Just when things seemed to be settling down, a large dose of drama was injected into the Le Mans 24 Hours as the local time approached midday. First Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland entry dropped out of the top five with a battery problem, and then a big off for the team's other Dome-Judd triggered a safety car period and all sorts of fun.
Problems hit the Racing For Holland team shortly before 11am, when the lead car driver by Lammer, Andy Wallace and John Bosch had to stop to have its battery replaced, dropping it from fifth to eighth in the process.
As if that wasn't a bitter pill enough for the team, it second entry had a dramatic off at the first chicane on the Mulsanne straight, shredding its front left tyre, which flailed away at the carbon fibre bodywork. With the car crawling back to the pits, and gravel and carbon fibre shards spread over the track, the organisers opted to bring out the safety car.
Several teams opted to pit at this point, but were held in the pit lane until the main field had driven past on the green flag restart, arguably costing them time. But it was the battle for fifth overall that was most fired-up by the safety car, allowing the sixth-place Panoz of Olivier Beretta to close right up to the back of the Jonathan Cochet in the Courage-Judd. The faster Panoz harried Cochet for some time before sneaking past on the Mulsanne straight, with a bit of overly-enthusiastic weaving thrown in for good measure.
Late in the hour an engine problem hit the number 18 Perscarolo Courage, forcing it to drive slowly round to the pits. Trouble has also hit the LMP675 leading Reynard-Lehmann, but given its 35-lap class lead, it should have time to remedy the problem.
Amidst all this drama, the two works Bentleys continue their metronomic drive towards victory. 20 hours down, four to go...
Positions after hour 19
Pos Drivers Car Laps
1 Kristensen/Capello/Smith Bentley 316 laps
2 Brabham/Herbert/Blundell Bentley 313 laps
3 Pirro/Lehto/Johansson Audi 311 laps
4 Ara/Magnussen/Werner Audi 308 laps
5 Beretta/Jeannette/Papis Panoz 299 laps
6 Cochet/Gounon/Gregoire Courage-Judd 299 laps
7 Helary/Ayari/Minassian Courage-Peugeot 298 laps
8 Lammers/Bosch/Wallace Dome-Judd 298 laps
9 Boullion/Lagorce/Sarrazin Courage-Peugeot 297 laps
10 Kox/Enge/Davies Ferrari 550 287 laps*
* GTS class
1 Kox/Enge/Davies Ferrari 550 287 laps
2 Fellows/O Connell/Freon Corvette 270 laps
3 Gavin/Pilgrim/Collins Corvette 270 laps
1 Andre/Maury-Laribiere/Pillon Reynard-Lehmann 269 laps
2 Nielsen/Shimoda/Elgaard DBA-Zytek 234 laps
3 Terada/Porta/Pickering WR 180 laps
1 Luhr/Maassen/Collard Porsche 265 laps
2 Hindery/Baron/Lieb Porsche 261 laps
3 Neugarten/Smith/Khan Porsche 258 laps
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