The 24 Hours
Race Report
Part 4
MG: "We've exceeded our expectations," commented Jack Cunningham of Chamberlain Motorsport. Within half an hour of the start, "the drivers had no throttle response for the first 25% of its travel." That tends to make the performance of the #33 car even more impressive. Approaching five hours, this car is in an amazing eighth place, three laps down on the leading R8 - and only half a minute behind Pedro Lamy in the #16 Chrysler. The #34 MG is out. "It's an engine issue," commented Cunningham.

Both Ascari drivers are pushing on. Ben Collins in the #20 car has posted consistently fast times (fast as in silver R8 fast!) in the last stint and Scott Maxwell is lapping only slightly less quickly in #21. The pair are lying 15th and 17th respectively.

The rain is still falling and conditions are still very tricky - even more so in traffic (below). Several cars are finding themselves in difficulties - the delayed #18 Pescarolo Courage with Didier Cottaz at the wheel has limped back into the pits with the rear wing missing. Warren Hughes has stopped at the exit of the Porsche Curves in the #34 MG with engine woes.

Chrysler's steady afternoon takes a downturn as Pedro Lamy spins on his out lap in the #16 Chrysler and Stephane Sarrazin pulls into the pits for an unscheduled stop in the sister #15 car.

A stop go penalty (pit lane speeding) for Donny Crevels in the #9 Racing For Holland Dome delays the car further still.

Marc Goosens had been flying, unfortunately he now flies into the gravel at the Dunlop Curve. The car is towed out and restarts losing around two laps (see below). Patrice Goueslard's #80 Larbre Porsche had a quick spin at the Dunlop Chicane.

The sixth place #7 Bentley with Guy Smith at the wheel is lapping very slowly and is "coasting" through Arnage. Suddenly it's all over for the #7 car, clouds of smoke from the rear end at the Porsche Curves and Smith walks away from the stricken Speed 8. One brave Bentley gone. Designer Peter Elleray is fairly sure what the problem was, but he needs a little while to check.

Further woes for Marc Goosens as he goes straight on into the tyre barrier at Arnage on his return to the race from the Dunlop gravel. He manages to nurse the car back to the pit lane with the front left hand wheel missing (a theme for LM2001 seems to be emerging!) and heavy front end damage. The car is out of the race, so we're down to the one Taylor / Angelelli / Tinseau Northstar.

No change at the front....

Kevin McGarrity brings the #33 MG in for a routine stop after a hugely impressive stint. The car is back up to 8th overall and leads LMP675 by over a lap.

The damaged #5 Cadillac looks to be out of the race and worse still it seems that Marc Goosens may have been hurt in the second accident. No, he's confirmed as definitely OK.

Scott Maxwell has outbraked himself into Arnage but luckily with no damage. Then within seconds Anthony Kumpen outbrakes himself in the #56 Belmondo Viper at precisely the same point, this time though he strikes the tyre barrier. Oil? No it seems that standing water was the cause. The Viper pits with damage to the front left hand corner.

5 hours gone and the leading 5 are:

#1 Joest R8 64 Laps
#2 Joest R8 63 Laps
#3 Champion R8 62 Laps
#8 Bentley 62 Laps
#17 Courage 62 Laps

The class leaders:

LMP 900 #1 Joest R8 (1st overall)
LM GTP #8 Bentley (4th overall)
LMP 675 #33 MG (8th overall)
GTS #63 Corvette (11th overall)
GT #83 Porsche (16th overall)

The GT second placed #74 Porsche has had a quick and harmless spin but retains its 17th place overall.

Scott Maxwell in the #21 Ascari has gone straight on at the Forest Esses causing extensive, and certainly race-ending, damage. It appears that a faulty clutch may have been instrumental in pitching the Ascari off the road.

The #8 Bentley, has suffered from water in the electrics for some time, causing it to lack pace. It also appears that Bentley are trying to recover the #7 car to the pits for an attempted gearbox change. The rules state that if the driver does not remain with the car the entry is regarded as abandoned. Mechanics have been despatched to the Porsche Curves to locate Guy Smith and offer instruction on how to get the car back. But the car is confirmed as OUT, by designer Peter Elleray.

With five and a half hours gone the fastest car on the circuit is the #33 MG-Lola EX257 Mark Blundell, running 8th overall has been lapping a full six seconds faster than anybody else, peaking with a 4:18 whilst the leading Joest cars can only manage 4:24s.

The #6 Cadillac has lost its headlights, with darkness falling it will need attention sooner rather than later.

A Panoz has re-emerged from the pits. Gary Formato has brought the #11 car back into the race after a long spell in the garage after the team's earlier wheel losses. But after one lap, it's back with headlight failure. It's currently in 34th place, 27 laps down. The other LMP07 is listed in 35th, out of 40 runners still left in the event.

Mike Youles has had a violent spin at the first Mulsanne chicane, suffering frontal damage to the PK Sport / Ricardo 911 GT3-RS. This is where the quick replacement Ricardo front end for a Porsche should come in very useful.

Darkness seems to have been descending for ages, but if the weather was fine, we'd still be in daylight at 22.00. We're not. It's getting darker and gloomier by the minute. The rain is still coming down, and it looks set for a while yet. It was supposed to be dry for the night action.

Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours
Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours

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