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Hour 24: Kristensen and Audi Win

Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto and Marco Werner are the happiest drivers at Le Mans after claiming victory in the 73rd running of the world famous event in their Champion Racing Audi R8. This is a first win for Werner, a second for Lehto but a record seventh for Kristensen, amazingly his sixth in succession

Slowed by overheating with little more than an hour to go, then enduring a near miss with the tyre wall at Arnage, the Jean-Christophe Boullion/Emmanuel Collard/Erik Comas Pescarolo had to settle for second place, finishing two laps down on the winners, but safely four laps ahead of the second Champion Racing Audi of Frank Biela, Allan McNish and Emanuele Pirro.

Emphasising the legendary reliability of the Audi R8, the French Oreca-entered version came home fourth overall for Jean-Marc Gounon, Franck Montagny and Stephane Ortelli, this another two laps back.

Showing just how fast GT1 class cars are now, the best placed of these finished an incredible fifth place. This was the Corvette Racing C6.R of Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen who bettered the best that the Aston Martin Racing team could throw at them. The Astons had proved themselves to be slightly faster, but the battle was so tight that the two yellow Corvettes and two green DBR9s were all circulating on the same lap fully 21 hours into the race.

Then, just as Magnussen started to edge the number 64 Corvette clear, both Aston Martins hit trouble in the space of one lap. The Tomas Enge/Peter Kox/Pedro Lamy DBR9 failed with a fuel starvation problem, while the David Brabham/Stephane Sarrazin/Darren Turner DBR9 was parked overheated in the garage and tumbled down the order before being fired up for Sarrazin to take the finish, third in GT1.

The LMP2 battle was the ultimate see-saw ride, with the lead changing just 45 minutes before the end of the race when Paul Belmondo's Gulf-liveried Courage was passed by Tommy Erdos's RML Lola as it limped back to the pits, pulling it briefly to the side of the road at Maison Blanche, just before the pit entry road.

With the second Paul Belmondo Racing Courage being four laps behind, it meant that Erdos could share his victory with Warren Hughes and Mike Newton. The second car home in class was the second Paul Belmondo Racing Courage of Claude-Yves Gosselin, Karim Ojjeh and Adam Sharpe. Belmondo recovered to claim third in class.

American GT2 teams can hold their heads high after taking a clean sweep of the podium positions, with Leo Hindery, Marc Lieb and Mike Rockenfeller winning for Alex Job Racing in 11th place overall. The Jorg Bergmeister/Timo Bernhard/Patrick Long White Lightning Racing Porsche was just over two minutes behind, with the considerably less experienced Flying Lizard Motorsports team guiding Seth Nieman, Lonnie Pechnik and Johannes van Overbeek to the bronze medal position a further seven laps adrift.

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

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