LE MANS
The 24 Hours
-
17/06/2001
 
Race Report
Part 10
 
6.40 The #21 Ascari re-emerges from the pits after a nine and a half hour effort to repair accident damage. Xavier Pompidou sets off to lift the spirits of the pluckiest team in the paddock.

6:48 Wayne Taylor spins at the Ford Chicane trying too hard in pursuit of the #16 Chrysler. The resultant pit stop drops the #6 Cadillac down to 7th but the car is circulating quickly again.



6:51 Ian McKellar Junior brings a very smokey #62 Saleen into the pits, engine cover off and pushed into the garage - looks serious. McKellar thinks the engine has dropped a valve. "It was good enough for 12 hours at Sebring but it obviously isn't good enough yet for 24." Looks like it's all over for the RML car.

6:54 Franck Freon's #64 Corvette joins the long list of cars that have visited the gravel at the Ford Chicane; straight into the pits where a damaged rear diffuser is removed using brute force rather than technical know how, the Corvette rejoins in 15th place.

6:58 And now Olivier Beretta joins the Ford Chicane club in the #16 Chrysler, skittering along the kerbs after losing the car on the garden path's worth of gravel dumped on the racing line by the earlier incidents.



7:10 Luc Alphand rejoins after a lengthy stop in the #74 Porsche. This car had briefly led GT but now falls back to thirrd. The class leader now is the #77 Freisinger car in the hands of Gunnar Jeannette but his pursuer, Fabio Babini in the #83 Seikel Porsche, responds immediately by posting the car's fastest time of the race, a 4:21.

7:11 Xavier Pompidou brings the war weary Ascari back to the pits, the car is wheeled into the garage. That's enough for 2001, but they will be back.

7:18 The fastest man on the circuit at this stage is Seiji Ara in the #14 Chrysler with a 3:52.5, the Japanese driver has been hugely impressive on his Le Mans debut throughout the awful conditions overnight and now is looking to chase down the seemingly fragile #17 Courage.

7:20 The #6 Cadillac retakes sixth place and is homing in fast on the fifth place #38 ROC Reynard, struggling now with cooling difficulties.

7:45 The #63 Corvette is chasing down the ROC Reynard too and when the #38 car pits for more attention to its cooling problems, Scott Pruett is through, followed one lap later by the #17 Courage.



7:54 The #83 Seikel Porsche is pushing the class leading #77 Freisinger GT Porsche hard. Fabio Babini is putting together a string of quick laps and has closed the gap to under three minutes.

8:00 Laurent Aiello in the #2 R8 is called back into the pits after only two laps out. The front left tyre is replaced and he rejoins still two laps behind.

8:05 The ROC Reynard continues its tumble down the leaderboard. The #14 Chrysler now runs eighth, ahead of the Lehmann engined LMP 675.

Brooksie was unimpressed with the dawn, but we did see the sun briefly - enough to encourage David Lord out to the Dunlop Chicane, by which time the clouds had rolled in - or rather the overcast slipped over us, inducing a feeling of, well, that the two R8s are eight and 11 laps clear of the valiant Bentley, which is six laps clear of Beretta, who is three ahead of Taylor.

Andrew Wallace Esquire; "This ranks with '92 and '95 for rain. The moment of the race so far was right at the beginning, when we were all going down the straight (towards Indianapolis) and we hit a wall of water. We all slowed and Stefan spun and hit the barrier. His bodywork flew off and landed on my roof. The car is going perfectly, but there is still a long way to go."






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