Hour 14: Collard Continues Charge

The hours around dawn are usually pivotal to any 24-hour race. Those who make it through the 'strange' hours will use the cooler temperatures and the light of sunrise to set their fastest laps of the race. The number three Champion Racing Audi of Tom Kristensen continues to lead the sister car of Allan McNish

Hour 14: Collard Continues Charge

McNish is aboard the Champion Audi, and was able to stretch his stint into the super quick daylight hours, his favourite time of the race. McNish stopped as the sky turned from black to blue and did indeed stay aboard, rejoining little more than two minutes behind teammate Marco Werner.

As McNish headed towards the pits, pole setter Emmanuel Collard set a 3m36.953s lap, the Pescarolo team looking to stretch the life of their tyres while lapping at an extraordinary rate to close the gap to the leaders. As Werner lapped in 3m45 on the 206th tour, McNish set a 3m43.543 and Collard 3m37.305s.

As light crept over the circuit, McNish set about bringing the lead down to less than a minute, and at 5:55 am had the gap at 58 seconds. Predictably, halfway through the hour, it was Tom Kristensen who leapt aboard the lead Champion R8 for the dawn shift, and the Dane set the car's fastest lap of the race at the top of the hour, a 3m41.242s.

The Jim Gainer International Dome did not make it that far, falling victim to a transmission failure with 2004 winner Seiji Ara at the wheel. The car had been setting competitive times throughout the race and it was a bitterly disappointed Japanese team which began packing away its pit before breakfast.

The Creation DBA had a long stop to change a radiator as water was leaking onto its rear tyres, undoing all the good work by Nicolas Minassian, Jamie Campbell-Walter and Andy Wallace throughout the night following their problems on Saturday afternoon.

The Aston Martin against Corvette battle in GT1 continued into the daylight, Tomas Enge continuing to lead the way in the class, with nearly two-and-a-half minutes in hand over the Corvette. The Czech driver stayed at the wheel, taking on fuel only and maintaining his position at the head of the field heading through dawn. Stephane Sarrazin continued to break the critical 3m55 barrier in the second Aston Martin in his bid to catch the second Corvette of Ron Fellows.

The Astons and Corvettes are dominating the GT1 proceedings but behind, the Larbre Competition Ferrari of Olivier Dupard, Vincent Vosse and Patrice Goueslard is running a comfortable fifth in class, setting lap times of over four minutes per lap, while sixth is the Russian Age Racing Ferrari, with the bulk of the driving shared between Christophe Bouchut and Alexey Vasiliev. That car stopped just short of the 14th hour for a lengthy stop.

The LM2 class retained its reputation for last man standing, the Paul Belmondo Racing Courage of Adam Sharpe having taken the lead following the retirement of the Intersport Courage in the ninth hour. The RML Lola, which had overheating and transmission problems during the first few hours of the race, has recovered to second in class, five down on the class leader. Hughes has been lapping up to 12 seconds faster than Sharpe but will have to rely on luck rather than pace to win his class.

Marc Lieb and Timo Bernhard continue to battle at the head of the GT2 field, Lieb sharing the majority of the driving duties with Mike Rockenfeller. The two Porsche factory drivers were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the Yokohama tyres and are travelling extremely quickly. The Petersen White Lightning Porsche, which ran second in the hands of Timo Bernhard, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister, stopped just shy of 6 am for a long stop. The Raymond Narac Porsche of Narac, Romain Dumas and Sebastian Dumez lies third despite the accident in the warm-up session on Saturday which left the team with a lengthy re-build of the car.

Pos # Drivers Make Class On Hour 14
1 3 Lehto, Werner, Kristensen Audi R8 LM P1
2 2 Biela, Pirro, McNish Audi R8 LM P1
3 16 Collard, Boullion, Comas Pescarolo Judd LM P1
4 4 Montagny, Gounon, Ortelli Audi R8 LM P1
5 9 Hignett, Stack, Kurosawa Zytek 04S LM P1
6 17 Loeb, Helary, Ayari Pescarolo Judd LM P1
7 58 Enge, Kox, Lamy Aston Martin DBR9 LM GT1
8 64 Gavin, Beretta, Magnussen Corvette C6-R LM GT1
9 63 Fellows, O'Connell, Papis Corvette C6-R LM GT1
10 59 Brabham, Sarrazin, Turner Aston Martin DBR9 LM GT1
11 18 Short, Barbosa, Ickx Dallara Judd LM P1
12 7 Minassian, CampbellW., Wallace DBA Judd LM P1
13 10 Lammers, Julian, Bosch Dome Judd LM P1
14 50 Goueslard, Dupard, Vosse Ferrari 550 Maranello LM GT1
15 12 Schwager, Frei, Vann Courage Judd LM P1
16 71 Hindery, Rockenfell., Lieb Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
17 90 Bergmeist., Long, Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
18 61 Fomenko, Vasiliev, Bouchut Ferrari 550 Maranello LM GT1
19 76 Dumas, Dumez, Narac Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
20 80 Overbeek, Pechnick, Neiman Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
21 36 Gosselin, Ojjeh, Sharpe Courage C65 Ford LM P2
22 89 Nielsen, Thyrring, Ehret Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
23 72 Policand, Campbell, Alphand Porsche 911 GT3 RS LM GT2
24 25 Erdos, Newton, Hughes Lola MG LM P2
25 37 Belmondo, Andre, Sutherland Courage C65 Ford LM P2
26 30 Bennett, Mitchell, Mullen Courage Judd LM P2
27 91 Pompidou, Blanchema., Yamagishi Porsche 911 GT3 RS LM GT2
28 83 Collin, Felbermayr, Shep Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
29 92 Macari, Eriksson, Wilson Ferrari 360 Mo. GTC LM GT2
30 35 Hillebrand, Hahn, Pickering Courage C65 Judd LM P2
31 24 Terada, Roussel, Binnie WR Peugeot LM P2
32 95 Hartshorne, Stanton, Johnson TVR Tuscan 400 R LM GT2
33 78 Sellers, Franchitti, Bourdais Panoz Elan LM GT2
34 8 Verdon Roe, Krumm, Primat Dallara Nissan LM P1
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