PK Sport At Le Mans
Ricardo Vehicle Engineering
The Race
Part 3
Hours Eight through Thirteen

The first hours of Sunday saw the PK team through into the second day of this year's Le Mans 24 Hours. Stephen Day, whose stint had begun at quarter to midnight, was not finding it a pleasant experience. "Someone up there doesn't like me," he said. "As soon as I got back out, it absolutely poured down with rain. It got very nasty indeed - probably the worst conditions I've ever raced under."

If Stephen thought the conditions were that bad it didn't really show. Just as Mike Youles had earlier, Stephen Day was consistently one of the quickest GT drivers on the track. "But I still couldn't see anything at all!" he said. "It was almost impossible along from the Mulsanne Corner through to Indianapolis, especially where the trees line the track."

He illustrated this by having a minor "moment" entering the PlayStation Chicane. At exactly the same point that Mike Youles had suffered his radiator-busting spin, Stephen outbraked himself and spun. Fortunately he kept it on the road, and was able to drive through the tyre wall chicane and regain the track on the other side. No harm done.

One o'clock in the morning and we moved into the tenth hour of the race. Stephen Day was also on the move, climbing to 22nd overall and a much healthier seventh in class. This followed the demise of the #70 Callaway, which had retired after completing 98 laps. Twenty minutes later and all this went for nothing . . .

"I was actually on my in lap," explained Stephen. "when I had a coming-together with what I think was the Perspective Racing car, the #75 Porsche. I had followed him up towards Indianapolis. I'd been behind him and to one side, so I felt sure he knew I was there. I took my normal line on the right to clip the apex, and then he moved right across in front of me as we moved between there and the left hander. I tried to cut back down to miss him, but he clipped me across the nose." Stephen recovered from the knock quite quickly. "Luckily I didn't have far to go, and the temperature had only just started to go up as I drove into the pitlane." If the timing of the stop was scheduled, the length and purpose was not. There was no obvious body damage, but two of the radiators were holed. In an almost exact repeat of the earlier repair and replacement operation, Stephen was in the garage for three quarters of an hour while the crew replaced the radiators and front valence.

Once more there was no driver change and, at a little after two o'clock, Stephen Day headed back out on track. The official times had just been released for the tenth hour, showing the PK entry back down to 24th overall and ninth in class. It was a great disappointment for Stephen after all his hard work, but the car was still running, and a running car is not yet out of luck. "It had stopped raining by then," he said, "but it was still very greasy. There was a dry line starting to appear but it remained damp through the trees. I tried to be very careful with the tyres, especially through the corners."

Stephen completed another full stint of an hour and twenty minutes, heading back into the pitlane at three-twenty-five to hand over to David Warnock. It took the men from Dunlop just a few seconds to proclaim that there was plenty of life left in the tyres yet, confirming the wisdom of Stephen's driving style. With no need to change the rubber, Warnock was back out again in double quick time. Half an hour later and 3:00 am passed by to mark the retirement of the #15 Chrysler from third place overall, handing a place to the PK Sport Porsche, which moved up a place to lie twenty-third.

The conditions for David were certainly better than they had been, but not exactly easy. "It has stopped raining," said Stephen Day as he headed back towards the motorhome," but it's still very greasy out there. The cars are kicking up a lot of spray and it can be hard going when the prototypes come past." David Warnock was obviously coping well, because he completed the next hour without incident. Four o'clock arrived with the very slight hint of a grey in the sky. It hadn't rained properly for a couple of hours and the official classifications showed the PK Porsche holding 23rd.

David was just coming towards the very end of his stint when the best-laid plans went awry. Heading up towards the Dunlop Curves at about 04:40 the back end swung away on the looping right-hander. The car tucked in towards the inside, then swung back wildly across the track. The rear dug into the gravel and, try as he might, David was stuck. The tractor unit was quick to arrive, but pulled him backwards the whole length of the trap. Fortunately, as Mike Pickup was pleased to point out, the back of the car was just high enough above the surface of the gravel to mean that the rear didn't dig down and fill with stones. Instead David was able to use the service road to drive back to the Dunlop Bridge, and rejoin the track there.

It was his only error, and probably cost little more than a minute. Things could have got worse, however, and through no fault of his own. Rounding the right-angle corner at Arnage, Capello in the second-placed R8 cut to the inside to pass the slower Porsche. Doing so took him off the racing line, and just as he got ahead the back end wobbled fiercely. Capello snatched it back into line, but not before Warnock had backed off to avoid any possible contact.

In the initial laps after his Dunlop "off" Warnock had felt that everything was OK with the car, and he had pressed on for a further two laps. Then he started to complain about increasingly chronic understeer and, rather than risk anything more, he came into the pits to hand on to Mike Youles. It was almost the end of his stint anyway. "David did an excellent job in difficult conditions," said Mike Pickup. "It was dark, it was only semi-dry, and it was very slippy off-line. He did really well."

New tyres sorted out the steering problem, and Mike Youles began his third stint with the Porsche on slicks for the first time since the early hours of the race. Five o'clock came and went, with no change to the order for PK. The difficult Dawn Run was now Mike Youles' to face.

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

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