2004 24 Hours of Le Mans
The 72nd 24 Hours of Le Mans (French: 72e 24 Heures du Mans) was an automobile endurance racing event held from 12 to 13 June at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France. It was the 72nd 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 eight weeks prior to the race on 25 April. Approximately 200,000 people attended the race.
|2004 24 Hours of Le Mans|
|Previous: 2003||Next: 2005|
|Index: Races | Winners|
The No. 88 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx R8 of Jamie Davies, Johnny Herbert and Guy Smith started from pole position after Herbert set the overall fastest lap time in the fourth qualifying session. The car led for much of the first eighteen hours until a rear suspension problem created handling difficulties and was corrected in the garage. It gave the lead to the No. 5 Audi Sport Japan Team Goh car of Seiji Ara, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen and although it caught fire during a pit stop, Ara held off a challenge from the faster Herbert for the rest of the race to win by 41.354 seconds. It was Ara's first Le Mans win, Capello's second and Kristensen's sixth. Kristensen equalled Jacky Ickx's all-time record of six overall victories and was the first driver to win the 24 hour race five times in a row. This was the fourth overall victory for Audi since the manufacturer's début at the 2000 edition. The No. 88 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx car finished in second and the No. 2 Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner recovered from a crash in the second hour to complete the overall podium finishers in third place.
The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) category was won by the No. 32 Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40 of William Bennie, Clint Field and Rick Sutherland, eight laps ahead of the sole other finisher in the class, the No. 24 Rachel Welter WR LM2001 of Yojiro Terada, Patrice Roussel and Olivier Porta. The No. 64 Chevrolet Corvette C5-R won the Le Mans Grand Touring Sport (LMGTS) class with drivers Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen and the sister No. 63 of Ron Fellows, Max Papis and Johnny O'Connell was eleven laps behind in second place. Prodrive's No. 66 Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello of Colin McRae, Rickard Rydell and Darren Turner completed the category podium in third position. Porsches took the first six places in the Le Mans Grand Touring (LMGT) category with the No. 90 White Lighting Racing Porsche 911 GT3-RS of Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Sascha Maassen taking the class win for the second consecutive year.
Background and regulation changesEdit
The 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans was the 72nd edition of the race and took place at the 8.482 mi (13.650 km) Circuit de la Sarthe from 12 to 13 June. 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. It was not held in 1936 because of a general labour strike during the Great Depression, and heavy damage sustained to the circuit in World War II cancelled it from 1940 to 1948. 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.
In March 2003, the ACO announced changes to the Le Mans Prototype (LMP) classes that took effect from the 2004 race. The former Le Mans Grand Touring Prototype and Le Mans Prototype 900 (LMP900) categories merged and was renamed Le Mans Prototype 1 (LMP1) and was limited solely to manufacturers. The Le Mans Prototype 675 (LMP675) category had no car capable of challenging for the overall victory and the ACO designated it a lower class and renamed it Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2). LMP900 and LMP675 cars built in compliance with the ACO technical regulations for the LMP and LMGTP categories could enter until 31 December 2005. Skid blocks were made 10 mm (0.39 in) thicker and the air restrictor size was reduced by five per cent. Teams in LMP1 and LMP2 could choose between an open or a closed cockpit. The maximum weight of LMP2 vehicles was established at 750 kg (1,650 lb) and 900 kg (2,000 lb) for LMP1 cars. Engine displacement for normally aspirated engines set at 3,400 cc (210 cu in), turbocharged engines were limited to 2,000 cc (120 cu in) and engine displacement for diesel power units was restricted to 5,500 cc (340 cu in).
After a series of airborne accidents in sports car racing, such as a Porsche 911 GT1 at the 1998 Petit Le Mans and the Mercedes-Benz CLR at the 1999 Le Mans race, the ACO altered the bottom of the LMP1 and LMP2 cars to lower the amount of downforce produced outside of its wheelbase and a reduction in rear overhang coupled an increase in front overhang for less pitch sensitivity to minimise the possibility of such a crash occurring. The rear wing was moved forward and shortened from 400 mm (40 cm) to 300 mm (30 cm). A 20 mm (2.0 cm) plank was added to the underside of all LMP cars to force an increase in ride height and reduce the effectiveness of underfloor aerodynamics.
The ACO received 77 applications (40 for the LMP classes and 37 for the Grand Touring (GT) categories) by the deadline for entries on 11 February 2004. It granted 50 invitations to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and entries were divided between the LMP1, LMP2, Le Mans Grand Touring Sports (LMGTS) and Le Mans Grand Touring (LMGT) categories.
Automatic entries were earned by teams which won their class in the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, or have won Le Mans-based series and events such as the 2003 Petit Le Mans, the 2003 1000 km of Le Mans and the 2003 American Le Mans Series (ALMS). Some second-place finishers were also granted automatic entries in certain series and races. Entries were also granted for the winners and runners-up in the GT and N-GT categories of the 2003 FIA GT Championship. Had the entry of the 2003 Petit Le Mans category winner been the same as the 2003 American Le Mans Series class champion, the second automatic entry would have been awarded to another team in that category under an agreement with the ACO and the ALMS. 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.
On 20 November 2003, the ACO published its initial list of automatic invitations. Team Bentley, Infineon Team Joest, Pescarolo Sport (after changing engine suppliers from Peugeot to Judd), RN Motorsport, Dyson Racing and Alex Job Racing did not take up their automatic entries; their places were taken by Champion Racing, Audi Sport Japan Team Goh and Lister Racing (due to its performance in the GT category during the 2003 FIA GT Championship).
|1st in the 24 Hours of Le Mans||Team Bentley||Noël del Bello Racing||Veloqx Prodrive Racing||Alex Job Racing|
|2nd in the 24 Hours of Le Mans||Team Bentley||RN Motorsports||Corvette Racing||Orbit Racing|
|1st in the Petit Le Mans||Champion Racing||Intersport Racing||Prodrive||Alex Job Racing|
|1st in the American Le Mans Series||Infineon Team Joest||Dyson Racing||Corvette Racing||Risi Competizione|
|1st in the FIA GT Championship||BMS Scuderia Italia||Freisinger Motorsport|
|2nd in the FIA GT Championship||BMS Scuderia Italia||JMB Racing|
|1st in the 1000 km of Le Mans||Audi Sport Japan Team Goh||Courage Compétition||Care Racing||Cirtek Motorsport|
|2nd in the 1000 km of Le Mans||Pescarolo Sport||Intersport Racing||Care Racing||Freisinger Motorsport|
Entry list and reservesEdit
On 25 March 2004, the seven-member selection committee of the ACO announced the full 50-car entry list for Le Mans, plus six reserves. Following the publication of entries, several teams withdrew their entries. Arena Motorsport withdrew its Dome S101, promoting the No. 4 Taurus Sports Racing Lola B2K/10-Judd. Thierry Perrier's Porsche 911 GT3-RS was elevated into the race entry after one of pre-selected BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello's was withdrawn, because the team did not have enough time to make the car compliant with the ACO's regulations and it wanted to focus on the 2004 FIA GT Championship. Later, a Ferrari 360 Modena GTC fielded by Risi Competizione was delisted and promoting XL Racing's Ferrari to the entry list. Konrad Motorsport and Welter Racing were subsequently granted the fourth and fifth reserve entries and XL Racing withdrew its Ferrari. A second Racing for Holland Dome was promoted to give the team two LMP1 entries.
On 21 April, the Car Racing team confirmed that its No. 67 Ferrari 550 was withdrawn due to financial problems from a lack of sponsorship and its place in the LMGT category was taken by a second Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport-entered TVR Tuscan 400R. Force One Racing pulled its Pagani Zonda from the entry list after a heavy crash at the ACI Vallelunga Circuit in Italy halted the car's development, promoting Seikel Motorsport's No. 84 Porsche. The No. 36 Gerard Welter car replaced the Spinnaker Clan Des Team car when the latter team withdrew on 1 June due to a lack of preparation and testing. Courage Compétition and its satellite operation Epsilon Sport were required by officials to withdraw one C65 chassis per team because an engine supply agreement with Mecachrome was terminated and both outfits sourced replacement engines from JPX.
A mandatory pre-Le Mans test day split into two daytime sessions of four hours each was held at the circuit on 25 April, involving all 50 entries and two of the six reserve cars. Audi set the pace of the day with a 3 minutes and 32.613 seconds lap from Allan McNish in the No. 8 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx R8 with six minutes to go in testing, followed by Johnny Herbert in the sister No. 88 Audi in second. Champion Racing was third with a lap from Marco Werner and Tom Kristensen was fourth in the Team Goh entry. The fastest two non-Audis were the fifth-placed David Brabham in the No. 22 Zytek 04S and Hiroki Kato's No. 9 Kondo Racing Dome S101 in sixth position. Max Papis led the LMGTS class in the No. 63 Corvette Racing C5-R with a lap of 3 minutes and 49.982 seconds set in the final minutes of the second session ahead of the sister No. 63 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and the No. 69 Larbre Compétition Ferrari of Christophe Bouchut. Rounding out the top five in the category were the Prodrive Ferraris of Tomáš Enge and Rickard Rydell. LMGT was topped by Jörg Bergmeister's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3-RSR with a 4 minutes and 5.975 seconds lap, followed by Marc Lieb's No. 87 Orbit Racing car, which was sidelined for 2 1⁄2 hours with a broken steering rack after a crash against a guardrail at Tertre Rouge corner. A seal failure that mixed oil and diesel in the Taurus Sports Racing Lola and leaked oil on the Mulsanne Straight and a crash for Noël del Bello Racing's entry at Mulsanne Corner led to further stoppages during testing.
Eight hours of qualifying divided into four two-hour sessions was available to all the entrants on 9 and 10 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. Audi led the time sheets early on and Herbert's No. 88 car recorded a fastest lap of 3 minutes and 34.907 seconds on the final lap of the session. Kristensen's Team Goh Audi was more than two seconds slower in second and he was followed by McNish in the No. 8 car in third position. Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome was the fastest non-Audi in fourth place. The No. 2 Champion Audi of JJ Lehto took fifth, Soheil Ayari's No. 18 Pescarolo C60 sixth and Brabham put the No. 22 Zytek 04S in seventh. Pierre Kaffer damaged the No. 8 Audi Sport UK car after an error put him off the track at the first Mulsanne Chicane. With a lap of 3 minutes and 46.020 seconds, Jean-Marc Gounon's No. 31 Courage Compétition C65 led in LMP2, more than eleven seconds ahead of the sister No. 35 Epilson Sport car and the No. 24 Rachel Welter WR LM2001. The No. 64 Corvette C5-R of Olivier Beretta set the early pace in LMGTS and his co-driver Gavin bettered his effort to establish the class' best lap at 3 minutes and 54.359 seconds. Peter Kox for Prodrive was the fastest Ferrari in second and Ron Fellows' No. 63 Corvette followed in third place. The second Prodrive Ferrari was fourth courtesy of a lap from rally driver Colin McRae. In LMGT, Bergmeister's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche led the class with a lap of 4 minutes and 9.679 seconds, ahead of Stéphane Daoudi in the No. 70 JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena GTC.
Teams used the opening minutes of the second qualifying session to fine tune their cars and record their fastest lap times in lower ambient and track temperatures. Herbert could not improve the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8's best lap due to a minor gear selection fault and slower traffic. McNish's sister No. 8 entry bettered it with a time of 3 minutes and 34.683 seconds. No other driver improved their times over the rest of the session, enabling the No. 8 Audi to take provisional pole position from the No. 88 vehicle. Kristensen's Team Goh car fell to third after damaging the front splitter in a collision with a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R at Arnage corner, as Werner moved Champion's entry to fourth and complete an Audi sweep of the first four positions. Sébastien Bourdais drove the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 to fifth despite a fuel pressure problem and a minor crash by co-driver Nicolas Minassian. The No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome improved to sixth and the No. 6 Rollcentre Racing Dallara SP1 was seventh. Courage Compétition No. 31 C65's lap time was unchallenged in LMP2 and moved to eleventh overall, ahead of the clutch-stricken No. 15 Racing for Holland car. It remained eleven seconds in front of Epilson Sport. Corvette Racing continued to lead in LMGTS with Gavin's No. 64 C5-R improving its best lap to a 3 minutes and 52.158 seconds. He was more than two seconds quicker than Fellows' No. 63 entry and a further second faster than Enge's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari, who collided with a barrier at Indianapolis corner. Bergmesiter improved the No. 90 White Lighting Porsche's best lap in LMGT to a 4 minutes and 9.679 seconds and went three seconds clear of the JMB Ferrari.
Rain showers during 10 June removed rubber laid on the track by cars and the first expectations of improved lap times in the third qualifying session were negative. However, ambient and track temperatures increased and enabled drivers to better their laps from the previous day. McNish went fastest overall before his Audi Sport UK teammate Herbert recorded the fastest lap at 3 minutes and 33.024 seconds by driving with a new gurney flap with five minutes of the session remaining. Brabham in the No. 22 Zytek 04S moved from provisional seventh to third by getting his first clear lap of the weekend. Rinaldo Capello made a minor improvement to the Team Goh Audi's quickest lap though the entry dropped to fourth and the Champion car fell to fifth. Bourdais set a lap which kept the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 in sixth and Katoh was the fastest of the Dome S101s in seventh. LMP2 continued to be paced by Gounon's No. 31 Courage Compétition C65 and Paul Belmondo Racing took second place in the category. In LMGTS, Rydell's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari moved to the front of the category and he maintained it until Gavin's lap of 3 minutes and 49.750 in the No. 64 Corvette reset the class lap record ten minutes later. The second Corvette driven by Johnny O'Connell was third and the other Prodrive Ferrari of Kox dropped to fourth. The LMGT category saw Sascha Maassen's No. 90 White Lightning Porsche improve its lap to a 4 minutes and 7.394 seconds. Mike Rockenfeller's No. 87 Orbit car came within less than two seconds behind in second and Stéphane Ortelli's No. 85 Freisinger Motorsport entry finished the session in third.
In the final qualifying session, Herbert in the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 set a new fastest time of 3 minutes and 32.838 seconds eight minutes in, and held the top of the time charts to take his first pole position at Le Mans and the fourth of his motor racing career. McNish improved the No. 8 Audi's time to join Herbert on the grid's front row after missing much of the session due to a lack of power caused by a failed fuel injector that necessitated an engine change. Brabham could not improve on his lap from the third session and began from third. Kristensen bettered Team Goh Audi's best time but remained in fourth, as Bourdais took fifth in the No. 17 Pescarolo C60. Werner's Champion Audi went faster for sixth after a front shock absorber repair, and Katoh completed the top seven qualifiers. Gounon earned Courage Compétition pole position in the LMP2 category by improving the No. 31 car's best lap to a 3 minutes and 41.126 seconds and going 12th fastest overall. Paul Belmondo Racing was ten seconds slower in second in the class. After the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was damaged in an accident in the Porsche Curves, Enge took the top spot from Gavin's No. 64 Corvette in LMGTS with a 3 minutes and 49.438 seconds lap with ten minutes to go in the session. An improvement by O'Connell's No. 63 Corvette qualified it in third. White Lighting's third session lap secured the team the LMGT category pole position. Jaime Melo's JMB Ferrari and Rockenfeller's Orbit Porsche were second and third in class.
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||Grid|
|1||LMP1||88||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx||Audi R8||3:34.907||3:32:838||—||1|
|2||LMP1||8||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx||Audi R8||3:34.683||3:33.233||+0.385||2|
|3||LMP1||22||Zytek Engineering Ltd.||Zytek 04S||3:41.181||3:33.923||+1.085||3|
|4||LMP1||5||Audi Sport Japan Team Goh||Audi R8||3:35.169||3:34.038||+1.200||4|
|5||LMP1||17||Pescarolo Sport||Pescarolo C60||3:36.801||3:34.252||+1.414||5|
|6||LMP1||2||Champion Racing||Audi R8||3:35.892||3:34.927||+2.091||6|
|7||LMP1||9||Kondo Racing||Dome S101||3:42.143||3:36.285||+3.447||7|
|8||LMP1||15||Racing for Holland||Dome S101||3:37.323||3:36.353||+3.515||8|
|9||LMP1||6||Rollcentre Racing||Dallara SP1||3:39.260||3:42.278||+6.422||9|
|10||LMP1||16||Racing for Holland||Dome S101||3:43.122||3:40.261||+7.453||10|
|11||LMP1||18||Pescarolo Sport||Pescarolo C60||3:40.399||3:42.764||+7.561||11|
|12||LMP2||31||Courage Compétition||Courage C65||3:42.592||3:41.126||+8.288||12|
|13||LMP1||25||Ray Mallock Ltd.||MG-Lola EX257||3:48.147||3:42.298||+8.410||13|
|14||LMP1||14||Team Nasamax||Nasamax DM139||3:49.779||3:42.429||+9.591||14|
|15||LMP1||20||Lister Racing||Lister Storm LMP||3:49.542||3:43.760||+11.877||15|
|16||LMP1||27||Intersport Racing||Lola B01/60||3:52.862||3:48.670||+14.742||16|
|17||LMGTS||66||Prodrive Racing||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:56.493||3:49.438||+17.600||17|
|18||LMGTS||64||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||3:52.158||3:49.750||+17.912||18|
|19||LMP1||4||Taurus Sports Racing||Lola B2K/10||3:55.780||3:50.703||+18.865||19|
|20||LMGTS||63||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||3:54.612||3:51.378||+19.540||20|
|21||LMGTS||65||Prodrive Racing||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:58.493||3:51.755||+19.817||21|
|22||LMP2||37||Paul Belmondo Racing||Courage C65||6:14.788||3:51.862||+19.955||22|
|23||LMP1||29||Noël del Bello Racing||Reynard 2KQ||3:59.257||3:53.640||+20.733||23|
|24||LMGTS||69||Larbre Compétition||Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||3:56.920||3:55.500||+23.593||24|
|25||LMP1||11||Panoz Motor Sports||Panoz GTP||4:06.515||3:57.816||+24.978||25|
|26||LMP2||35||Epsilon Sport||Courage C65||3:57.850||3:58.831||+25.993||26|
|27||LMGTS||62||Barron Connor Racing||Ferrari 575-GTC||4:00.714||4:05.437||+26.876||27|
|28||LMP2||32||Intersport Racing||Lola B2K/40||4:08.824||4:01.679||+28.841||28|
|29||LMP2||36||Gerard Welter||WR LM2004||4:08.708||4:05.163||+32.325||29|
|30||LMP2||24||Rachel Welter||WR LM2001||4:05.852||4:10.264||+33.014||30|
|31||LMGTS||61||Barron Connor Racing||Ferrari 575-GTC||4:06.375||N/A||+33.537||31|
|32||LMGT||90||White Lightning Racing||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:09.679||4:07.394||+34.546||32|
|33||LMGT||70||JMB Racing||Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||4:11.025||4:08.484||+35.636||33|
|34||LMGT||84||Orbit Racing||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:14.111||4:09.079||+36.241||34|
|35||LMGT||85||Freisinger Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:12.237||4:10.011||+37.173||35|
|36||LMGT||83||Seikel Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:14.189||4:11.490||+38.652||36|
|37||LMGT||77||ChoroQ Racing Team||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:17.246||4:12.949||+40.111||37|
|38||LMGT||75||Thierry Perrier||Porsche 911 GT3-R||4:13.009||4:19.943||+40.171||38|
|39||LMGT||89||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport||TVR Tuscan T400R||4:16.184||4:13.368||+40.530||39|
|40||LMGT||84||Seikel Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:23.613||4:13.943||+41.055||40|
|41||LMP1||10||Taurus Sports Racing||Lola B2K/10||4:14.380||10:49.177||+41.497||41|
|42||LMGT||72||Luc Alphand Aventures||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:18.735||4:14.785||+41.952||42|
|43||LMGT||92||Cirtek Motorsport||Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||4:20.522||4:18.768||+44.940||43|
|44||LMGT||86||Freisinger Motorsport||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:18.973||4:28.136||+45.145||44|
|45||LMGT||96||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport||TVR Tuscan T400R||4:19.980||4:27.642||+46.153||45|
|46||LMGT||81||The Racer's Group||Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||4:20.010||4:21.319||+46.183||46|
|47||LMGT||78||PK Sport Ltd.||Porsche 911 GT3-RS||4:21.277||4:23.109||+47.439||47|
|48||LMGT||80||Morgan Works Race Team||Morgan Aero 8R||4:30.355||4:24.080||+51.248||48|
The drivers took to the track at 09:00 Central European Summer Time (UTC+02:00) for a 45-minute warm-up session in clear weather conditions. Teams used the session as a final opportunity to check the setup and reliability of their cars. The No. 2 Champion Audi of Lehto set the fastest time with a 3 minutes and 36.078 seconds. The two Audi Sport UK R8s were second and third with the No. 8 narrowly ahead of the No. 88. Bourdais's No. 17 Pescarolo C60 was fourth. The Team Goh Audi placed fifth, Lammers Racing for Holland Dome sixth and the No. 22 Zytek 04S seventh. The fastest LMP2 lap was recorded by Intersport Racing's Lola at 4 minutes and 5.032 seconds. The No. 63 Corvette was the quickest car in the LMGTS category and JMB's No. 70 Ferrari led in LMGT. Although the session passed without a major incident, Bourdais' engine cover shed from his Pescarolo C60, and several drivers ran into the gravel traps beside the track.
Weather conditions at the start were overcast with an air temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) and a track temperature of 28 °C (82 °F). 200,000 people attended the event. The French tricolour was waved by François Fillon, the Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, at 16:00 local time to start the race, led by the starting pole sitter Jamie Davies. 48 cars planned to start but the No. 10 Lola B2K/10 and the No. 60 Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575-GTC began from the pit lane due to a change of clutch and engine, respectively. The No. 14 Team Nasamax DM139 was recovered from the track too late after a fuel consumption test but the car joined the grid. Davies held off an challenge by his teammate McNish on the approach to the Dunlop Curve to lead the opening laps. The other two Audis of Lehto and Capello and Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome passed Andy Wallace's Zytek to demote it from third to sixth. The top five cars in LMGTS were nose-to-tail with Kox leading and a throttle sensor problem for Lammers on the Mulsanne Straight on lap four dropped him to 24th. Capello spun into a gravel trap at the Dunlop Curves four laps later and he rejoined behind Lammers. Before the first hour ended a change of electronic control unit for Capello's Team Goh Audi dropped him off the lead lap as Gavin's Corvette took the lead of LMGTS. His teammate Fellows crashed against a tyre barrier at Arnage corner and was forced to enter the pit lane. Repairs to the front of the No. 64 car lost it five laps and O'Connell relieved Fellows.
1 hour and 52 minutes in, McNish and Lehto's Audi cars were caught out by a patch of oil laid on the track at the entrance to the Porsche Curves, spun across a gravel trap and crashed into a tyre barrier in unison, temporarily knocking McNish unconscious. Both cars sustained heavy damage and recovery from trackside equipment enabled McNish and Lehto to return to the garage for extensive repairs. Shortly after vacating the No. 8 car in the garage McNish collapsed and two doctors examined him. He was taken to the circuit's medical centre suffering from a sore knee and concussion, and doctors ruled him unfit for the rest of the event. The safety cars were deployed to slow the race as marshals worked to clear debris from the track. As the safety cars were recalled Brabham's Zytek sustained bodywork damage from picking up a puncture and John Field crashed the No. 27 Intersport Lola at the second Mulsanne Chicane. Later in the second hour, the Champion and Team Goh Audi entries returned to the track outside of the top 40 overall positions. The No. 9 Kondo Dome of Ryo Michigami slowed on course in the final third of the lap with a transmission failure that dropped it to fifth, behind the No. 18 Pescarolo C60 of Érik Comas and Katsutomo Kaneishi's No. 15 Racing for Holland car as it was repaired in the garage. The attrition rate allowed Sam Hancock in the No. 31 Courage Compétition C65 to sixth overall.
At the front of the field, Smith's No. 88 Audi R8 led the Team Goh entry of Seiji Ara by one lap. Enge reset the fastest lap in LMGTS to a 3 minutes and 53.327 seconds to be 17 seconds behind the class-leading No. 64 Corvette of Jan Magnussen. Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome overtook Benoît Tréluyer's No 17 Pescarolo C60 for third overall until a fuel pump failed and needed replacing. The No. 31 Courage Compétition C65 of Hancock relinquished the lead in LMP2 to the sister Epilson Sport entry, after a faulty rear gearbox selection mechanism required attention from mechanics. Repairs took twenty minutes and dropped the car down the race order. Not long after Robert Hearn lost control of Freisinger's No. 86 Porsche and had a heavy crash against the inside barrier at the exit to the Karting Esses with the rear of the car. Hearn was unable to get the Porsche moving again and retired. After relieving Smith, Herbert responded to Ara's faster pace to stabilise the gap at the front of the field and it increased after Ara ran into a gravel trap on the Mulsanne Straight. McRae's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was second in LMGTS when he spun at a Mulsanne Chicane after moving onto a dirty section of track to allow a faster LMP car past and his clutch began to slip afterward. Prodrive changed the clutch and the resulting pit stop dropped the car eight laps behind Gavin's LMGTS leading Corvette.
As night fell, the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 was driven into the team's garage with a broken alternator belt. Repairs took 14 minutes and elevated the No. 22 Zytek of Hayanari Shimoda back into the top ten. Fellows had a rear-left puncture on a crest on the Mulsanne Straight that threw the No. 63 Corvette backwards and impacted an barrier. The car sustained heavy damage to its rear and left-hand corner. Paul Belmondo's vision was obscured by a thick dust cloud and the No. 37 Courage C65 crashed into a barrier. The No. 37 car sustained a puncture in the front-right hand section of the tub and it was retired in the garage. The accident led to a brief safety car intervention for the second time. As the safety car period ended Darren Turner spun the No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari into a gravel trap at the Dunlop Chicane and Chris Dyson ran the No. 15 Racing for Holland Dome into a gravel trap that necessitated his entrance to the pit lane. At midnight, the two lead Audis were separated by a lap and Lehto drew closer to the leader of the LMGTS class, the No. 64 Corvette in fifth overall. Maassen slid the No. 90 White Lightning Porsche on oil in the Porsche Curves though he still led in the LMGT category. Lehto overtook Beretta to be ahead of all the LMGTS entries and bring the number of Audis in the top five overall positions to three.
After taking a stop-and-go penalty for passing under yellow flag conditions, Davies in the No. 88 Audi and Magnussen collided with one another at the Ford Chicane and sending the No. 64 Corvette softly into a trackside tyre wall. Davies and Magnussen were able to get their cars back to the pit lane for repairs. The incident gave the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari of Alain Menu the lead of LMGTS and the gap between the R8s of Davies and Kristensen was reduced to less than one lap. The No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari was later forced to enter the pit lane with a suspected misfire though it was later discovered that a section of rubber was lodged inside an air restrictor. Menu's Ferrari spent seven minutes undergoing repairs; it rejoined the race with his lead in the LMGTS category over the No. 64 Corvette was lowered from four to 2 1⁄2 laps and the Kondo Dome moved ahead of him. The No. 90 White Lightning Porsche continued to hold sway in the LMGT class but in the eleventh hour, the car relinquished the lead it had held for the majority of the race when Bergmeister drove into the pit lane to replace a broken shifter linkage cable on its sequential gearbox and underwent a change of brakes. The car, driven by Patrick Long, returned to the track in second, three laps behind Ralf Kelleners' No. 85 Freisinger Porsche. The No. 32 Intersport Lola of William Binnie was required to enter the pit lane with a broken right-rear halfshaft and the car rejoined the circuit more than half an hour later without losing the lead in LMP2.
As the race approached its halfway point, the No. 22 Zytek began leaking oil across the circuit at the Porsche Curves due to a possible broken chunk of bodywork hitting an oil union as the engine compartment caught fire from a lack of oil pressure. Brabham drove the car into the pit lane with flames erupting from its compartment bay and it was retired as the safety cars were dispatched for the third time. During the safety car period, Kristensen brought the Team Goh Audi into the pit lane to rectify a misfire the R8 had for the past two hours and the Barron Connor No. 61 Ferrari suffered a left-front brake disc fire that necessitated the car's retirement after mechanics were unable to extinguish the fire and a change of uprights on its suspension system failed to work. In the 12th hour, Gavin missed the braking point for the first Mulsanne Chicane and damaged the front of the No. 64 Corvette. A 15-minute pit stop dropped the Corvette six laps behind Kox's LMGTS-leading No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari and to 11th overall. Not long after Turner's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari was affected by gear selection problems and fell to fifth in LMGTS as the car spent the majority of the past hour in the garage. At the front of the field the safety cars separated the field with the race-leading Audi Sport UK R8 of Herbert one lap ahead of Ara's Team Goh R8.
Morning to early afternoonEdit
In the early morning the Champion Audi of Pirro was fifth but fell behind Martin Short's No. 6 Rollcentre Dallara SP1 due to an eight-minute change of brake disc and the No. 17 Pescarolo C60 passed Enge for eighth overall. Intersport had an anxious moment when Clint Field picked up a right-rear puncture that caused the No. 31 Lola to pirouette leaving the Ford Curves before the entrance to the pit lane. He was able to return to the pit lane for a replacement wheel and the Lola retained the LMP2 lead. Before the end of the 15th hour, Short's No. 6 Dallara was hit from behind by Bourdais' No. 17 Pescarolo 60 while he was lapping the car after the Dunlop Curve and was beached in a gravel trap. Trackside equipment extricated Short from the gravel and he continued in fourth position. The No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 of Davies returned to the garage to correct an handling imbalance caused by a seized rear suspension pushrod bearing that took seven minutes to rectify, and promoted the Team Goh car of Capello to the lead. After ceding fourth to the Champion Audi, the left-rear suspension failed on Short's No. 6 Dallara in the Karting Esses. The car spun through 360 degrees and crashed heavily broadside into a tyre barrier at high speed. Short was unhurt though the damage to the car necessitated its retirement.
At this point, Davies was the fastest driver in the field, setting the fastest lap of the race at 3 minutes and 34.264 seconds to lower Capello's lead. The No. 17 Pescarolo C60 of Comas entered the pit lane for repairs to its engine and he remained in third position. Pirro in fourth ran straight at the Mulsanne Corner and beached the Champion Audi R8 in a gravel trap. He recovered with assistance from marshals and made a pit stop for new tyres and Lehto relieved him. Soon after the race leading Capello locked his tyres and ran across the second Mulsanne Chicane. He drove the Team Goh Audi into the pit lane because he was fearful of a heavily flat spotted tyre disintegrating and Kristensen took over the No. 5 car. The No. 17 Pescarolo 60 now driven by Tréluyer launched over a kerb at a Mulsanne Chicane and a subsequent crash into the barrier lost him third place to Lehto's Champion Audi R8. Enge's No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari held a lead of five laps in the LMGTS category when its front-left wheel bearing seized through the Dunlop Chicane and damaged the front splitter. The car returned to the garage and it lost the class lead to Beretta's No. 64 Corvette. Davies spun the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 at the Dunlop Chicane but the driver error did not lose him a significant amount of time. Further down the order, the No. 85 Freisinger Porsche stopped with an oil feed problem and relinquished the lead of LMGT to White Lighting.
Team Goh had an anxious moment when fuel was spilt on the rear of Capello's R8 and ignited. Capello exited the car quickly as flames spread to its right rear though marshals extinguished the fire. Mechanics checked the car for damage and Capello resumed half a minute later. The incident allowed Davies in the No. 88 Audi Sport UK R8 to close to within 90 seconds of the Team Goh Audi but slower traffic subsequently delayed him. Over an hour after losing the LMGTS lead, Menu, driving the No. 66 Prodrive Ferrari, was forced to replace the front splitter on the car in an attempt to correct a handling problem. It did not however result in an improvement and Menu drove into the garage for further repairs to the car's undertray. Enge relieved Menu and damaged the front of the Ferrari in an impact against a wall at Indianapolis corner on his first lap out of the pit lane. It dropped him to fourth in class behind Papis' No. 63 Corvette and Rydell's No. 65 Prodrive Ferrari. ChoroQ Racing Team moved to second place in LMGT after Freisinger's Porsche of Ortelli developed a misfire and dropped to third position in class.
The No. 5 Team Goh Audi of Ara withstood a challenge from Herbert's faster No. 88 Audi Sport UK car in the final two hours of the race to take Audi's fourth win in five years at Le Mans by 41.354 seconds, at a distance of 5,169.9 km (3,212.4 mi) and an average speed of 215.418 km/h (133.855 mph). It was Ara's first Le Mans triumph, Capello's second and Kristensen's sixth. Kristensen equalled Jacky Ickx's all-time record of six victories and was the first driver to win the 24 hour race five times in a row. Champion Racing recovered from its crash in second hour to finish third. The highest-placed non Audi was the No. 18 Pescarolo C60 of Ayari, Comas and Tréluyer in fourth and the No. 8 Audi Sport UK R8 of Frank Biela and Kaffer was fifth. Although Corvette Racing ran out of spare parts because of the incidents it was involved in, the No. 63 held an eleven-lap lead over the No. 64 to finish sixth overall and win the category, earning the team their third class victory. Prodrive completed the class podium with McRae, Rydell and Turner's No. 65 Ferrari in front of the No. 66 of Enge, Kox and Menu. Porsche took the first six positions in the LMGT class as the No. 90 White Lighting entry took its second consecutive category win after the team won the 2003 race in conjunction with Alex Job Racing, and extended the Porsche 911-GT3 RS' number of Le Mans class victories to six since its début in the 1999 edition. By finishing 17th, Team Nasamax's bio-ethanol-powered DM138 became the first renewable fuelled car in history to finish the Le Mans event. Intersport were victorious in LMP2, placing 25th overall and eight laps ahead of the No. 24 Rachel Welter WR LM2001, the only other vehicle to finish in the class.
The minimum number of laps for classification (70% of the overall winning car's race distance) was 265 laps. Class winners are denoted with bold and .
|1||LMP1||5||Audi Sport Japan Team Goh|| Seiji Ara
|Audi 3.6L Turbo V8|
|2||LMP1||88||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx|| Jamie Davies
|Audi 3.6L Turbo V8|
|3||LMP1||2||ADT Champion Racing|| JJ Lehto
|Audi R8||M||368||+11 Laps|
|Audi 3.6L Turbo V8|
|4||LMP1||18||Pescarolo Sport|| Soheil Ayari
|Pescarolo C60||M||361||+18 Laps|
|Judd GV5 5.0L V10|
|5||LMP1||8||Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx|| Allan McNish
|Audi R8||M||350||+29 Laps|
|Audi 3.6L Turbo V8|
|6||GTS||64||Corvette Racing|| Oliver Gavin
|Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||M||345||+34 Laps|
|Chevrolet 7.0L V8|
|7||LMP1||15||Racing for Holland|| Jan Lammers
|Dome S101||D||341||+38 Laps|
|Judd GV4 4.0L V10|
|8||GTS||63||Corvette Racing|| Ron Fellows
|Chevrolet Corvette C5-R||M||334||+45 Laps|
|Chevrolet 7.0L V8|
|9||GTS||65||Prodrive Racing|| Darren Turner
|Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||M||329||+50 Laps|
|Ferrari F133 5.9L V12|
|10||GT||90||White Lightning Racing|| Jörg Bergmeister
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||M||327||+52 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|11||GTS||66||Prodrive Racing|| Alain Menu
|Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||M||325||+54 Laps|
|Ferrari F133 5.9L V12|
|12||GT||77||ChoroQ Racing Team|| Haruki Kurosawa
|Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||Y||322||+57 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|13||GT||85||Freisinger Motorsport|| Stéphane Ortelli
|Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||D||321||+58 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|14||GTS||69||Larbre Compétition|| Christophe Bouchut
|Ferrari 550-GTS Maranello||M||317||+62 Laps|
|Ferrari F133 5.9L V12|
|15||GT||84||Seikel Motorsport|| Anthony Burgess
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||Y||317||+62 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|16||GT||72||Luc Alphand Aventures|| Luc Alphand
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||M||316||+63 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|17||LMP1||14|| Team Nasamax
| Robbie Stirling
|Nasamax (Reynard) DM139||D||316||+63 Laps|
|Judd GV5 5.0L V10|
|18||GT||81||The Racer's Group|| Lars-Erik Nielsen
|Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||M||314||+65 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|19||GT||92||Cirtek Motorsport|| Frank Mountain
|Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||D||311||+68 Laps|
|Ferrari F131 3.6L V8|
|20||LMP1||4||Taurus Sports Racing|| Christian Vann
|Lola B2K/10||M||300||+79 Laps|
|Judd GV4 4.0L V10|
|21||GT||89||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport|| Bob Berridge
|TVR Tuscan T400R||D||300||+79 Laps|
|TVR Speed Six 4.0L I6|
|22||GT||96||Chamberlain-Synergy Motorsport|| Lawrence Tomlinson
|TVR Tuscan T400R||D||291||+88 Laps|
|TVR Speed Six 4.0L I6|
|23||GT||75|| Thierry Perrier
| Ian Khan
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||D||283||+96 Laps|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|24||LMP1||20||Lister Racing|| John Nielsen
|Lister Storm LMP||D||279||+100 Laps|
|Chevrolet LS1 6.0L V8|
|25||LMP2||32||Intersport Racing|| William Binnie
|Lola B2K/40||P||278||+101 Laps|
|Judd KV675 3.4L V8|
|26||LMP2||24||Rachel Welter|| Yojiro Terada
|WR LM2001||M||270||+109 Laps|
|Peugeot 2.0L Turbo I4|
|GT||80||Morgan Works Race Team|| Adam Sharpe
|Morgan Aero 8R||Y||222||Not classified|
|BMW B44 (Mader) 4.5L V8|
|LMP1||16||Racing for Holland|| Tom Coronel
|Judd GV4 4.0L V10|
|LMP1||17||Pescarolo Sport|| Sébastien Bourdais
|Judd GV5 5.0L V10|
|LMP1||25||Ray Mallock Ltd. (RML)|| Thomas Erdos
|MG (AER) XP20 2.0L Turbo I4|
|LMP1||6||Rollcentre Racing|| Martin Short
|Judd GV4 4.0L V10|
|GT||87|| Orbit Racing
| Leo Hindery Jr.
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||M||223||Gearbox|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|LMP1||9||Kondo Racing|| Hiroki Kato
|Dome S101||Y||206||Oil leak|
|Mugen MF408S 4.0L V8|
|GTS||62||Barron Connor Racing|| Mike Hezemans
|Ferrari F133 6.0L V12|
|LMP1||22||Zytek Engineering, Ltd.|| Andy Wallace
|Zytek ZG348 3.4L V8|
|GTS||61||Barron Connor Racing|| John Bosch
|Ferrari F133 6.0L V12|
|GT||83||Seikel Motorsport|| Gabrio Rosa
Peter van Merksteijn
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||Y||148||Engine|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|LMP2||36||Gerard Welter|| Tristan Gommendy
|Peugeot ES9J4S 3.4L V6|
|GT||70||JMB Racing|| Jean-René de Fournoux
|Ferrari 360 Modena GTC||M||133||Transmission|
|Ferrari F131 3.6L V8|
|LMP2||31||Courage Compétition|| Alexander Frei
|JPX 3.4L V6|
|LMP2||35||Epsilon Sport|| Renaud Derlot
|Willman (JPX) 3.4L V6|
|LMP1||29||Noël del Bello Racing|| Bruno Besson
|Volkswagen HPT16 2.0L Turbo I4|
|LMP2||37||Paul Belmondo Racing|| Paul Belmondo
|JPX 3.4L V6|
|GT||86||Freisinger Motorsport|| Alexey Vasilyev
|Porsche 911 GT3-RSR||D||65||Crash|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
|LMP1||11|| Panoz Motor Sports
| Patrick Bourdais
|Élan 6L8 6.0L V8|
|LMP1||10||Taurus Sports Racing|| Phil Andrews
|Caterpillar 5.0L Turbo V10|
|LMP1||27||Intersport Racing|| Jon Field
|Judd XV675 3.4L V8|
|GT||78||PK Sport Ltd.|| Jim Matthews
|Porsche 911 GT3-RS||D||27||Electrical|
|Porsche 3.6L Flat-6|
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