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Le Mans 24 Hrs 2008: Hours 4-6
14 June 2008
Peugeot rebounded from its problems in the opening three hours of the race to hold the top two positions at the quarter distance point in the 76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours.
A series of stunning laps from Franck Montagny in the sixth hour saw the Frenchman hit the front shortly before the six hours ticked round ahead ahead of the #9 car in the hands of Jacques Villeneuve and the Audi of Dindo Capello, which had led at the three hour mark in the race.
After the long stint from Allan McNish at the start of the race, Capello took over the #2 Audi shortly before the start of the fourth hour and he maintained the lead in the car through the hour with Marc Gene in the #7 Peugeot hunting him down before pitting to hand the car over to Nicolas Minassian. Behind them, Montagny had take over at the wheel of the #9 car and was comfortably clear of the chasing Audi's of Alex Premat and Marco Werner.
Minassian continued to close on the Audi for the lead in the fifth hour and when Capello pitted, Minassian moved into the lead of the race and a quick stop saw him maintain the lead ahead of the Audi once the stops had played though, with Montagny maintaining third place behind the pair. Minassian extended his lead over the Audi before pitting to hand over the Jacques Villeneuve, with Capello pitting shortly afterwards and staying in the car.
Montagny was the man on a move however and he was constantly lapping more than five seconds a lap quicker than Capello and duly moved into second place, albeit half a minute behind leader Villeneuve. However, Montagny was lapping much quicker than the Canadian – posting the quickest lap of the race as he hunted down the #7 car – and just before the six hour mark he took the lead of the race.
Villeneuve hit the six hour mark in second place with the pair now a minute clear of the Audi, which Capello brought in to hand over to Tom Kristensen towards the end of the hour. The #3 and #1 Audis remain fourth and fifth, but have been unable to match the pace of the cars ahead.
Behind the diesel cars, the private battle for honours amongst the petrol teams is led by the #5 ORECA-Courage of Soheil Ayari, Loic Duval and Laurent Groppi. The car moved into sixth place during the fourth hour of the race when the Dome was delayed while the #17 Pescarolo also battled past the Japanese car to move into seventh place in the fifth hour and retained the position through to the quarter distance point. The Dome itself became embroiled in a heated battle with the second ORECA entry but was holding on to a solid eighth place, with the Courage and the #8 Peugeot rounding out the top ten – a series of quick laps from Pedro Lamy helping the car to climb back up the following its earlier delays.
Amongst the LMP1 runner to hit problems are the Chamberlain Synergy Lola, which went off on Amanda Stretton's out lap and the Creation AIM entry which spent plenty of time in pit lane and has plummeted down the order as a result. Elsewhere, the Charouz Racing Systems team has produced something of a minor miracle to get the Lola Aston Martin back on track and the car is lapping strongly as it makes its way back through the field, ending the sixth hour back in the top 30.
LMP2 continues to be a battle between the two Porsche RS Spyder teams with the Team Essex car ending the sixth hour ahead of the van Merksteijn car but the pair remain on the same lap after six hours of competition, over a lap clear of the third placed Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola and the Saulnier Racing Pescarolo, which moved ahead of the Embassy Racing WF01 after the new car hit an electrical problem. However the team has climbed back up to fifth by quarter distance with the Barazi-Epsilon Zytek completing the top six.
The Corvette versus Aston Martin battle in GT1 continued through the three hour stint with the #009 Aston hitting the front in the hands of Darren Turner as the Briton took his turn at the wheel. The Corvettes closed in however, and at the end of the sixth hour, the #63 Corvette led the way from the 009 and the 007 Astons. The #64 Corvette had slipped back following an alternator issue, with the #72 Luc Alphand Corvette and the Team Modena Aston Martin rounding out the top six.
In GT2, Risi Competitizione continues to lead the way with its sole remaining Ferrari ahead of the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche and the AF Corse Ferrari.
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