda Dome-Mugen LM1 206 laps
Hezemans/Deletraz/Barde Ferrari 575 GTS 200 laps
Bosch/Sullivan/Biagi Ferrari 575 GTS 167 laps
Wallace/Brabham/Shimoda Zytek LM1 163 laps
Rosa/van Merkstein/Caffi Porsche GT 148 laps
Bouvet/Gommendy/Briere WR LM2 137 laps
Melo/Daoudi/de Fournoux Ferrari 360 GT 133 laps
Frei/Gounon/Hancock Courage-AER LM2 127 laps
Jeanette/Pickering/Derlot Courage-Willman LM2 124 laps
Maurylaribiere/Boulay/Besson Reynard-Lehman LM1 122 laps
Belmondo/Gosselin/Saviozzi Courage-AER LM2 80 laps
Vasiliev/Fomenko/Nearn Porsche GT 65 laps
Bourdais/Blanchemain/Berville Panoz LM1 54 laps
Andrews/Lockie/Kumpen Lola-Caterpillar LM1 35 laps
Field/Dayton/Connor Lola-Judd LM1 29 laps
Warnock/Matthews/Daniels Porsche 27 laps