The 72nd Le Mans 24 Hours continued to provide an intriguing spectacle as it moved firmly into its second half and dawn broke over those who had made it through the night at La Sarthe.

Having managed to renew a comfortable advantage over its Team Goh rival by the halfway point, long-time leader Audi UK Team Veloqx ended the 15th hour sitting in the pit-lane, helpless as the #5 Audi R8 made up its one-lap deficit and took over at the front.

Herbert had earlier extended the lead over the Goh car, using his experience to lap faster than Seiji Ara, but the silver-and-purple car entered the pit-lane just as the 15th hour ticked into the 16th, and remained there for seven minutes while the Sam Li-run team set to work on a handling problem that had beset both Guy Smith and Herbert throughout the three hours they spent behind the wheel. With Herbert due to hand over to Jamie Davies, the team took the opportunity to tackle inherent understeer that had seen the #88 car losing time to the chasing Goh entry, now with 'Dindo' Capello at the controls.

While the finishing touches were put to the repair, Capello guided the Japanese Audi into the lead, although the #88 will now be able to run longer before its next scheduled fuel and tyre stop.

The second Veloqx car also spent some time in the pits at either end of the three-hour session, with Frank Biela pitting with what he thought was a gearbox problem, but actually turned out to be a broken wheel. This was quickly repaired and the car returned to the fray, but was back in the pits shortly before Herbert arrived, and was moved aside so that the leader could receive attention. Despite remaining stationary, the car - now being shared by Biela and Pierre Kaffer in Allan McNish's absence - remained in the lower reaches of the top ten.

Leading the chase of the two front-running Audis, Henri Pescarolo's eponymous #18 entry held a two-lap advantage over the fourth-placed Rollcentre Dallara despite opting to make a bodywork change on the cusp of the 15th hour. The French car's chances were helped when Rollcentre boss Martin Short found himself in the gravel after a brush with both the Biela Audi and Sebastien Bourdais in the sixth-placed #17 Pescarolo. The Frenchman later claimed that Short had been obstructive when he attempted to pass...

Fifth place continued to belong to the Champion Audi which, despite continuing to fly, was finding it more difficult to make up ground on those ahead. Its cause was not helped when Emanuele Pirro brought the car in for a brake change that proved more complicated that first imagined. Four laps separate the US car from the third placed Pescarolo.

The prototype train was broken up by the leading GTS runners - LMP2 continued to be disappointing - and it was the pole-winning Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello that controlled the senior tin-top class. The team of Tomas Enge, Alain Menu and Peter Kox had opened out a six-lap lead over their nearest rivals in the #64 Corvette, which continued to hold second place after a relatively quiet three hours spell.

The sister car, which had twice been off the road earlier in the race, moved up to third in class, and 13th overall, when the second Prodrive Ferrari was submitted to a lengthy pit-stop after Darren Turner reported a gearbox problem that restricted the cogs he could access. The red machine remained in the garage for some time, dropping some 20 laps off the pace of the #66 entry and into the clutches of the similar Larbre car.

The crew of Turner, Colin McRae and Rickard Rydell could have dropped further had the French Ferrari not endured a wheel bearing problem and the leading Barron Connor entry not suffered more extensive damage in its brake fire than was first envisaged. The effect of the conflagration on the car's suspension uprights meant a change of units and more time spent waiting in the garage.

The two Corvettes were split on the overall leaderboard by the other leading prototypes, with the remaining Taurus Sports entry still running strongly in ninth place. The British entry had a handy one-lap lead of the best of the Racing for Holland cars, with the #8 Audi also having got the better of the Kondo Dome. The two Dutch cars both appeared in the pits at the same point, the #16 with a gearbox problem and the #15 staying put after it refused to fire up after a routine stop.

The Freisinger Porsche continued to pace the GT class, holding a three-lap lead over an ever-changing order in its wake. The Petersen/White Lightning team's gearbox maladies had dropped it down to the tail of the top five, but the all-star line-up quickly began to claw back some of the time lost while repairs were made. By the end of the 15th hour, the American car was back into third in class, and not on the heels of the combined Orbit/BAM effort, itself recovering from early race problems

The LMP2 class is still running, but its three remaining combatants are all well off the pace. Somehow, the Intersport Lola continues to lead the category, despite a lengthy pit-stop to replace a faulty CV joint and then a slow lap shortly after it rejoined. At one point holding a 50+ lap advantage, the American entry is now 'only' 23 laps to the good, with the slow but steady Welters giving vain pursuit.

Among those joining the Zytek team among the latest confirmed casualties were the Noel del Bello Reynard, and two members of the GT class in the shape of the #83 Seikel Porsche and the JMB Ferrari, which had already lost a couple of laps as the field set off without it at 4pm.