23 June 2013
Hour 11: Audi still in control as halfway point looms
Audi continues to hold sway at the front of the Le Mans field as the clock ticks through the eleventh hour at La Sarthe.
The hour began with the #2 Audi of Tom Kristensen still out front, but ended – after a regulation fuel and tyre stop – with the Danish veteran finally climbing out of the cockpit and allowing Allan McNish to take over. The Scot, who was clearly champing at the bit to get back on track, immediately set about posting rapid lap times to ease the Audi further away from its rivals.
Fellow Briton Anthony Davidson took over the second-placed #8 Toyota from Stephane Sarrazin, but ended the hour two laps adrift of the lead Audi. The second Toyota, now with Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel, remained third overall, some 17secs behind its sister.
Lapierre remained ahead of the #3 Audi, but Oliver Jarvis, in for Lucas di Grassi, was doing all he could to bring the gap to a podium spot down as the German car continued its recovery. The other Audi – the #1 entry of Lotterer/Fassler/Treluyer – also continued its own climb back up the order, but reported a severe vibration midway through the hour. Now in twelfth, having been 23rd at one point, the team suspected a flat-spotted tyre, but asked Marcel Fassler if he could complete another three laps to keep the car on its new schedule. Andre Lotterer duly took over from his Swiss team-mate, as the car dropped back to 14th during its stop.
The LMP2 class completed the hour largely without incident, and remained in the control of the #35 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, now with Martin Plowman at the wheel. The other OAK entry ran second, but the order remained likely to change with each respective pit-stop. The Jota Sport Zytek-Nissan completed the top three in class.
In GT-Pro, the #99 Aston Martin of Bell/Makowiecki/Senna held sway from the #92 Manthey Porsche, which saw Marc Lieb take over from Richard Lietz during the hour. The #97 Aston, where Darren Turner replaced Peter Dumbreck in the cockpit, continued to run third.
There were a few more developments in the GTE-Am category, where the hour began with the #88 Proton Porsche returning to pit after a spell stranded in gravel and ended with the #57 Ferrari being declared as an official retirement.
In between, the #77 Dempsey Del Piero Porsche spun at the exit of the Ford chicane with owner/driver/actor Patrick Dempsey – whose every move continues to receive a massive about of attention – at the wheel. The silver machine appeared to be clipped ahead of its rotation, but Dempsey managed to get the car back underway – and out of a potentially dangerous position – before the safety car was needed. The car remained second in the class despite its moment, but its American pilot subsequently reported that it was pulling left under braking and had lost its telemetry…
The #70 GTE-Am Corvette of American Cooper McNeil also rotated to a halt shortly afterwards, this time at the Porsche Curves. Having rejoined, the yellow-and-black machine, which had been running eighth in class, was next seen being pushed down pit-road with smoke emanating from under its bodywork and its lights out, suggesting a clutch gremlin may have played a part in its incident.
Car #81, the 8Star Ferrari, went a long way into the gravel at Mulsanne, but was able to rejoin with the help of the rescue team, again without the need for a safety car.
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