LE MANS
The 24 Hours
-
17/06/2001
 
Race Report
The Last One
 
13:45 Both Corvettes are in the pit garages taking advantage of the pace car to change starter motors and dry out electrical and electronic equipment. Johnny O'Connell "We can only lose the race from this position and we cannot afford to take chances." Hmm. This is turning into a parade.

14:02 The Konrad Saleen Team are trying to get the #60 car ready to complete a single lap at the very end of the race.

14:12 The field is released and we are racing again. The Bentley pits immediately but it's just a routine stop. From here on in it looks like an Audi formation run. The R8s stop at 14.45, so they've got just one more stop to make.


14.50, 70 minutes to go and there's not a great deal happening. Gunnar Jeannette's mum will be happy if her son achieves a second place, after all the problems on Thursday night. The Freisinger Porsche was separated from the Seikel 911 by the Safety Cars, so the gap is approaching two minutes, with Romain Dumas at the wheel of the chasing #77.

14.55 After all the Caddy starting troubles, Christophe Tinseau comes to a halt at the start of the new track at the entrance to the Porsche Curves. It won't go any further - clutch. A brave Cadillac effort seems to be all over. It seemed to be rock solid.

15.00 Babini and Dumas will move up to seventh and eighth once they complete another lap and pass the #6 Cadillac's total of laps.

With an hour to go:
1. #1 Audi 307 laps
2. #2 Audi 306
3. #8 Bentley 294
4. #16 Chrysler 285
5. #38 Reynard 272
6. #17 Courage 270
7. #6 Cadillac 269
8. #83 Porsche 269
9. #77 Porsche 269
10. #63 Corvette 267
11. #75 Porsche 262
12. #80 Porsche 261
13. #72 Porsche 260
14. #82 Porsche 260
15. #64 Corvette 259
16. #76 Porsche 252
17 #74 Porsche 251
18. #60 Saleen 245
19. #30 WR 232
20 #58 Viper 221
21. #79 Porsche 182

Aiello makes a mistake at Indianapolis and only just keeps the #2 out of the gravel.



The Audis make their stop, the Bentley gets a four minute penalty for some infringement or other......



...which annoys the crowd.......




The Corvettes stop racing while they have gearboxes attended to, the ROC Reynard stops for a good wash....and it hardly seems like a race at all. Except in GT, where Dumas is 77 seconds behind Babini with 30 minutes to go.



77 seconds grows to 93 within a few minutes, and the Italian suggests from his driving style that he will win the GT class AND avenge that nonsense with the Taisan Porsche on the last lap last year.

The Corvettes deign to appear for the last half hour, after starter, electrical and gearbox checks. There was a danger that a spin and stall could leave them with engines that wouldn't start.

The Courage is stuck in the pits after smoking heavily an hour ago. Pesca hopes to persuade it to complete a lap at 4 o'clock.

The ACO are confirming a total crowd figure over the three/four days of 210 000 - 220 000, which is a 10% increase on last year. The MG effect, or the Bentley effect? Or the ROC Reynard effect (on the French fans?). That little unwanted 2000 car has had a remarkable race, not even losing places once the team turned the boost down (cooling problems). Jean-Denis Deletraz has rarely tasted success before, but today looks like his day. Fifth and the 675 winner. Did anyone pick this car - seen at its cleanest on Wednesday?



Audi have of course had a remarkable race too. Herr Joest somehow manages to make racing as predictable as Manchester United against Torquay. It's been an odd race, it's been a very difficult one to survive, let alone win - but in its way, perhaps largely thanks to the weather, it has been entertaining - most of the time. Thank heavens everyone has got through it safely, which is something of a miracle in downpours such as we've seen. It hasn't rained here for a month - until now.

The Audis cross the line with two minutes to go, at which point the Cadillac gets going. Christophe Tinseau eases away from his hiding place, and edges towards the finish line.

Bentley will finish third on their comeback. Will Audi come back next year? Do they need to win it again? The thought remains that, although we all know we're watching the best ever, it might asctually be a better race without them. Imagine - Bentley hanging on over the second half of the race. Can it last for 24 hours and win? Now that would have been a story.

Tinseau makes it to the line and waits for the queue - which will cross the line well after 16.00. The marshals carry out their final flag waving duties. Sebastien Bourdais joins the Cadillac at the finish line - while Pirro and Aiello are still approaching Indianapolis.



Well done Audi. 16.05 and they're on their way through the Porsche Curves, just as more rain starts to fall. Well done all of you who have got through this one and made it home. To be greeted by Jacky Ickx with the flag.



With sincere thanks to all those teams who have provided the news and detail in such a timely fashion....you're the clever ones, who recognise what we are trying to do. Well done and thank you to
Ascari
PK Sport / Ricardo
MG
Racing For Holland
Bentley
Panoz Motor Sports
Chrysler
Paul Belmondo Racing
Pilbeam
Cadillac
SMG Courage
Seikel
Michael Colucci
Gulf Racing
Den Bla Avis

and particular thanks to Thierry Boutsen, for signing something very special....and to the whole TMS team at Le Mans;

Graham Goodwin
David Lord
Sam Smith (covering Ascari)
Marcus Potts (covering PK Sport / Ricardo)
John Brooks
Peter Radcliffe
Marc Laffeas
Kerry Morse.


Malcolm Cracknell









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