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The 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 71e 24 Heures du Mans) was an automobile endurance racing event held from 14 to 15 June 2003 at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France. It was the 71st edition of the 24 Hour race, as organised by the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) since 1923. Unlike other events, it was not a part of any endurance motor racing championship. A test day was held seven weeks prior to the race on 4 May. Approximately 220,000 people attended the race.

2003 24 Hours of Le Mans
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Index: Races | Winners
The race-winning No. 7 Bentley Speed 8, driven at the 2009 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

The No. 7 Bentley Speed 8 of Dane Tom Kristensen, Italian Rinaldo Capello and Englishman Guy Smith started from pole position after Kristensen set the fastest overall lap time in the second qualifying session. The team won the race, two laps ahead of the sister No. 8 Bentley of Mark Blundell, David Brabham and Johnny Herbert in second place. It was Capello and Smith's first Le Mans victory and Kristensen's fifth. This was the seventh overall victory for Bentley, and their first since the 1930 edition. The overall podium was completed by the No. 6 Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Stefan Johansson, which won the Le Mans Prototype 900 (LMP900) category from Audi Sport Japan Team Goh's No. 5 entry driven by Seiji Ara, Jan Magnussen and Marco Werner.

The Noël del Bello Racing Reynard 2KQ-LM driven by Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière, Christophe Pillon and Didier André won the Le Mans Prototype 675 (LMP675) class, 32 laps ahead of the second-placed RN Motorsport DBA4 03S-Zytek of John Nielsen, Casper Elgaard and Hayanari Shimoda. Veloqx Prodrive Racing took the victory in the Le Mans Grand Touring Sport (LMGTS) class with drivers Jamie Davies, Tomáš Enge, Peter Kox in a Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello, securing Ferrari its first GT win since the 1981 race. Corvette Racing completed the category podium positions a further ten laps behind in second and third with the No. 50 and No. 53 C5-Rs. Porsche took the first six positions in the Le Mans Grand Touring (LMGT) category with the No. 93 Alex Job Racing 911-GT3 RS of Sascha Maassen, Emmanuel Collard and Lucas Luhr winning on the team's debut appearance at Le Mans.

Contents

Background and regulation changesEdit

The 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 71st edition of the race and took place at the 8.482 mi (13.650 km) Circuit de la Sarthe from 14 to 15 June.[1] The race was conceived at the 1922 Paris Motor Show by the automotive journalist Charles Faroux, Georges Durand, the president of the automotive group, the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO) and the industrialist Emile Coquile as a means of prompting car manufacturers to test the reliability and fuel-efficiency of their racing vehicles and equipment.[2][3] It was not held in 1936 because of a general labour strike during the Great Depression,[4] and heavy damage sustained to the circuit in World War II cancelled it from 1940 to 1948.[3] The 24 Hours of Le Mans is considered one of the world's most prestigious motor races and is part of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.[5]

After the 2002 race, the ACO reduced the overall amount of horsepower for the Le Mans Grand Touring Prototype (LMGTP), Le Mans Prototype 900 (LMP900), Le Mans Prototype 675 (LMP675), Le Mans Grand Touring Sports (LMGTS) and LMGT (Le Mans Grand Touring) categories by 10 per cent, allowed carbon fibre chassis to be introduced in the LMGTS class and permitted original automatic and semi-automatic gearboxes to be retained in a homologated road vehicles entered into the LMGTS and LMGT categories. Air restrictors were installed on all of the car's engines and boost pressures were altered in an attempt to create a parity of performance within all four categories.[6] Drivers were told at a public meeting that they were barred from putting two of their car's wheels over the white line denoting the boundaries of the circuit and onto the kerbing otherwise they would incur a stop-and-go penalty that would increase in severity if the transgression was repeated.[7]

EntriesEdit

The ACO received 72 applications (31 for the Prototype classes and 41 for the Grand Touring categories) by the deadline for entries on 20 February 2003. It granted 50 invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and entries were divided between the LMP900, LMGTP, LMP675, LMGTS and LMGT classes.[8]

Automatic entriesEdit

Six automatic entry invitations were earned by teams of two cars that won their class in the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans or in the 2002 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season-closing round, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, designed a qualifying race by the ACO as part of an agreement with the ALMS.[9] As entries were pre-selected to teams, they were not allowed to change their cars from the previous year to the next, but were permitted to change category provided that they did not change the make of car and the ACO granted official permission for the switch.[10] The teams who received an automatic entry based on victory in their class at the 2002 24 Hours of Le Mans were Audi Sport Team Joest in both of the LMP categories, Corvette Racing for the LMGTS class and The Racer's Group in the LMGT category. Audi Sport North America and Corvette also earned berths for securing victories in their respective classes at the Petit Le Mans and Alex Job Racing in the LMGT category.[10] Audi chose not to accept its automatic invitations after the manufacturer announced the withdrawal of its factory operations and forwent its defense of the overall victory.[11]

Entry listEdit

On 25 March 2003, the selection committee of the ACO announced the full 50-car entry list for Le Mans, plus six reserves. An equal amount of Prototype and GT cars composed the field with 22 different makes of car (14 in the GT classes and 8 in the Prototype categories).[12] After a protest was raised by Larbre Compétition owner Jack Leconte and alpine skier Luc Alphand over their respective teams being allocated one entry,[13][14] Michel Cosson, the president of the ACO, explained that entries selected appeared to be of high quality and the automotive group wanted the field to be heterogeneousness, "This is certainly not the right solution to be selected at the 24 Hours. We can not but agree with our decisions but we do not appreciate the people who spit in the soup. And we will remember them."[13]

Bio-ethanol carEdit

Team Nasamax, an operation based in Sittingbourne, England, entered the first renewable fuelled sports prototype racing car at the Le Mans event to increase awareness of renewable fuels.[15][16] The car, known as the Reynard 01Q, ran a 2.65 l (0.58 imp gal; 0.70 US gal) Cosworth V8 turbocharged engine on bio-ethanol fuel,[15] which does not release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because it is produced from crops.[16] Its fuel systems and inlet air system were modified to allow for the efficient combustion of fuel. An alternative exhaust system was built and alterations to the housing and vanes on the turbocharger were undertaken.[15]

TestingEdit

A mandatory pre-Le Mans testing day split into two daytime sessions of four hours each was held at the circuit on 4 May, involving all 50 entries as well as all six reserve cars.[10] Weather conditions were clear and dry.[17] Bentley set the pace of the day with a lap of 3 minutes and 34.820 seconds set by Tom Kristensen in the No. 7 Speed 8 entry in the closing minutes of testing. Jan Magnussen was the fastest of the privateer Audi R8s for Team Goh in second place and the No. 7 Bentley was third. The Audi Sport UK and the Champion Racing entries completed the top five overall cars.[18] Late in testing, Frank Biela was caught out by a patch of oil laid by a Pagani Zonda at the Porsche Curves, crashing into a barrier at 120 mph (190 km/h) and heavily damaging the right-rear corner of the Audi Sport UK car.[19][20] The No. 26 RN Motorsport DBA4 03S-Zytek led the LMP675 category with a 3 minutes and 47.708 seconds lap, followed by the No. 29 Noël del Bello Racing Reynard 2KQ-LM and the No. 27 Intersport Racing MG-Lola EX257.[18] Tomáš Enge's No. 88 Prodrive Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello recorded the fastest lap in the LMGTS class at 3 minutes and 57.180 seconds, the sister No. 80 car of Kelvin Burt placed second and Jérôme Policand completed a top three sweep of Ferraris in the class in the No. 72 Luc Alphand Aventures entry.[17][20] Jörg Bergmeister's No. 81 The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS led the LMGT category at 4 minutes and 8.636 seconds and the No. 93 Alex Job Racing car of Sascha Maassen placed second.[18]

QualifyingEdit

Eight hours of qualifying divided into four two-hour sessions was available to all the entrants on 11 and 12 June. During the sessions, all entrants were required to set a time within 110 per cent of the fastest lap established by the fastest vehicle in each of the four categories to qualify for the race.[10] Weather conditions were overcast and humid,[21] and teams focused on car setup.[22] Bentley led the time sheets early on with a flying lap from Mark Blundell's No. 8 car, followed by Kristensen and Johnny Herbert bettering his effort. Ultimately, Blundell topped the session with a lap of 3 minutes and 35.321 seconds. Kristensen's No. 7 vehicle was a quarter of a second slower in second and Jan Magnussen was the fastest Audi privateer in third.[23] Jan Lammers' No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome S101 improved on each of his timed laps to put the entry in fourth,[21] and JJ Lehto's No. 6 Champion Racing entry rounded out the top five.[23] John Nielsen carried RN Motorsport's DBA4 03S-Zytek to provisional pole position in LMP675 with a time of 3 minutes and 45.243 seconds, eight seconds ahead of Intersport and Automotive Durango SRL.[23] A lap of 3 minutes and 55.613 seconds set with five minutes remaining put Oliver Gavin's No. 50 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R at the top of the LMGTS category and he demoted Enge's Prodrive Ferrari to second. Johnny O'Connell's No. 53 car was third after a lap recorded in the final ten minutes. Alex Job Racing's Porsche of Maassen topped the timing charts in LMGT, almost three seconds faster than Timo Bernhard's The Racer's Group car and another seven-tenths ahead of Marc Lieb's No. 87 Orbit entry.[24] Separate spins from Chris McMurry, Kevin Buckler, Peter Kox and Andrew Bagnall did not disrupt the session.[22]

Wednesday night's qualifying session was held in lower asphalt temperatures and teams performed scheduled simulation runs to see how their cars would behave on heavy fuel loads and worn tyres under darkness in its final 75 minutes.[25] Kristensen had a lack of slower traffic and used better grip to displace Blundell at the top of the time sheets to twice improve the overall fastest lap to 3 minutes and 32.843 seconds, followed by David Brabham's sister No. 8 Bentley in second and Biela's No. 10 Audi third. Emanuele Pirro put the No. 6 Audi fourth as Lammers fell to fifth.[25] Marco Werner's Team Goh Audi ran into a gravel trap but he continued driving.[23] In LMP675, Nielsen improved the RN Motorsport Zytek's lap by a second to 3 minutes and 44.343 and increased its advantage over Intersport to almost ten seconds.[25][26] 75 minutes into the session, the Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam-JPX MP91 had a engine fault at Indianapolis corner and laid oil on the track. Marshals took 20 minutes to dry the spilled oil and qualifying resumed.[23][25] Enge's Prodrive Ferrari led from the start in the LMGTS class and he improved on Corvette Racing's lap from the first session to a 3 minutes and 53.278 seconds, while Maassen in the Alex Job Racing Porsche remained at the top of the LMGT category after a session-long battle with Bernhard.[24][26] Bagnall lost control of the Seikel Motorsport Porsche and got beached in a gravel trap.[25] David Warnock's PK Sport car sustained track rod damage in a collision with a Prototype in the Dunlop Chicane.[24]

Thursday's first qualifying session was stopped after seven minutes for an accident.[27] Jamie Campbell-Walter spun his Lister Storm LMP after hitting a bump on the exit of the Dunlop Esses,[28] and he crashed backwards against a left-hand side barrier at the Dunlop Curve at 146 mph (235 km/h).[27][29] The impact was measured at 14 g0 (140 m/s2),[29] and marshals and safety teams spent ten minutes extricating Campbell-Walter from the car by removing a section of carbon fibre bodywork trapping his legs and putting him into an ambulance.[28][29] The Lister Storm LMP was later withdrawn due to a lack of spare parts.[28] Later, Ian Khan's Thierry Perrier Porsche engine failed and laid oil on the circuit at the Dunlop Chicane. Robin Liddell was caught out, hit the oil and spun into a gravel trap. At the same time, Roland Bervillé spun, hit a barrier with his front-right hand corner and broke the rear wing on the T2M Motorsport car, temporarily stopping the session.[27][30] Herbert's No. 8 Bentley led the session with a lap of 3 minutes and 35.126 seconds, but remained in second position on the provisional grid. Magnussen used lower air temperatures to improve the Team Goh Audi's lap and move ahead of Lammers for third at the close of the session while Lehto bettered the Champion Racing's entry to maintain fourth.[27] Although the RN Motorsport Zytek did not better its lap, it remained on provisional pole in LMP675, while the Intersport Lola improved by more than five seconds to remain in second in class.[27] Enge's lap from the second session kept him at the top of LMGTS as Darren Turner in the sister Prodrive Ferrari moved ahead of the No. 50 Corvette for second. Alex Job Racing continued to lead the LMGT class due to its lap from the previous day.[31]

The final session was used to test cars in race conditions and saw more incidents. Thomas Erdos in the Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7-R stopped on his out-lap in a gravel trap at the Dunlop Chicane, requiring recovery from trackside marshals and Gavin Pickering's Rachel Welter WR-Peugeot stopped at the exit of the pit lane with bodywork flailing from it.[30][32] Kristensen allowed his co-drivers Rinaldo Capello and Guy Smith to become familiar with the No. 7 Bentley,[33] which paced the session and secured the pole position through Kristensen's lap from the second qualifying session.[34] Herbert improved the sister No. 8 Bentley's lap on his second attempt by one-tenth of a second though it remained in second overall due to slower traffic delaying it.[29][33] Audi were unable to challenge though Biela's Audi Sport UK entry improved its fastest lap to take third and Magnussen qualified the Team Goh car fifth; they were separated by Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome. Intersport's MG-Lola bettered its lap but it was not fast enough to displace the RN Motorsport Zytek (which was impaired by a broken throttle linkage) from the top of the LMP675 category and was two seconds slower.[34] The GT categories remained much of the same with the second session lap of Enge's No. 88 Prodrive Ferrari in LMGTS class again not being improved upon as his teammate Turner moved to within four-tenths of a second.[30] Porsche took the first three positions in the LMGT category,[34] with Lucas Luhr's Alex Job Racing car resetting the category lap record to a 4 minutes and 6.984 seconds and Bernhard's The Racer's Group entry was four-hundredths of a seconds behind in second.[30]

Qualifying resultsEdit

Pole position winners in each class are indicated in bold and by a   The fastest time set by each entry is denoted in gray.

Pos Class No. Team Car Day 1 Day 2 Gap
1 LMGTP 7 Team Bentley Bentley Speed 8 3:32.843 3:33.158  
2 LMGTP 8 Team Bentley Bentley Speed 8 3:35.222 3:35.098 +2.255
3 LMP900 10 Audi Sport UK Audi R8 3:37.076 3:35.745 +2.902 
4 LMP900 15 Racing for Holland Dome S101 3:37.350 3:36.156 +3.313
5 LMP900 5 Audi Sport Japan Team Goh Audi R8 3:37.691 3:36.418 +3.575
6 LMP900 6 Champion Racing Audi R8 3:37.316 3:36.857 +4.014
7 LMP900 4 Riley & Scott Racing Riley & Scott Mk III C 3:43.528 3:37.476 +4.633
8 LMP900 16 Racing for Holland Dome S101 3:38.908 3:38.058 +5.215
9 LMP900 13 Courage Compétition Courage C60 3:42.558 3:40.400 +6.257
10 LMP900 11 JML Team Panoz Panoz LMP01 Evo 3:40.766 3:40.826 +6.933
11 LMP900 17 Pescarolo Sport Courage C60 3:40.839 3:41.311 +7.006
12 LMP900 9 Kondo Racing Dome S101 3:41.608 3:43.371 +8.775
13 LMP900 18 Pescarolo Sport Courage C60 3:43.151 3:48.052 +10.308
WD LMP900 20 Lister Racing Lister Storm LMP 3:43.857 +11.1141
14 LMP900 12 JML Team Panoz Panoz LMP01 Evo 3:43.924 3:43.970 +11.177
15 LMP675 26 RN Motorsport Ltd. DBA4 03S 3:44.333 3:44.518 +11.490 
16 LMP675 27 Intersport Racing MG-Lola EX257 3:53.212 3:46.404 +13.561
17 LMP675 31 Courage Compétition Courage C65 3:55.003 3:51.550 +18.707
18 LMP900 19 Automotive Durango SRL Durango LMP1 3:53.252 3:52.194 +19.351
19 LMGTS 88 Veloqx Prodrive Racing Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello 3:53.278 3:54.355 +20.435 
20 LMP900 14 Team Nasamax Reynard 01Q 4:01.666 3:54.320 +21.477
21 LMGTS 80 Veloqx Prodrive Racing Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello 3:56.267 3:54.725 +21.878
22 LMP675 29 Noël del Bello Racing Reynard 2KQ-LM 3:55.234 3:58.867 +22.391
23 LMGTS 50 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 3:55.613 3:56.905 +22.770
24 LMGTS 72 Luc Alphand Aventures Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello 3:56.834 3:56.216 +23.373
25 LMGTS 53 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R 3:58.941 3:59.974 +26.198
26 LMP675 24 Rachel Welter WR LMP01 3:59.477 4:04.593 +26.594
27 LMGTS 64 Ray Mallock Ltd. Saleen S7-R 4:01.163 4:07.943 +28.320
28 LMGTS 66 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7-R 4:02.090 4:01.331 +28.488
29 LMGTS 86 Larbre Compétition Chrysler Viper GTS-R 4:05.193 4:01.927 +29.077
30 LMP675 23 Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam MP91 4:02.753 4:35.436 +29.910
31 LMGTS 61 Carsport America Pagani Zonda GR 4:19.885 4:04.437 +31.604
32 LMGTS 68 Scorp Motorsport Communication Chrysler Viper GTS-R 4:11.816 4:04.822 +31.979
33 LMGT 93 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:07.996 4:06.984 +34.141 
34 LMGT 81 The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:08.105 4:07.028 +34.186
35 LMP900 21 Edouard Sezionale Norma M2000-2 4:08.081 4:09.120 +34.238
36 LMGT 87 Orbit Racing Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:10:292 5:14.276 +37.449
37 LMGT 78 PK Sport Ltd. Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:11.623 4:15.722 +38.780
38 LMGT 94 Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena GT 4:12.016 4:11.865 +39.023
39 LMGT 77 Team Taisan Advan Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:14.802 4:13.104 +40.261
40 LMP675 25 Gerard Welter WR LMP02 4:14.785 4:26.336 +41.942
41 LMGT 95 Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena GT 4:18.268 4:15.342 +42.499
42 LMGT 83 Seikel Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:18.592 4:16.792 +43.949
43 LMGT 92 Dewalt Racesports Salisbury TVR Tuscan T400R 4:19.378 4:16.872 +44.029
44 LMGT 70 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena GT 4:18.161 4:17.138 +44.295
45 LMGT 75 Thierry Perrier Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:18.579 17:59.928 +45.736
46 LMGT 85 ST Team Orange Spyker Spyker C8 Double-12R 4:21.473 4:18.887 +46.044
47 LMGT 99 XL Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello 4:21.459 4:20.245 +47.402
48 LMGT 91 Dewalt Racesport Salisbury TVR Tuscan T400R 4:23.425 4:20.288 +47.445
49 LMGT 84 T2M Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-RS 4:26.499 22:10.735 +53.656
Source:[35]

Notes:

Warm-upEdit

The drivers took to the track at 09:00 Central European Summer Time (UTC+02:00) for a 45-minute warm-up session in overcast and cool weather conditions.[10][36] Bentley continued to set the overall pace as Blundell's No. 8 car recorded the fastest lap of 3 minutes and 35.319 seconds, 2.615 seconds faster than the sister No. 7 Bentley in second place. The Audi Sport UK R8 was third, the Champion Racing entry was fourth and the No. 16 Racing for Holland Home rounded out the top five. RN Motorsport's Zytek continued to pace the LMP675 class, as the No. 50 Corvette led the LMGTS field and The Racer's Group Porsche topped the time sheets in the LMGT class.[36] Shortly after warm-up commenced and on his first timed lap, Romain Dumas' Team Nasamax Reynard had an ignition problem caused by a heat leak at the right of the engine's cylinder bank, significantly damaging its engine compartment and required a significant change of car components.[37][38]

RaceEdit

StartEdit

Thunderstorms were forecast, and at the start weather conditions were clear although a heavy rain shower fell on the track. The air temperature approached 28 °C (82 °F).[39] Approximately 220,000 people attended the event.[40] The two Bentley Speed 8s underwent checks to their ride heights,[41] Ray Mallock rectified a faulty gearbox that leaked oil in the No. 64 Saleen S7-R, and Kondo Racing replaced the No. 9 Dome S101's V8 engine after a water leak.[42] The French tricolour was waved by the founder of the ALMS Don Panoz at 16:00 Central European Summer Time to signal the start of the race,[43] led by the starting pole sitter Capello's No. 7 Bentley.[39] Forty-nine cars planned to take the start following the withdrawal of the Lister Storm LMP,[44] but the No. 25 Gerard Welter WR LMP02 was in the pit lane with a mechanical fault.[42] Capello maintained the lead and Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome passed the Team Goh Audi of Magnussen in third.[39] At the end of the first lap, Gavin brought the No. 50 Corvette C5-R into the pit lane with a throttle linkage problem that lost the car 26 minutes and dropped it to last overall.[45] Lammers fell from second place to sixth when the three privateer Audis passed him as Bentley quickly pulled away from the rest of the field. Herbert briefly took the lead from Capello before making the No. 8 Bentley's first pit stop of the event on lap 10. Meanwhile, Intersport's Lola-MG moved to the front of LMP675 after the RN Motorsport Zytek developed car trouble and Alex Job Racing led the LMGT category.[46]

The first hour of the race ended with the first crash as the No. 91 TVR Tuscan T400R of Richard Stanton was hit from behind by a Gerard Walter WR LMP02 in the Porsche Curves, sending him into the outside concrete barrier at the exit to the complex.[47] The impact broke the Tuscan's right-rear suspension, stranding Stanton at the complex of turns,[47] and the car was retired after repairs made to its differential by Stanton to make it possible to drive to the pit lane was unsuccessful.[42] Not long after Capello locked the No. 7 Bentley's brakes going into the right-hand Mulsanne Corner and he slowed to stop the car pirouetting into a gravel trap. He held off Herbert in a large amount of slower traffic until Herbert passed him to retake the lead on the 23rd lap. Kristensen relieved Capello in the No. 7 Bentley and retook the overall lead from Lehto's Audi R8 three laps later. Brabham's sister No. 8 car was called into the pit lane to have a loose door frame fixed in a ten-second stop. Casper Elgaard had been the fastest driver in LMP675 at the time, returning the RN Motorsport Zytek to the lead of the class.[48] Biela in the Audi Sport UK entry was instructed by the team to enter the pit lane on lap 28 but was prevented from doing so by a Panoz prototype to his right and had to complete an additional lap.[49] The R8 slowed with a lack of fuel through Mulsanne Corner and it was retired at the side of the track after Biela's attempt to weave and keep the car running on its starter failed.[48]

In the third hour Kristensen almost made contact with Jean-Marc Gounon's Courage Compétition Judd exiting the pit lane,[50] and Beppe Gabbiani's Racing for Holland Dome hit Kelly Collins' No. 50 Corvette C5-R at Arnage corner and both cars spun.[42] The No. 8 Bentley of Brabham passed Werner's Team Goh Audi R8 for second at the Dunlop Curve though Werner used slower traffic to retake the position. Brabham returned to second when Werner entered the pit lane and the RN Motorsport Zytek relinquished the lead of the LMP675 class to Noël del Bello Racing's Reynard driven by Didier André as its alternator was changed.[50] 3 hours and 40 minutes in safety cars were deployed to slow the race because oil was laid by an unknown car between the Mulsanne and Indianapolis turns.[51] This prompted several cars to make pit stops and brought much of the field closer.[52] In the main LMP categories, however, the safety cars separated the field, leaving the Bentleys more than 2 minutes and 17 seconds of each other, 50 seconds ahead of Werner's Team Goh Audi and another 50 seconds in front of Stefan Johansson's Champion Racing car.[53] The lead of LMGT changed as Emmanuel Collard's Alex Job Racing Porsche was forced into the pit lane with a malfunctioning gearshift, allowing Buckler's The Racer's Group vehicle to the category lead until Bernhard made an unscheduled pit stop to replace a heavily slipping clutch.[51] The No. 88 Prodrive Ferrari of Jamie Davies came to the pit lane for a two-minute stop to rectify a water leak and ceding the lead to the sister No. 80 entry of Kelvin Burt.[51]

NightEdit

As night fell, the lead of the LMP675 category switched from the No. 29 Noël del Bello Racing's Reynard to the Intersport Racing MG-Lola,[51] which later had an anxious moment when driver Duncan Dayton pirouetted at the PlayStation chicane but the car still led.[54] Soon after Tom Coronel's St Team Orange Spyker C8 Double-12R stopped at the entry to the pit lane with a clutch failure and he exited the car to push it beyond a white line denoting where his pit crew could provide assistance. However, Coronel was told by a trackside marshal that he was not permitted to push the car any further and it dropped out of reach of completing the laps necessary for classification.[51] At the front of the field, the gap between Smith and Capello's No. 7 Bentley and Blundell and Herbert's sister No. 8 vehicle was 33 seconds. Third position was the Champion Racing Audi R8 of Pirro and Seiji Ara's Team Goh entry was fourth.[54] The LMGTS category was a close battle between the two Prodrive pair of Kox and Anthony Davidson,[55] as both cars set next to identical lap times during the seventh hour.[56] Their pace was equalled by the No. 53 Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows until the Ferraris responded by increasing their speed.[55] In the eighth hour, Davidson spun into a gravel trap at the PlayStation chicane.[57] The resulting pit stop to change the No. 80 Prodrive Ferrari's tyres, and a precautionary check lost Davidson two laps,[57][58] and third place in LMGTS to Fellows.[55]

Eighth place overall became a multi-car battle between David Saelens' Panoz, the Courage Compétition of Gounon and Christophe Tinseau's Riley & Scott Mk III C-Ford with all three drivers covered by 20 seconds. Tinseau bowed out of the battle after a routine pit stop, leaving Saelens and Gounon 18 seconds apart.[57] On lap 116, the No. 8 Bentley of Herbert made a pit stop, but had problems leaving his pit stall after a miscommunication between the mechanic holding a jack to lift the car from the ground and a rear tyre fitter lost him ten seconds.[57][58] 19 laps later, Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome lowered a 15 second gap through faster pace to pass Olivier Beretta's Riley & Scott Ford in the final third of the lap for fifth overall.[59] Shortly after Beretta picked up a puncture from hitting debris on the dirty side of the Mulsanne Straight at 190 mph (310 km/h) and slowed en route to the pit lane.[60] The second placed car in the LMGTS category, the No. 50 Corvette of Fellows, was hindered with a suspected alternator belt failure and entered the pit lane. Mechanics found it was a broken pulley operating the vehicle's oil pump, and replaced the support and the battery, enabling Fellows to rejoin the circuit fourth in class.[61] Kristensen's race leading No. 7 Bentley had a 1 minute and 40 second pit stop to have minor damage at the front of the car repaired although he retained the overall lead over Brabham's sister No. 8 entry.[62] Luhr's No. 83 Alex Job Racing Porsche succumbed to a punctured radiator caused by a sharp rock penetrating it and raising its oil and water temperatures.[63] It spent 24 minutes and five laps having its radiator replaced,[63] and relinquished the LMGT class lead to Kazuyuki Nishizawa's No. 77 Team Taisan Advan car.[62]

Magnussen spun at the Ford chicane and damaged the front suspension on Team Goh's Audi R8.[64] He drove the car to the pit lane and mechanics took 8 minutes and 53 seconds to make repairs and the car rejoined in fourth place with Werner driving.[62] Noël del Bello Racing had an anxious moment when driver Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière spun into a gravel trap at the Dunlop Curves, but recovered with assistance from trackside marshals without losing the LMP675 class lead. Soheil Ayari's No. 18 Courage pressured and overtook Scott Maxwell's No. 12 Panoz LMP01 Evo for ninth overall in the final third of the lap and pulled away.[65] All three of the top entries in LMGT were within a lap of each other, led by Johnny Mowlem's No. 94 Risi Competizione Ferrari after Team Taisan Advan made a pit stop to replace the driver's-side door. Mowlem held it until his car's engine failed on the Mulsanne Straight and ceded the lead of the class to Lieb's Orbit Porsche.[64] Werner's Team Goh Audi R8 twice drove into its garage for repairs to its engine control unit and he lost 10 minutes and 14 seconds. Werner rejoined 3 minutes and 20 seconds in front of Andy Wallace's No. 15 Racing for Holland car.[65][66] As the race approached its halfway point, the No. 7 Bentley of Smith lapped two to five seconds faster than Blundell's No. 8 car and increased the vehicle's overall lead to 1 minute and 20 seconds.[65]

Morning to early afternoonEdit

In the 12th hour, the second-placed car in LMGTS, Davidson's No. 80 Prodrive Ferrari had a right-front wheel bearing fault at 175 mph (282 km/h) and was sent heavily into a barrier at the end of the Mulsanne Straight.[67] Although he extricated himself from the car and was tended to by trackside marshals, he was transported via ambulance to the infield medical centre for circuit doctors to examine him.[68] They found Davidson sustained bruising and a head concussion from hitting his head against a door and was taken to Centre Hospitalier Le Mans for a brain scan.[68][69] The Ferrari's retirement elevated the No. 50 Corvette C5-R of Gavin to second in LMGTS and Prodrive asked Kox in the No. 88 Ferrari to enter the pit lane for a precautionary brake check. Not long after a low voltage indicator warning and no radio communication to the No. 8 Bentley's pit stall prompted Blundell to make a pit stop for a replacement battery and losing two laps to the sister No. 7 entry. The lead of LMGT continued to be closely fought with the No. 93 Alex Job Racing Porsche heading the field until a front splitter problem forced it into the pit lane for four minutes and relinquishing the position to Lieb's Orbit vehicle. Because of the mechanical attrition affecting the Porsche 996s in the LMGT category, only those two cars remained within distance of a victory and Ferrari's could not challenge the German manufacturer.[70] Front suspension problems for the No. 12 Panoz,[70] and an engine failure that curtailed the No. 4 Riley & Scott Mk III C's race, promoted the No. 88 Prodrive Ferrari to tenth overall.[71]

Luhr and Maashen's No. 93 Alex Job Racing Porsche was able to fight with Lieb and later Leo Hindery's No. 87 Orbit entry and eventually retake the lead of the LMGT category it had lost when it entered the pit lane for car repairs.[72] An hour and 20 minutes later, Lammers' No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome S101 picked up a left-rear puncture and he lost control of the car under braking.[72] He spun several times backwards into a gravel trap at Indianapolis corner and damaged one of the car's rear wheels. The car was pushed back onto the circuit by track marshals and Lammers returned to the pit lane to repair the damage. At the same time, Gunnar Jeannette's No. 11 Panoz LMP01 Evo locked his brakes, made light contact with the tyre barrier at Arnage corner and could not pass Lammers for fifth overall.[73][74] Further up the field, Brabham made an unscheduled pit stop in the No. 8 Bentley to undergo a second battery replacement. The change took 3 minutes and 32 seconds and the car returned to the race in second overall. Not long after Collins' No. 50 Corvette C5-R bowed out of the battle for the LMGTS lead to have its transmission bearing replaced and it was completed in 15 minutes. Lehto's Champion Racing Audi R8 could not take advantage of the No. 8 Bentley's mechanical impairments and lost one additional lap after a spin.[72][73] At the start of the 18th hour, Saelens lost grip through Mulsanne corner and made heavy contact with the tyre barrier with the No. 12 Panoz's left-front corner at high speed. Saelens was unhurt though the damage to the car forced its retirement.[75]

The No. 93 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Maassen entered the garage with loss of voltage that was rectified by changing its alternator in six minutes. Maassen returned to the track still in the lead of the LMGT category.[76] Soon after Wallace's No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome had a misfiring battery that dropped the car from fifth to eighth overall.[77] Gabbiani's sister No. 16 car had its front-left tyre delaminate and carbon fibre debris was launched from the car's front-left corner. Safety cars were required for the second time as the track needed cleaning and prompted several cars to make pit stops. Beretta's No. 11 Panoz was the main beneficiary from the safety car period and he passed Jonathan Cochet's No. 13 Courage C60 on the Mulsanne Straight for fifth overall.[75] Towards the end of the 20th hour, the LMP675 class leading Noël del Bello Reynard slowed with a misfiring engine but the car's 35-lap advantage kept it in the category lead.[78] The No. 15 Racing for Holland car of John Bosch returned to seventh[77] when Ayari's No. 18 Courage C60 began leaking fluids at the rear of the car and entered the pit lane for a 22-minute repair.[79] With the first four positions stable, attention focused on the battle for fifth place between the No. 11 Panoz LMP01 Evo and the No. 13 Courage C60.[80] The No. 99 XL Racing Ferrari of Gaël Lasoudier had an rear engine bay fire at the PlayStation Chicane and causing the deployment of the safety cars for the third time in the race.[79]

FinishEdit

As the safety car period ended, Max Papis in the No. 11 Panoz LMP01 Evo caught and passed Stéphan Grégoire's No. 13 Courage C60 at Tetre Rouge corner as Fellows overtook his Corvette Racing teammate Collins in the final third of the lap for second in the LMGTS category. Collins retook the position from Fellows two laps later until they made pit stops for fuel, tyres and a change of driver. O'Connell relieved Fellows and returned to second by having a faster stop than Andy Pilgrim. The No. 17 Pescarolo Courage 60 of Jean-Christophe Boullion's had a flash fire when fuel ignited during a pit stop but an intervention from the team's mechanics to extinguish the fire allowed the entry to continue driving.[79] The No. 6 Champion Racing Audi of Johansson stalled during a pit stop for tyres, fuel and to be relieved by co-driver Pirro. The fault was rectified by replacing the car's battery at the right-hand corner of its cockpit. It rejoined the track still in third place and ahead of Ara's Team Goh Audi in fourth position.[81] Lammers' No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome in seventh caught and overtook Gounon's No. 13 Courage Compétition C60 on the race's final lap to claim sixth overall for his team. In the meantime, Tristan Gommendy crashed heavily at the Indianapolis corner and he drove the No. 16 Racing for Holland car into the pit lane to retire.[82]

Unhindered in the final hours of the race, Smith took the chequered flag for the No. 8 Bentley, two laps ahead of the No. 7 Bentley of Brabham.[82] Audi, in their first defeat at Le Mans since the 2000 edition, were a further three laps behind in third to win the LMP900 class with Champion Racing's No. 6 R8 and Team Goh took fourth.[83][84] It was Smith and Capello's first Le Mans victory and Kristensen's fifth.[85] Kristensen became the first driver in history to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans four times in a row.[86] He also equalled Derek Bell's record of five victories and was one behind Jacky Ickx's all-time record of six wins.[86] It was Bentley's seventh overall Le Mans victory and the British marque's first since the 1930 race.[87] Prodrive held their ten-lap lead in the LMGTS category,[88] earning Enge, Kox and Davies their first class victories and the first for Ferrari in a GT class since the 1981 edition.[89] Corvette Racing completed the class podium with the No. 50 C5-R ahead of the No. 53 car.[40] Porsche took the first six places in the LMGT class with Alex Job Racing taking the category win on the team's first visit to Le Mans. Orbit Racing and Thierry Perrier were the final two category podium finishers in second and third.[90] Noël del Bello Racing, unchallenged since the night, were victorious in the LMP675 class,[91] 31 laps ahead of the RN Motorsport Zytek and 84 laps in front of Rachel Welter's WR LMP01.[40]

Race classificationEdit

The minimum number of laps for classification (70% of the overall winning car's race distance) was 264 laps. Class winners are denoted with bold and  .

Pos Class No. Team Drivers Chassis Tyre Laps Time/Retired
Engine
1 LMGTP 7   Team Bentley   Rinaldo Capello
  Tom Kristensen
  Guy Smith
Bentley Speed 8 M 377 24:00:40.928 
Bentley 4.0L Turbo V8
2 LMGTP 8   Team Bentley   Mark Blundell
  David Brabham
  Johnny Herbert
Bentley Speed 8 M 375 +2 Laps
Bentley 4.0L Turbo V8
3 LMP900 6   Champion Racing   JJ Lehto
  Emanuele Pirro
  Stefan Johansson
Audi R8 M 372 +5 Laps 
Audi 3.6L Turbo V8
4 LMP900 5   Audi Sport Japan Team Goh   Seiji Ara
  Jan Magnussen
  Marco Werner
Audi R8 M 370 +7 Laps
Audi 3.6L Turbo V8
5 LMP900 11   JML Team Panoz   Olivier Beretta
  Gunnar Jeannette
  Max Papis
Panoz LMP01 Evo M 360 +17 Laps
Élan 6L8 6.0L V8
6 LMP900 15   Racing for Holland   Jan Lammers
  John Bosch
  Andy Wallace
Dome S101 M 360 +17 Laps
Judd GV4 4.0L V10
7 LMP900 13   Courage Compétition   Jonathan Cochet
  Stéphan Grégoire
  Jean-Marc Gounon
Courage C60 M 360 +17 Laps
Judd GV4 4.0L V10
8 LMP900 17   Pescarolo Sport   Jean-Christophe Boullion
  Franck Lagorce
  Stéphane Sarrazin
Courage C60 M 356 +21 Laps
Peugeot 3.2L Turbo V6
9 LMP900 18   Pescarolo Sport   Éric Hélary
  Nicolas Minassian
  Soheil Ayari
Courage C60 M 352 +25 Laps
Peugeot 3.2L Turbo V6
10 GTS 88   Veloqx Prodrive Racing   Tomáš Enge
  Peter Kox
  Jamie Davies
Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello M 336 +41 Laps 
Ferrari F133 5.9L V12
11 GTS 50   Corvette Racing   Oliver Gavin
  Kelly Collins
  Andy Pilgrim
Chevrolet Corvette C5-R G 326 +51 Laps
Chevrolet 7.0L V8
12 GTS 53   Corvette Racing   Ron Fellows
  Johnny O'Connell
  Franck Fréon
Chevrolet Corvette C5-R G 326 +51 Laps
Chevrolet 7.0L V8
13 LMP900 9   Kondo Racing   Masahiko Kondō
  Ukyo Katayama
  Ryō Fukuda
Dome S101 Y 322 +55 Laps
Mugen MF408S 4.0L V8
14 GT 93   Alex Job Racing
  Petersen Motorsports
  Sascha Maassen
  Emmanuel Collard
  Lucas Luhr
Porsche 911 GT3-RS M 320 +57 Laps 
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
15 LMP675 29   Noël del Bello Racing   Jean-Luc Maury-Laribière
  Christophe Pillon
  Didier André
Reynard 2KQ-LM M 319 +58 Laps 
Volkswagen HPT16 2.0L Turbo I4
16 GTS 86   Larbre Compétition   Patrice Goueslard
  Christophe Bouchut
  Steve Zacchia
Chrysler Viper GTS-R M 317 +60 Laps
Chrysler 8.0L V10
17 GT 87   Orbit Racing   Leo Hindery Jr.
  Peter Baron
  Marc Lieb
Porsche 911 GT3-RS M 314 +63 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
18 GT 75   Thierry Perrier
  Perspective Racing
  Michel Neugarten
  Nigel Smith
  Ian Khan
Porsche 911 GT3-RS P 305 +72 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
19 GT 77   Team Taisan Advan   Atsushi Yogo
  Akira Iida
  Kazuyuki Nishizawa
Porsche 911 GT3-RS Y 304 +73 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
20 GT 81   The Racer's Group   Kevin Buckler
  Timo Bernhard
  Jörg Bergmeister
Porsche 911 GT3-RS M 304 +73 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
21 GTS 72   Luc Alphand Aventures   Luc Alphand
  Jérôme Policand
  Frédéric Dor
Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello M 298 +79 Laps
Ferrari F133 6.0L V12
22 LMP675 26   RN Motorsport Ltd.   John Nielsen
  Hayanari Shimoda
  Casper Elgaard
DBA4 03S D 288 +89 Laps
Zytek ZG348 3.4L V8
23 GT 78   PK Sport, Ltd.   Robin Liddell
  David Warnock
  Piers Masarati
Porsche 911 GT3-RS P 285 +92 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
24 LMP900 19   Automotive Durango SRL   Sylvain Boulay
  Michele Rugolo
  Jean-Bernard Bouvet
Durango LMP1 D 277 +100 Laps
Judd GV4 4.0L V10
25 GT 70   JMB Racing   David Terrien
  Fabrizio de Simone
  Fabio Babini
Ferrari 360 Modena GT P 273 +104 Laps
Ferrari F131 3.6L V8
26 GT 94   Risi Competizione   Anthony Lazzaro
  Ralf Kelleners
  Terry Borcheller
Ferrari 360 Modena GT M 269 +108 Laps
Ferrari F131 3.6L V8
27 GT 84   T2M Motorsport   Vanina Ickx
  Roland Bervillé
  Patrick Bourdais
Porsche 911 GT3-RS M 264 +113 Laps
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
28
NC
GTS 64   Graham Nash Motorsport
  Ray Mallock Ltd.
  Pedro Chaves
  Thomas Erdos
  Mike Newton
Saleen S7-R D 292 Engine
Ford 7.0L V8
29
NC
GT 85   ST Team Orange Spyker   Norman Simon
  Tom Coronel
  Hans Hugenholtz
Spyker C8 Double-12R D 229 Not classified
Audi 4.0L V8
30
NC
LMP675 24   Rachel Welter   Yojiro Terada
  Olivier Porta
  Gavin Pickering
WR LMP01 M 235 Not classified
Peugeot 2.0L Turbo I4
31
DNF
LMP900 16   Racing for Holland   Felipe Ortiz
  Beppe Gabbiani
  Tristan Gommendy
Dome S101 M 316 Accident
Judd GV4 4.0L V10
32
DNF
LMP900 12   JML Team Panoz   Benjamin Leuenberger
  David Saelens
  Scott Maxwell
Panoz LMP01 Evo M 233 Accident
Élan 6L8 6.0L V8
33
DNF
GTS 68   Scorp Motorsport Communication   Luis Marques
  Olivier Thévenin
  Denis Dupuis
Chrysler Viper GTS-R D 229 Engine
Chrysler 8.0L V10
34
DNF
GT 99   XL Racing   Ange Barde
  Michel Ferté
  Gaël Lasoudier
Ferrari 550 Maranello P 227 Fire
Ferrari F131 5.5L V12
35
DNF
LMP900 4   Riley & Scott Racing   Jim Matthews
  Marc Goossens
  Christophe Tinseau
Riley & Scott Mk III C M 214 Engine
Ford (Yates) 6.0L V8
36
DNF
LMP675 25   Gerard Welter   Bastien Brière
  Jean-René de Fournoux
  Stéphane Daoudi
WR LMP02 M 176 Engine
Peugeot 3.0L V6
37
DNF
GTS 80   Veloqx Prodrive Racing   Anthony Davidson
  Kelvin Burt
  Darren Turner
Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello M 176 Accident
Ferrari F131 5.9L V12
38
DNF
LMP900 14   Team Nasamax
  McNeil Engineering
  Romain Dumas
  Robbie Sterling
  Werner Lupberger
Reynard 01Q G 138 Fire
Cosworth XDE 2.7L Turbo V8
(Bioethanol)
39
DNF
GT 95   Risi Competizione   Shane Lewis
  Butch Leitzinger
  Johnny Mowlem
Ferrari 360 Modena GT Y 138 Engine
Ferrari F133 3.6L V8
40
DNF
GT 83   Seikel Motorsport   Anthony Burgess
  David Shep
  Andrew Bagnall
Porsche 911 GT3-RS Y 134 Gearbox
Porsche 3.6L Flat-6
41
DNF
LMP675 27   Intersport Racing   Jon Field
  Duncan Dayton
  Rick Sutherland
MG-Lola EX257 G 107 Engine
MG (AER) XP20 2.0L Turbo I4
42
DNF
GT 92   Dewalt Racesports Salisbury   Mike Jordan
  Michael Caine
  Tim Sugden
TVR Tuscan T400R D 93 Gearbox
TVR Speed Six 4.0L I6
43
DNF
GTS 66   Konrad Motorsport   Franz Konrad
  Toni Seiler
  Walter Brun
Saleen S7-R D 91 Gearbox
Ford 7.0L V8
44
DNF
LMP900 21   Edouard Sezionale   Patrice Roussel
  Edouard Sezionale
  Lucas Lasserre
Norma M2000-2 D 82 Engine
Ford (Roush) 6.0L V8
45
DNF
LMP675 31   Courage Compétition   David Hallyday
  Philippe Alliot
  Carl Rosenblad
Courage C65 M 41 Engine
JPX 3.4L V6
46
DNF
LMP900 10   Audi Sport UK
  Arena Motorsport
  Frank Biela
  Perry McCarthy
  Mika Salo
Audi R8 M 28 Fuel
Audi 3.6L Turbo V8
47
DNF
LMP675 23   Team Bucknum Racing   Jeff Bucknum
  Bryan Willman
  Chris McMurry
Pilbeam MP91 D 27 Engine
JPX 3.4L V6
48
DNF
GT 91   Dewalt Racesport Salisbury   Rob Barff
  Richard Hay
  Richard Stanton
TVR Tuscan T400R D 11 Crash
TVR Speed Six 4.0L I6
49
DNF
GTS 61   Carsport America   Mike Hezemans
  Anthony Kumpen
  David Hart
Pagani Zonda GR P 10 Gearbox
Mercedes-Benz AMG 6.0L V12
DNS LMP900 20   Lister Racing   Jamie Campbell-Walter
  Nathan Kinch
  Vincent Vosse
Lister Storm LMP D Did not start
Chevrolet LS1 6.0L V8
Source:[40][92]

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