15 June 2008
Le Mans 24 Hrs 2008: Hours 13-15.
Third in class belongs to the remaining Matmut ORECA Courage, but the #5 car is some four laps behind the blue-and-green Pescarolos and has shown signs of running into trouble. Soheil Ayari was among the first to be caught out by the arrival of the rain, and was lucky not to have been collected by any one of the cars following in close proximity as he spun coming out of the Ford Chicane and remained broadside across the racing line, lights not working sufficiently to warn those approaching at speed.
Prior to that incident, the car had been back in the ORECA garage with its engine cover off as the team investigated a gearbox problem that cost twelve minutes and dropped the multi-hued machine behind the second Pescarolo. Since its 'moment', however, the car appears to be running relatively cleanly.
The top ten is rounded out by the steady Rollcentre Racing Pescarolo, which Vanina Ickx, Joao Barbosa and Stephan Gregoire have lifted above the best of the LMP2 runners, having trailed both Porsche RS Spyders at half-distance.
The LMP2 battle continues to be headed by the van Merkesteijn Spyder, despite the distinctive car spending time in the garage after Peter van Merkesteijn's stint in the rain. Up on jacks, the Dutch team checked the floor and front suspension for some time, but released Jos Verstappen back into the fray, the #34 car's four-lap cushion having helped to preserve its lead.
Second place remains with Team Essex despite a misfire and an off for Casper Elgaard at the Playstation chicane. The car was reported to be bearing scars at the rear, but Elgaard, veteran John Nielsen and Porsche factory regular Sascha Maassen continue to keep the pressure on at the head of the class, albeit now six laps adrift and split from the van Merkesteijn car on the road by the LMP1 Lola-Aston Martin.
GT2 is still too hard to call, with the 'factory' Corvettes and Aston Martins going at it hammer-and-tongs. Although the scoreboard shows a lap between the #009 and #63 cars, the reality is closer than that after David Brabham and Antonio Garcia did battle with Ron Fellows and Jan Magnussen through the worst of the conditions.
The earlier electrical problem that beset the #64 Corvette continues to keep it a couple of laps off the pace, but now ahead of the #007 Aston, which spent a lot of time in the AMR garage after failing to restart after a routine stop. Plugging a slave battery and laptop into the car did not have the desired effect and work began to investigate potential onboard battery problems. The best of the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvettes has moved into fourth in class as a result.
Formula Ferrari, or GT2 as it was known at the start of the race on Saturday afternoon, is still being paced by the Risi Competizione 430GT, with Virgo Motorsport dogging every footstep made by Jaime Melo, Mika Salo and Gianmaria Bruni. Less than a lap separates the two cars, which now run in 22nd and 23rd respectively, with BMW Scuderia Italia third in class.
Although no further official retirements have been logged since the twelve-hour update, it is growing increasingly clear that several cars have turned their last laps at La Sarthe this weekend.
Chief among the contenders to join the DNF list is the Speedy Sebah Lola-Judd which crashed coming in to the pits in the height of the rain - and was then collected by one of the Corvettes, inflicting further damage. The front left corner appears to have come off worst, probably so badly so that the team will opt to pack up.
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