Hour 19: To be perfectly Frank

Battle for the lead

Hour 19: To be perfectly Frank

Crikey, he's still in the car! For Frank Biela swapping with Emanuele Pirro during the 18th hour, read Frank Biela staying in the car and Tom Kristensen kicking his heels a while longer.
Biela's stint is showing every sign of taking on legendary proportions. The German started it as a match-up with Allan McNish and finished it nurturing the number eight Audi R8's comfort zone over Stephane Ortelli in the second-placed nine car.

"I'll get in the car when Frank's done his thing," shrugged a not unduly perturbed Kristensen. "When the Viper crashed at Indianapolis, we put him on new rubber and that's why we got him doing the extra stint - you can stay out longer on new rubber."

Sunday daylight's been a trouble-free ride for the lead car, but think back over the previous hours and the two punctures it suffered could have turned things out completely different.

"When we got the punctures, the key to the whole thing was that we didn't damage the car," explained Kristensen. "If we had, we wouldn't be leading now, but as it was, it was all pretty straightforward."

Luck further played its part when Biela had to jink to avoid a GT class GT3R Porsche - but every Le Mans winner down the years can point to something that could have gone the wrong way, and every Le Mans loser can point to something that did.

So, no change at the front - and no change further back. The Cadillac LMP is rapidly becoming the Dennis Irwin of the top 10 - not flashy, sometimes unnoticed, but always there. Ditto the Pescarolo Courage.

Five hours to go, Audi rules the high seas, but the consensus still seems to be that team orders are a no-no. Laurent Aiello, who's set to replace Stephane Ortelli in the second-placed car, explains the philosophy thus: "The solution is to say to the drivers 'don't take any risks' - and that's what they've already done. All we have to do is drive carefully."


Without the showdown actually taking place, Corvette has engineered itself into a respectable second in the GTS class - that's partially been down to ORECA's recent dramas, but also due to being there, in a position where it's possible to make the most of the misfortune of others.



Johnny O'Connell was the latest Panoz driver to check out the car's handling on gravel - the consensus says it's pretty good, with both cars driving out unaided.


Pos No Drivers Car Class Laps/Time
8, F Biela, T Kristensen, E Pirro, Audi R8 (900), 291 lap
9, L Aiello, A McNish, S Ortelli, Audi R8 (900), + 1 lap
7, M Alboreto, C Abt, R Capello, Audi R8 (900), + 3 laps
3, E Bernard, E Collard, F Montagny, Cadillac LMP (900), + 16 laps
16, S Bourdais, O Grouillard, E Clerico, C Peugeot (900), + 19 laps
23, T Suzuki, M Kageyama, M Kageyama, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), + 22 laps
12, H Katoh, J O'Connell, P H Raphanel, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), + 24 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper (GTS), + 27 laps
64, A Pilgrim, K Collins, F Freon, Corvette C5-R (GTS), + 32 laps
53, D Donohue, N Amorim, A Beltoise, Oreca Viper (GTS), + 32 laps

Class No Driver Car Time
900 9, A McNish Audi R8 3m37.359s


Class No Drivers Car Class Time
32, S Maxwell, J Graham, G Wilkins, Lola Nissan 2K/40, + 81 laps
51, O Beretta, K Wendlinger, D Dupuy, Oreca Viper (GTS), + 27 laps
83, D Muller, L Luhr, B Wollek, Porsche GT3R, + 38 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 (GT), 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 (900), engine, 126 laps
21, M Schiattarella, D de Radigues, E Naspetti, Lola Judd B2K/10 (900), stopped, 154 laps
15, T Bscher, J M Gounon, G Lees, BMW LMP (900), retired, 180 laps

For a full list of race positions at the 18-hour mark click here.


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