Hour 7: Aston Back in Class Lead

Tom Kristensen, the six-time Le Mans winner who is aiming to beat Jacky Ickx's record of overall wins this year, is going the right way about it as the Dane leads the race by a lap over the sister Champion Racing Audi R8 of Frank Biela

Hour 7: Aston Back in Class Lead

Kristensen remained among the fastest drivers on the circuit as darkness fell around the track, setting 3:42s to 3:44s laps, to maintain his advantage.

Ryo Michigami has been setting some startlingly quick lap times in the Jim Gainer International Dome, the Japanese driver taking full advantage of the slightly cooler temperatures and grasping the last of the light to set the car's fastest lap, a 3:39.853 to consolidate the car's third position overall. Michigami stopped at the bottom of the hour to hand over to last year's winner Seiji Ara, the car's seventh pit stop of the race, one fewer than the two Audis ahead of him.

The ORECA Audi runs fourth, its nine pit stops including the extra trip down pit road due to a broken suspension, which was causing the right rear wheel to move under braking. The team changed the suspension as the Frenchman denied making a mistake. "I did not make a mistake, I did not hit anything," said Ortelli. "I must have run over the debris when the number 13 Courage had the accident."

Martin Short's fantastic early performance came to an end when the car was pushed into the garage to repair the power steering. "The power steering problem that was going on me has now gone," said team owner and driver Martin Short. "The car was very difficult to drive, it was getting worse and worse, so we had to do something about it. We can't do another 18 hours like this. We had our glory."

In the GT1 class, the Aston Martin against Corvette battle continued, with Peter Kox moving ahead of Ron Fellows's Corvette to lead in the British Racing Green car, and put in some solid laps, running below the four minute barrier.

Kox's pace allowed him to open out a 15 second lead over Fellows, whose pace was decidedly slow, 4s off that of Kox, and 5s slower than his teammate Oliver Gavin who was closing in third. Aston Martin's Darren Turner was looking to make up for some of his earlier indiscretions in fourth position, and was running at a quicker pace than all of the cars in his class ahead of him.

Both of the BMS Scuderia Italia Ferraris were retired, Fabrizio Gollin having crashed his car late in the sixth hour, shortly after Toni Seiler had suffered a cut tyre in his 550 Maranello and also crashed heavily.

The LM2 class was headed by the Intersport Racing Lola of Liz Halliday, the American enjoying her first experience of Le Mans in a prototype in the car she shares with Gregor Fisken and Sam Hancock. Hancock emerged from the cockpit after a triple stint, claiming that he was driving "like a taxi driver, though not a French one obviously! We had quite a deficit to make up, but we ran without lighting up the red lights on the rev counter." The car leads the class by two laps.

The Alex Job Racing Porsche continues to lead the GT2 class by little more than a minute from the White Lightning Racing Porsche, although owes a pit stop to the second-placed car. Donny Crevels had a frightening end to his Le Mans 24-hours in the Spyker when he spun off at the Porsche Curves on fire.

That brought out the safety car just short of the hour, with a fast section of the circuit coated in oil. The safety car came as Kristensen led by a lap over Biela and two laps over Ara and Gounon. Kox had extended his lead over the Corvette of Fellows to 22s, with Gavin 6s down on his teammate.

Pos # Drivers Make Class On Hour 7
1 3 Lehto, Werner, Kristensen Audi R8 LM P1
2 2 Biela, Pirro, McNish Audi R8 LM P1
3 5 Michigami, Ara, Kaneishi Dome Mugen LM P1
4 4 Montagny, Gounon, Ortelli Audi R8 LM P1
5 10 Lammers, Julian, Bosch Dome Judd LM P1
6 17 Loeb, Helary, Ayari Pescarolo Judd LM P1
7 9 Hignett, Stack, Kurosawa Zytek 04S LM P1
8 16 Collard, Boullion, Comas Pescarolo Judd LM P1
9 58 Enge, Kox, Lamy Aston Martin DBR9 LM GT1
10 63 Fellows, O'Connell, Papis Corvette C6-R LM GT1
11 64 Gavin, Beretta, Magnussen Corvette C6-R LM GT1
12 18 Short, Barbosa, Ickx Dallara Judd LM P1
13 59 Brabham, Sarrazin, Turner Aston Martin DBR9 LM GT1
14 50 Goueslard, Dupard, Vosse Ferrari 550 Maranello LM GT1
15 32 Fisken, Halliday, Hancock Lola AER LM P2
16 7 Minassian, CampbellW., Wallace DBA Judd LM P1
17 61 Fomenko, Vasiliev, Bouchut Ferrari 550 Maranello LM GT1
18 71 Hindery, Rockenfell., Lieb Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
19 90 Bergmeist., Long, Bernhard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
20 12 Schwager, Frei, Vann Courage Judd LM P1
21 37 Belmondo, Andre, Sutherland Courage C65 Ford LM P2
22 36 Gosselin, Ojjeh, Sharpe Courage C65 Ford LM P2
23 34 Macaluso, James, Lally Courage AER LM P2
24 31 Amorim, Iannetta, Pillon Courage - CG LM P2
25 76 Dumas, Dumez, Narac Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
26 30 Bennett, Mitchell, Mullen Courage Judd LM P2
27 72 Policand, Campbell, Alphand Porsche 911 GT3 RS LM GT2
28 80 Overbeek, Pechnick, Neiman Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
29 89 Nielsen, Thyrring, Ehret Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
30 91 Pompidou, Blanchema., Yamagishi Porsche 911 GT3 RS LM GT2
31 35 Hillebrand, Hahn, Pickering Courage C65 Judd LM P2
32 25 Erdos, Newton, Hughes Lola MG LM P2
33 92 Macari, Eriksson, Wilson Ferrari 360 Mo. GTC LM GT2
34 69 Fournoux, Daoudi, Matthews Ferrari 575 GTC LM GT1
35 83 Collin, Felbermayr, Shep Porsche 911 GT3 RSR LM GT2
36 85 Coronel, Crevels, Merksteijn Spyker C8 Spyder LM GT2
37 93 Kinch, Kirkaldy, Reid Ferrari 360 Modena LM GT2
38 78 Sellers, Franchitti, Bourdais Panoz Elan LM GT2
39 24 Terada, Roussel, Binnie WR Peugeot LM P2
40 95 Hartshorne, Stanton, Johnson TVR Tuscan 400 R LM GT2
41 8 Verdon Roe, Krumm, Primat Dallara Nissan LM P1
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