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Hour 11: Audi, Audi... Bentley!

Tom Kristensen's race-leading Audi R8 increased its grip on first place in the 69th Le Mans 24 Hours, thanks to a gearbox and rear end change for its second-placed sister car during the 11th hour

Laurent Aiello brought the car into the pits at 24 minutes past the hour, and left just 5m45s later complete with new 'box, tyres and fuel, thanks to Audi's modular bolt-on rear end. But that was enough to put it two laps behind the race-leading machine, which switched drivers from Emanuele Pirro to Tom Kristensen at the bottom of the hour.

Behind the Ingolstadt steamroller, the Bentley's yo-yo progress continued after problems to two of the three Chrysler-Mopars. The 15 car driven by Stephane Sarrazin had held an unexpected but excellent third, but was forced to pit while the team searched for an engine glitch. But with nothing found, it appeared game over for the Stephane Sarrazin-led machine.

Further back, its sister car pedalled by Stephane Sarrazin was also wheeled into the garage, but re-emerged in eighth after a 15-minute firtle.

With the Chrysler problems, the amazing LMP675-leading Reynard-Lehmann moved into fourth, 11 laps off the lead Audi, with the GTS-leading Corvette of Fellows/O'Connell/Pruett climbing into an incredible fifth.

Sixth overall was the number six Cadillac, with Wayne Taylor at the wheel, and seventh - amazingly after its troubles at the start - was the Ascari with Ben Collins at the wheel.

Lap times began to drop as the track began to dry, and with the rain continuing to hold off, times may fall into the sub-four minute range within the next hour.


The hour started spectacularly when Didier de Radigues in the No 36 Dick Barbour Reynard came into the pit lane with flames spewing out from the back of his Judd engine. The unit went ka-boom just before the entry to the pit lane so the Monegasque driver opted to cruise down to his garage to let fire fighters deal with the flames.

"I saw a strange light behind me and I knew it wasn't another car," said de Radigues. "I saw the fire and it's terrible to see your car in flames. It's the last thing you want to see and I knew the race was over."

The lead of the class is still the Deletraz/Fabre/Gene Roc Reynard with Jordi Gene at the wheel, as the car climbs up to fourth overall, 11 laps off the lead. The second placed 675 machine is no longer the No 33 MG. That honour falls to the No 58 Larbre Competition Viper of Bouchut/Belloc/Monteiro, who lie in 25th overall, when the MG suffered what seems like a terminal oil leak.

"It became incontinent," quipped MG's team manager Hugh Chamberlain. "All the liquid fell out. We found a lot of oil underneath the car, coming from a split in the oil tank."

Mechanics have made patchy repairs, but we'll see just how long it will last.

In GTS, the Corvettes are still in control. The No 63 car is fifth overall, with the 64 car six places back in 11th.

Finally in the GT class the Porsche of Rosa/Babini.Drudi has dropped back one place to 14th overall, two laps ahead of their closest class rival the No 77 Freisinger Motorsport Porsche.


1 (900) F.Biela/T.Kristensen/E.Pirro, Audi R8, Joest Audi Sport, 139 laps
2 (900) R Capello/L Aiello/C Pescatori, Audi R8, Joest Audi Sport, +1 laps
8 (GTP) A.Wallace/B.Leitzinger/E.Vande Poele, Bentley EXP Speed 8, Team Bentley, +8 laps
38 (675) J.D. Deletraz/P.Farbe/J.Gene Reynard-Lehmann 01Q ROC Competition, +11 laps
20 (900) W.Lupberger/B.Collins/H.Toivonen, Ascari-Judd A410, Team Ascari, +11 laps
63 (GTS) R.Fellows/J.O'Connell/S.Pruett, Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, Corvette Racing, +11 laps
6 (900) W.Taylor/M.Angelelli/C.Tinseau, Cadillac Northstar LMP, DAMS, +11 laps
14 (900) S.Ara/N.Amorim/M.Kondo, Chrysler-Mopar LMP, ORECA Chrysler, +12 laps
17 (900) J C. Boullion/S.Bourdais/L.Redon, Courage-Peugeot C60, Pescarolo Sport, +13 laps
16 (900) O.Beretta/K.Wendlinger/P.Lamy, Chrysler-Mopar LMP, Team Playstation, + 13 laps

Aiello/Capello, Audi R8, Team Joest Audi Sport,
3m39.046s

38 (675) J.D. Deletraz/P.Farbe/J.Gene
Reynard-Lehmann 01Q ROC Competition, +11 laps
63 (GTS) R.Fellows/J.O'Connell/S.Pruett,
Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, Corvette Racing, +11 laps
83 (GT) G.Rosa/F.Babini/L.Drudi, Porsche 911
GT3-RS, Seikel Motorsport, + 15 laps


15 (900) Y.Dalmas/F.Montagny/S.Sarrazin, Chrysler-Mopar LMP, ORECA Chrysler
36 (675) D.de Radigues/S.Maassen/H.Matsuda, Reynard-Judd 01Q, Dick Barbour Racing
11 (900) K.Graf/J.Davies/G.Formato, Panoz LMP 07, Panoz Motorsports
12 (900) D.Brabham/J.Magnussen/F.Lagorce, Panoz LMP 07, Panoz Motorsports
3 (900) J.Herbert/R.Kelleners/D.Theys, Audi R8, Champion Racing
10 (900) J.Nielsen/H.Katoh/C.Elgaard, Dome-Judd S101, Den Bla Avis
55 (GTS) V.Vosse/C.Rosenblad/V.Ickx, Chrysler Viper GTS-R Paul Belmondo Racing
(GTP) M.Brundle/S.Ortelli/G.Smith, Bentley EXP Speed 8, Team Bentley, gearbox
(900) E.Collard/M.Goossens/E.Bernard, Cadillac Northstar LMP, DAMS, stopped
(900) S.Johansson/T.Coronel/P.Lemarie, Audi R8, Johansson Motorsport, accident damage
GT R Donovan/T Lingner/C MacAllister, Porsche 911 GT3, Racing Engineering, unknown
(675) A.Reid/W.Hughes/J.Kane, MG-Lola EX257, MG Sport, engine
(675) M.Duno/J.Graham/D.Murry, Reynard-Judd 01Q, Dick Barbour Racing, accident
(GTS) T.Seiler/W.Brun/C.Slater, Saleen-Ford S7R, Konrad Motorsport, accident
(GTS) D.Terrien/J.Cochet/J.P. Dayraut, Chrysler Viper GTS-R, Equipe de France FFSA, accident
(675) W.Carway/M.O'Connell/F.Migault, Pilbeam-Nissan MP84 Rowan Racing, accident

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