Hour three: Alboreto finally gives up his seat

Battle for the lead

Hour three: Alboreto finally gives up his seat

In the opening minutes of the third hour, Allan McNish found himself unexpectedly under pressure when Michele Alboreto temporarily moved away from the Audi gameplan and upped his pace. A couple of quick laps by the Scot appeared to solve the problem, but as the half-hour mark approached, Alboreto was back on McNish's tail. Further back, meanwhile, Frank Biela in the third Audi began to reel in the third-placed Panoz of David Brabham.
Both lead Audis pitted at 18:26, having completed 34 laps, with McNish swapping over to Stephane Ortelli, and Alboreto, in contrast, staying put in his car, not changing tyres and therefore leaving the Audi pit with a handy lead over Ortelli. Brabham pitted too, handing over to Jan Magnussen. All that gave the lead to Frank Biela, whose pitstop plan is set to leave him out of sequence with the other two Audis for the rest of the race, mishaps notwithstanding. Alboreto was second, Ortelli third and Magnussen fourth. Biela finally pitted after completing 36 laps - a 13-lap stint - and handed the car to Tom Kristensen.

As the next round of pit stops sorted out the rest of the top 10, Panoz found itself holding fourth through to sixth, with the Katoh/O'Connell/Raphanel version holding fifth ahead of the Nielsen/Graf/Baldi machine. First non-Audi/Panoz was the DAM'S Cadillac of Bernard/Collard/Montagny.

At 18:45 a major incident at Tertre Rouge involving the GT3R Porsches of the pole-sitting Larbre Competition car (Bouchut/Chereau/Goueslard*) and the Maury-Laribiere/Chauvin/Zadra* car brought out the safety car for the second time and brought on another rash of out of sequence pit stops. Alboreto finally got out of the number seven Audi, handing over to Rinaldo Capello and giving the lead back to Ortelli's number nine car.

McNish: "The car felt extremely good until the first safety car. We picked a bit of rubber up during the safety car period, so it took a little while to get the balance back, but after that it was fantastic. I'm just going to go and find out if Michele's staying in for the whole 24 hours..."

Alboreto: "Staying in is a good way to gain 20 or 25 seconds at a pit stop, so I think it was a good decision. I feel really good, so it's not a problem.'


Softly, softly, catchy monkey, so they say... The number 34 ROC-VW is edging its way up the leader board, holding 11th after the round of safety car pit stops. In the batttle for GTS honours, Chrysler holds the edge, with the Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy ORECA car heading the sister ORECA machine of Archer/Duez/Huisman. Best Corvette is the number 64 Pilgrim/Collins/Freon car, third in class. With the loss of the Larbre Competition GT3R, Dick Barbour Racing has lost its main competition and lies in a comfortable lead.


The number 20, all-Dutch Lola, running 12th, lost a wheel at the end of the Mulsanne straight after the deployment of the safety car. Tom Coronel was at the wheel. No decision yet on if the car can be brought back to the pits.
Michelin leads all classes at the three-hour mark. Tyres are being double-stinted as a matter of course, but Michelin is happy for the teams to leave the tyres on for triple stints when the sun sets and temperatures fall.


Pos No Drivers Car Class Laps/Time
9, L Aiello, A McNish, S Ortelli, Audi R8 (900), 41 laps
7, M Alboreto, C Abt, R Capello, Audi R8 (900), 0.700s
8, F Biela, T Kristensen, E Pirro, Audi R8 (900), 2m36.075s
11, D Brabham, J Magnussen, M Andretti, Panoz Spyder LMP (900), 2m36.186s
10, J Nielsen, K Graf, M Baldi, Panoz Spyder LMP (900) 1 lap
12, H Katoh, J O'Connell, P H Rapanel, Panoz Spyder LMP (900) 1 lap
21, M Schiattarella, D de Radiguez, E Naspetti, Lola-Judd B2K (900) 1 lap
1, F Lagorce, B Leitzinger, A Wallace, Cadillac LMP (900) 1 lap
24, S Johansson, J Matthews, G Smith, Reynard-Judd 2KQ (900) 1 lap
3, E Bernard, E Collard, F Montagny, Cadillac LMP (900) 1 lap


Class No Driver Car Time
900 9 A NcNish Audi R8 3m38.485s


Class No Drivers Car Class Time
34, J C Boullion, J Gene, J Policand, ROC VW @ 1 lap
52, T Archer, M Duez, p Huisman, Chrysler Viper @ 3 laps
83, D Muller, L Luhr, B Wollek, Porsche GT3R @ 4 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

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

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