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Hour 23: Downpour hits leading LMP1, LMP2 and GTE-Pro battles

23 June 2013

With Tom Kristensen looking supremely on control of the race in the #2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro and safely out of reach of Anthony Davidson in the #8 Toyota TS030 hybrid, all eyes were on the big battle at the front between Audi's Oliver Jarvis and Toyota's Nicolas Lapierre over the last podium position.

The Toyota crew had seemingly risked turning up the wick on the #7 car for the final two hours of the race in order to allow it to match the #3 Audi's raw pace. After a new round of pit stops, Lapierre was till just six seconds adrift of Jarvis on the track.

But the strain of driving lap-after-lap on the absolute edge took its toll and when heavy rain swept back over the 8.469-mile, 38-turn Circuit de la Sarth once more, it pushed Lapierre to breaking point - and beyond. The #7 car lost grip into the Porsche curves and snapped left, burying itself deep into the tyre wall. A disconsolate Lapierre climbed out, his hopes over for 2013.

In the GTE-Pro class, Darren Turner was still doing everything he possibly could to claim the honours in the #97 Aston Martin Vantage V8. Although he had track position over Marc Lieb in the #92 Porsche AG Team Manthey, it wasn't by enough to allow him the extra pit stop for tyres that he would need before the finish. That made it an uphill battle for Turner, but persistence sometimes pays dividends and the #92 promptly spun at Tertre Rouge to give Turner almost all of the extra margin he needed.

Sure enough Turner was into pit lane a few minutes later to get the stop out of the way while the momentum was with him. He jumped out to hand over the car to Stefan Mücke and the Aston Martin re-emerged from pit lane just behind the Porsche - but with everything now emphatically to play for.

Mücke was ready to pounce when the heavy rain arrived, and with the yellow flags waving for Lapierre's abandoned Toyota in the tyres at Porsche he was forced to back off. As it became clear that conditions were deteriorating rapidly, Mücke gambled and came into pit lane for wet weather tyres but then got stuck waiting at a red light at pit exit; Lieb on the other hand took the opposite bet and stayed out as the safety cars were scrambled amid a storm of incidents all around the circuit.

Among the rain-incited incidents was a shunt for LMP2 class leader Bertrand Baguette in the #35 OAK Morgan-Nissan after contact with the #46 Thiriet by TDS Oreca 03-Nissan; Baguette was able to get back underway and head for the pits for wet tyres, but it was a less positive outlook for Ludovic Badey in the #46 whose stricken car remained in the middle of the track.

The one class not hugely affected by the downpour drama was the GTE-Am category, with Jean-Karl Vernay back in charge at the wheel of the leading #76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

During the hour there was also confirmation that Phillipe Mondolot had been unable to effect running repairs on the stricken #45 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, and that the LMP2 car had been abandoned at the second chicane. Along with the exit of the #33 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b with engine problems, that made for 13 official retirements from the starting field of 56 cars.

LMP1

1. #2 Kristensen/Duval/McNish Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro * 335 laps (34 stops)
2. #8 Davidson/Buemi/Sarrazin Toyota Racing Toyota TS030 hybrid * 334 laps (30 stops)
3. #3 Gene/Di Grassi/Jarvis Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro 334 laps (30 stops)

LMP2

1. #35 Baguette/Gonzalez/Plowman OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan * 316 laps (29 stops)
2. #24 Pla/Heinemeier Hansson/Brundle OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan * 316 laps (30 stops)
3. #26 Rusinov/Martin/Conway G-Drive Racing Oreca 03-Nissan * 315 laps (31 stops)

GTE-Pro

1. #92 Lieb/Lietz/Dumas Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR * 303 laps (21 stops)
2. #97 Turner/Mucke/Dumbreck Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin Vantage V8 * 302 laps (23 stops)
3. #91 Bernhard/Pilet/Bergmeister Porsche AG Team Manthey Porsche 911 RSR * 302 laps (24 stops)

GTE-Am

1. #76 Narac/Bourret/Vernay IMSA Performance MATMUT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR * 294 laps (23 stops)
2. #55 Perazzini/Case/O'Young AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia 293 laps (24 stops)
3. #61 Gerber/Griffin/Cioci AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia * 293 laps (23 stops)

* - denotes World Endurance Championship entrant

See full Hour 23 times.
Tributes pour in for Allan Simonsen.


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