|The 24 Hours|
|Biela leads: unseen by the TV cameras, Frank Biela has taken both Graf and Brundle. Mark Blundell is now sixth, leading LMP675 (and most of LMP900!) fastest man on the circuit after posting a 3:49, this little MG is a real revelation. |
The #5 Cadillac has a stop-go penalty for overtaking under the safety car.
Climbing back up the order are Aiello in the #1 R8, now into the top 10 and Kelleners in the #3 Champion Audi, also into the 3:49s.
The second MG, still in the hands of Anthony Reid, is matching this pace in a stupendous recovery drive, back in 35th for now.
In GT, Mike Youles has brought the class leading PK Sport Porsche in for a routine stop - with a 90 second lead, having stayed out on slicks through the rain. David Warnock takes over and retains the class lead.
At the front, Biela is escaping from his pursuers at a rate of knots, 22 seconds clear of Graf after 80 minutes racing, Brundle is slowly falling back, 8 seconds behind the Panoz..
Nielsen pits and Blundell is up to 4th! Lapping 14 seconds quicker than the third placed Bentley and a minute behind - and catching amazingly quickly. The fuel economy of the #33 car could leave us with a very interesting top three very soon.
The leader pits for a routine pit stop and slicks go on the car, back into the fray, third place, Panoz lead again.
The MGs are now lapping in team formation - a very quick formation! Anthony Reid is 2 laps down but picking off slower runners with metronomic regularity. But just as I type this, Reid pits out of sequence. Electronics problems, a long stop, but Hugh Chamberlain seems to feel that the car is fine. The car goes out again but pits again one lap later, the car is wheeled back into the pit garage with Warren Hughes forced to wait whilst a cracked exhaust pipe is replaced - for a turbo car a serious disadvantage.
Derek Bell has told Eurosport viewers that the #7 Bentley has gear selection difficulties but next time round he leads!
The #12 Panoz loses a wheel at Arnage but makes it back safely to the pits.
90 minutes down and the fastest car on the circuit is....Laurent Aiello's R8, their recovery drive continues. Martin Brundle and Frank Biela dice for the lead down the pits straight and through to Mulsanne. Brundle holds the German through the first chicane but Biela executes a copybook pass into the second chicane.
Blundell is now up to third place, taking Jamie Davies who has taken over the #11 Panoz. Aiello meanwhile is flying, down to 3:40 on lap 22 and now up to sixth, then up to fourth on the very next lap.
Julian Bailey takes over the third place #33 car, but only after Mark Blundell bounces the car through the gravel trap on the pit lane entry. Rear bodywork is removed to check that no damage has been done, a long stop then and the car rejoins. A long brake pedal, he explains.
GTS news, the class is led by Johnny Mowlem in the #62 RML Saleen from the #63 Corvette, as we approach the end of hour two.
The #12 Panoz's wheel loss is matched by the third placed #11 car which sends a wheel flying (harmlessly) as the car pits. The #12 car is called in as a precaution - Panoz appear to have a problem.
All of a sudden, the order at the front is R8, R8, Speed 8, R8 with Biela leading Aiello, Brundle and Kelleners. How did that happen? The factory cars were hammering in laps around 3:40 (3:42 for Bentley) while everyone else was limited to 3:45s.
The leading #16 Chrysler has been lapping quickly and steadily, never out of the top 5. Typed too soon! A long pit stop (below) puts Karl Wendlinger back to 13th. The lead Chrysler is now the sixth place #15 car in the hands of Frank Montagny.
In GT, Cort Wagner is going great guns in the Callaway, he takes the class lead. Meanwhile, the #71 Racing Engineering Porsche has a brief off in the gravel on the inside of Indianapolis, Speedvision presenter Tom Lingner finding out how tough it is behind the wheel rather than the mike.
The #21 Ascari pits to replace a missing front bodywork. The team fits the wrong replacement nose section, delaying the car further.
Now the hammer goes down. The Joest pair are down into the 3:39s. The Bentleys and Kellener's Champion R8 have managed 3:42s but nobody else has bettered a 3:45.
An LMP 675 is now in the top seven again, and it's not an MG. The #36 Dick Barbour Reynard has been quietly climbing up the order, taking advantage of the woes of quicker LMP900 runners.
Rain again for part of the circuit, Tertre Rouge is very wet.
The #12 Panoz pulls straight into its pit garage, engine cover off and signs that it has a brake problem.
Aiello posts a very slow lap, reason unknown. Brundle is back up to second. The second Speed 8 is about a minute behind in fourth place in the hands of Eric van de Poele. Now Biela pits and Brundle leads again.
The Gulf R8 is still ploughing on with its long recovery drive, up to 20th and lapping at the pace of the race leaders. That soon becomes 16th.
The #14 Chrysler spins harmlessly with Ni Amorin having just taken over the car.
After the dramatic start, the Cadillacs are having a quiet race. The cars are currently running 10th and 13th. At the moment, the Courage attack looks severely blunted, only the #17 car is still in the top 10 (9th) with the second Pescarolo car and the Philippe Gache run entry way down the order following problems at the very start of the race.
John Nielsen's #10 Den Bla Avis dome is still circulating very rapidly, up to 7th place with two and a half hours gone.
The class leaders at two and a half hours:
LMP900 Frank Biela #1 Joest R8
LMGTP Martin Brundle #7 Bentley (2nd overall)
LMP675 Julian Bailey MG-Lola EX257 (10th overall)
GTS Ian McKellar Jnr. #62 RML Saleen (19th overall)
GT Romain Dumas #77 Freisinger Porsche (23rd overall)
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