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Le Mans 24 Hours 2008
Saturday - Warm-up/Legends/Race Start. June 14th 2008


The Saturday morning warm-up is a chance for the teams to double-check that all the work done on Friday - when most will have completely rebuilt their cars - has been completed successfully, and the drivers are still happy with the set-ups achieved during the practice and qualifying sessions.

Tommy was first out for RML, clocking a rapid 3:43.690 in what is now full race trim, including maximum fuel load. If that is indicative of his likely race pace, then the MG truly is in fine fettle.

Photo: David Downes / Dailysportscar

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMCThat quickest time came on his third flying lap, and took the #25 MG up to 17th overall and fourth in LMP2. His next looked certain to be quicker, with his first two sectors showing green on the timing screens, but he was already on his way back to the pitlane, where Mike was waiting to take over in the cockpit.

The car was refuelled and fitted with fresh tyres before Mike returned to the track. His three laps hovered around the 3:50 mark, and he returned a few minutes later to give Andy the final fifteen minutes.

Andy's second lap was a 3:44.008, and then his last lap shaved this to 3:43.406. That would be the fastest time for the car in this brief session.

Fourth for the MG in LMP2 warm-up was very encouraging, although times are rarely significant during what is really just an opportunity to check the cars before the race.

The RML MG Lola EX265 is one of some 30 or more cars on the 55-car grid to be carrying the "4 MCC" sticker in recognition of the contribution to sportscar and GT racing made over the past fifteen years or so by Malcolm Cracknell, founder of what is now Dailysportscar. Malcolm was recently diagnosed with an illness which has left him unable to continue his excellent work in reporting on, and promoting, the world of sportscar racing. Malcolm established his internet news gathering website in the mid-Nineties, originally as SportscarWorld. After various reincarnations, briefly as SuperSportscarWorld and then TotalMotorSport, Dailysportscar was born in late 2001. In the years since then the site, under Malcolm's editorship but with contributions from dozens of other highly regarded motorsport journalists, has grown to become the most widely respected site of its kind worldwide. The fact that almost two-third of the grid for the Le Mans 24 Hours carried the sticker this year is some testament to that respect and admiration. Thanks Malcolm.

LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Team Driver Car
Team Essex Nielsen/Elgaard/Maassen Porsche RS Spyder
Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn/Verstappen/Bleekemolen Porsche RS Spyder
Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Vergers/Moseley Zytek 07S
RML AD Group Erdos/Newton/Wallace MG Lola EX264
Embassy Racing Hughes/Kane/Foster WF01 Zytek
Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola B08/80 Coupé
Saulnier Racing Ragues/Lahaye/Cheng Pescarolo Judd
Bruichladdich Rostan/Devlin/Jeanette Radical SR9 AER
Trading Perf. Ojeh/Gosselin/Sharpe Zytek 07S
Kruse Schiller de Pourtales/Noda /Simonsen Lola B05/40
Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla/Smith Lola B05/40 AER
no time

With warm-up out of the way, thoughts turned to the forthcoming race. RML checked through the data from the morning, and made a few minor adjustments to the car, but had little more they could do, and the MG Lola EX265 would be one of the first to head out onto the grid. Before that, however, there were various activities intended to entertain the gathering crowds.

The Legends Race this year involved some of the most beautiful and evocative racing cars from the eighty-five years history of Le Mans; the fabulous Group C era. Thirty magnificent cars took to the track for an hour-long race. All are lovingly maintained and cherished, and perhaps half those drivers taking part were treating their cars with the utmost respect, as is only understandable considering their irreplaceable value. However, sufficient numbers were determined to get the most out of the occasion that we did have an excellent race. In the end it was Justin Law in the Silk Cut Jaguar XJR-12 who took the chequered flag, crossing the line a full 18 seconds ahead of mark Sumpter in a Porsche 962.

A fastest lap of 3:45.915 demonstrates, on the one hand, that Justin Law is no slouch as a driver, and could clearly hold his own in the main event, but on the other, that these old cars are still capable of a fair turn of speed. The #62 Sauber Mercedes from 1989 (pictured on our Friday review) is also reputed to have been clocked as one of the fastest cars all weekend along the straight, matching the latest crop of LMP1 cars. Awesome - and such a wonderful sound too.

Another salute to the past came, somewhat surprisingly, with the sight of an ancient-looking biplane, which trundled slowly along the pit straight. Lovingly recreated from photographic evidence, sketches and plans, this full scale replica of the Wright Brother's original aircraft marks a century since Wilbur and Orville first came to Le Mans. Having made its first flight in America, the original plane was shipped across the Atlantic, and in 1908 made its first ever flight over European soil from a field just outside Le Mans. A monument in the town square (right) celebrates this link with pioneering aviation, and Le Mans is proud of the association.

A cavalcade of historic and classic cars - some a little faster than others - completed the circuit action before the track was cleared and the first of the cars for the 2008 grid were pushed out onto the main straight. There's a lot of rivalry involved here, with some teams eager to be the first out, and others just trying to make the most of a marketing opportunity. It was great to see the Aston Martin and Corvette squads racing side-by-side, the mechanics struggling to push their cars up the slight incline towards the front of the GT1 grid. Rumour has it that the Corvette team narrowly won.

The RML MG took up its position a full two hours before the anticipated start of the race, but already the grid was filling up. There were no great surprises, although one of the GT2 Porsches was subsequently relegated to the back of the grid, reputedly because a mechanic refuelled the car while it was lined up on the grid - a definite breach of regulations. Despite serious accidents in qualifying, both the JMB Porsche and the Kruse Schiller Mazda Lola, #44, would start the race, and all 55 would take up their positions on the grid.

With forty minutes still to go the track was cleared of non-essential personnel and the cars started to move away from the classic herringbone formation to begin a full lap of the track. They would then take up their correct positions on the grid, although several by-passed this and made additional pitstops for last-minute checks, to top up their fuel tanks, and get in an extra lap just in case.

Another half hour of waiting ticked by. To some it seemed slow, specially perhaps the drivers waiting in the heat for the start of the race, but for the spectators watching the assembled cars, it was just yet another element in the tension-building last few minutes. Finally, at about eight minutes before three, the pace car moved off at the head of the field, followed by the leading Peugeots and Audis.

That lap behind the pace car seems to last longer than almost any other - and perhaps it does. The race must start at three o'clock, and it is up to the driver in that Audi TT to ensure that the leaders arrive at the end of the Ford Chicane just seconds before the hour. This year, he did a good job. With a last sprint for the exit, the silver car dived out of the way, leaving the main straight clear for the eruption of noise that followed.

Sadly, with the arrival of the whispering diesels, the once-awesome roar that used to accompany the first cars as they accelerated across the line is a thing of memory. Instead we have to wait for the leading group to clear the stage before the proper decibel levels are achieved. It still makes tummies tremble and the ground shake, and the reverberation through the lofty concrete grandstands amplifies the sound until all else is masked by a solid wall of noise.

The 76th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours had begun . . . .

Race start (Driver: Erdos)

Much of the following was written "live", as it happened. Driver quotes and additional details were then added later. As a result there may be some inconsistency in tenses, for which we apologise.

A remarkably clean start by almost the entire 55-car grid, although there was some jostling as the pack made its way through the Dunlop Chicane. Pretty soon, however, everything became neatly strung out.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

By the end of the first Lap a distinct pattern has already emerged, with the three leading Peugeots running almost in unison, nose to tail, but with a clearly visible advantage over the chasing Audis. In LMP2, no position changes as yet, but Tommy is very close under the rear wing of the #45 Embassy WF01 Zytek. In fact, they're almost touching as they exit the Ford Chicane to begin the second lap.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMCThe Aston Martin Lola Coupé, which was fifth, loses out to the third Audi, so it's now Peugeot 1-2-3 and Audi 4-5-6. LMP2 is holding steady for the time being, although Tommy is clearly quicker than Warren Hughes' Embassy.

The stringing-out effect is becoming more marked throughout the field as categories settle down. Just now, Tommy is not quite as close to Hughes as he was, but both are pulling away from the #40 ASM Lola in seventh. The #34 Porsche leads the class from the #31, with the Speedy Sebah Lola third.

Only four laps completed and already the leaders have the last of the tail-enders in their sights. They will start lapping them this time around. The Peugeots have opened out a five second advantage over the leading Audi, and there's a gap of about a second or two between each of the next three. The #10 Lola, the #11 Dome,and then the #16 Pescarolo are now all quite close together but have gap of about six or eight seconds over the #17 and the #6, which are nose to tail. There's then a lengthy gap to the first of the two Epsilons.

On lap 5, and Tommy gets ahead of Warren Hughes to take fifth in class. He then starts to close in on the #32 Zytek and challenge for fourth in class.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

At the end of lap 6 the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola makes an early and unscheduled pitstop for a replacement tyre, but quickly rejoins. Tommy passes the #32 Zytek for what is now third place. Only 20 minutes of the race have elapsed.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Having dispensed with two of his LMP2 rivals, Tommy now has his sights set on the #12 Muscle Milk LMP1 Lola - formerly the Charouz car, as raced in the Le Mans Series last season. It is very obvious that the grey and red Lola is holding back the MG, and in doing so, has allowed Warren Hughes and Olivier Pla in the #40 Lola to close up. There has been a problem for Vergers in the #32 - perhaps a track error somewhere, and he's dropped well back.

Heading up towards the Dunlop Chicane, Tommy closes right down on the tail of the #12 car, and then passes Greg Pickett for third place. The two are then nose to tail through the Esses and Tetre Rouge and press on for the first Mulsanne Chicane. The LMP1 Lola has the legs down the straight, and closes back up, and then overtakes the MG down the left hand side. The two cars race parallel to one another as they continue the run down the lengthy straight, but as they near the first "Playstation" chicane the "Muscle Milk" Lola brakes early, seemingly to allow Tommy the prime approach to the apex. Tommy moved back in front and then goes for the brake pedal nearer to his usual braking point for the chicane. Instantly, the rear of the car snaps round to the right, sending the MG diving right across the front of the #12 car, which luckily is now several yards behind. They miss by inches. The reaction of the MG to the application of the brakes is almost exactly the same as happened to Andy on Wednesday evening, although this time it is the front of the car that heads nose-first into the barriers.

It's a heavy impact, but the car bounces back into the track, and Tommy is able to limp forward towards the protection of the staggered tyre walls that cross the sliproad for the chicane. He reports his accident to the team.

The #12 Lola recovers and heads for the pitlane and a quick check-up, but all seems OK, and Pickett resumes his race. No such luck for Tommy Erdos, who watches helplessly as Hughes sweeps by into third, followed by the #40 Lola. Hughes pits the Embassy WF01 at the end of the lap, but is soon back into the race.

Having checked the car, Tommy begins a slow and laborious return to the pits. The front left hand sub-assembly has collapsed, and the car is difficult to steer. He has reached Indianapolis by 3:35.

The #44 Kruse Lola pits.

Tommy trundles through Arnage.

The #32 Zytek and the #40 Lola both make scheduled pitstops.

3:40 (Pitstop, driver: Erdos)
Tommy arrives in the pitlane. The MG is a sorry sight, with much of the front bodywork missing, the front left-hand wheel at an awkward angle, and the ensemble clearly difficult to steer. He slithers down the pitlane and finally reaches the sanctuary of the RML garage.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

The team is quick to haul the car back into the garage, pausing for only a few seconds to refuel - standard practice whenever the car returns to the pits. Tommy is asked if he's happy to remain in the car, and he insists he is. While he sits there impassively, the team crawl all over the car like ants around their queen. ripping away damaged bodywork and then removing broken suspension elements, clearing away the remnants of the damaged parts and hoovering out loose gravel, which seems able to ingress almost anywhere.

It looks as if the entire front left-hand corner will have to be replaced, as well as the nose cone, the entire front panel assembly, damper cover panel, and various other ancillaries.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Porsche #34 leads the class from the #31, with Warren Hughes now third in the Embassy car, with the #33 already back up to fourth, despite the stop for a puncture.

Hour 2 (4:00-5:00)

In an amazing twenty-nine minutes, the RML crew has rebuild the car, and Tommy is trolleyed back onto the pit apron, where he fires up the XP-21 engine and, with a couple of blips on the throttle, powers off towards the pitlane exit.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Thirty seconds or so later, as he heads away down towards Mulsanne, he reports that everything seems "OK", and he's pressing on. Unfortunately, the delay so early in the race has cost RML dearly, and Tommy resumes in last place . . . just. Eleventh in LMP2 sounds better, but means exactly the same thing.

Tommy's confidence in the team, and the cars they rebuild, is evident from the way he's lapping the MG, which is setting times in the very low forties. His best, a 3:43.082, underlines his faith.

4:30 All the following text was uploaded "live"
Tommy is now running in 52nd position overall, having started a recovery that could take all the remaining 23 hours of this race to achieve. Having lost 29 minutes in the pits making good the repairs to the #25 MG Lola, Tommy has been circulating in the low 3:40's, and recently set a new fastest lap for the MG of 3:43.082, which makes the #25 currently one of the fastest cars circulating in LMP2 - only Elgaard in the leading #31 Essex car is going quicker.

Tommy reports that the car has developed a slight vibration. The team will monitor the situation. A few minutes later Tommy confirms that the vibration has eased, and was almost certainly attributable to a pick-up of spent rubber.

The Muscle Milk Lola, #12, heads into the pitlane, belching smoke.

The #41 Trading Performance Zytek is off in the gravel at the Ford Chicane. Tommy thinks it may be a safety car situation, but the marshals are quick to do their job, and the car is moved under yellow flags.

The Lola Aston Martin #10 spins off at Dunlop Curve in exactly the same manner as the JMB Ferrari did in qualifying, and hits the concrete wall hard with the rear of the car, snapping off the rear wing instantly. Stefan Mucke, driving, had been holding 8th place overall.

Another incident for the #12 Lola, which spins and hits the barriers, just as the struggling #10 Lola, which has got moving again, limps through Tetre Rouge and the front right suspension appears to collapse. It pulls over to the side of the first section of Mulsanne, having driven over some parts of its own bodywork. Mucke has to clear the debris before he can resume his journey back to the pitlane.

IMSA GT2 Porsche and Flying Lizard GT2 Porsche have a coming together and both end up in the gravel trap. The Flying Lizard car looks the worse for wear, but later resumes the race.

4:54 (Pitstop. Driver change: Erdos-Newton)
Tommy into the pitlane. Refuel and fresh tyres for Mike, and he sets off at 4:56.

Car #40 is hit by a Corvette on the exit of Arnage, and spins. It's a light tap, and Guy Smith recovers quickly.

Hour 3 (5:00-6:00)

On the hour, and the #80 Flying Lizard Porsche is heading slowly back towards pit lane, crabbing along the side of the track and with tyre-spoke from fouling bodywork clouding in its wake.

The first official retirement is confirmed as the #83 Risi Competitzione Ferrari F430.

The #10 Lola Aston Martin finally gets back to the pits, and is quickly hauled back into the garage. Moments later the Lizards get their Porsche back too.

Mike who has been circulating in 52nd place overall, moves up to 51st, and now 10th in LMP2, by passing the #41 Trading Performance Zytek. He's lapping in the mid-three-fifties.

The overall lead is still being held by the #8 Peugeot, Sarrazin at the wheel, and heading the #9 car by 50 seconds. Third is the #7, with former World F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve in the cockpit. The three Audis are next up (#2, #3 and then #1) with the #16 Pescarolo leading the petrol-engined charge from 7th.

In LMP2, Elgaard leads by five seconds from Verstappen, with the Dutchman lapping two seconds quicker on the last lap. Michael Vergers holds third for Barazi, but a lap adrift. Verstappen has just done the #34 car's fastest lap (3:35.250 at 5:16).

In GT1, the 009 Aston Martin has battled through to lead the class.

Drama at the top of the screens. The #8 Peugeot pits, and stays there. Allan McNish sails through in the #2 Audi to take third. Villeneuve then pits in the #7 and hands over to Marc Gene, but not before McNish has closed the gap considerably. Then the leader is black flagged for having an inoperative headlight, and will have to pit.

The #9 Peugeot pits. The front of the car is removed so that the headlight can be repaired. While the Peugeot is stationary in the pits, Allan McNish cruises by to claim second from the #7. The #9 heads back out, but the lead is significantly reduced.

Incident at the Ford Chicane where the #16 Pescarolo tries to outbreak one of the Epsilons into the first element, loses control, hits the Epsilon, spins, and then beaches itself on the kerbs. Emanuel Collard is driving. After some delay, he manages to regain the track, and presses on.

The #14 Creation hobbles into the pitlane with a puncture, Stuart Hall driving. Mike comments over the radio that the track is very greasy at the moment.

McNish takes the lead. Shortly afterwards, Lucas Luhr in the #3 Audi also moves through into the top three, so Peugeot's stranglehold is broken.

#8 Peugeot being wheeled out of the garage after lengthy repairs. It rejoins in 28th place overall.

Mike continues to make steady progress, and has risen to 49th overall, having overtaken the #80 GT2 Porsche, which is still in the garage undergoing repairs. His next "target" is the #10 Lola, which recently rejoined, but is travelling much, much quicker. More realistic is the #24 Courage, which is not only in the pits, but also not as quick as the Lola Aston Martin.

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar

For the last half hour, Jos Verstappen has been leading the LMP2 class. As predicted, he overtook Elgaard, and has now eased out a lead of 30 seconds over Nielsen, now at the wheel of the #31, although the Dane is now the quicker of the two.

5:44 (Pitstop. Driver: Newton)
Pitstop for Mike Newton. Straightforward and quick.
Nielsen sets new fastest lap for #31: 3:38.422

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar5:49
Enge in the #10 has overtaken Terada in the #24, so the Japanese Courage genuinely becomes Mike's next target.

The #50 Saleen, which was 31st overall and 7th in GT1, has beached in the gravel near the Esses, apparently having lost a rear wheel. Without the wheel it seems hard to determine how, or if, the car can get back to the pits. Wheels dropping off Saleens has been a regular problem in the past.

Somehow the Saleen is mobile again, but travelling very slowly through Tetre Rouge.

Mike crosses the start-line and passes the #24 Courage, with Terada languishing in the pits, reason unknown. He's now up to 48th position overall.

Hour 4 (6:00-7:00)

6:00, and Nielsen celebrates the start of the fourth hour with a new fastest lap in the #31. His 3:38.367 is four seconds quicker than Verstappen's last lap, and is now only half a minute behind the Dutchman.

Situation in LMP2 overall has Verstappen leading from Nielsen, with the #33 Speedy Lola back up to third, but nearly two laps down on the Porsches. Fourth is the Embassy WF01 Zytek, 17th overall, with the #32 Zytek fifth, just three seconds behind. Nineteenth overall, and next up in the class, is the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, with the #40 ASM Lola seventh (20th overall). There's a lengthy gap then to the #44 Kruse Lola 29th overall, followed by the Bruichladdich Radical, Ben Devlin driving, in 32nd. That leaves Mike tenth in class, 48th overall.

Verstappen pits. Nielsen will take the lead - no, they both pit!

Mike having a dynamic on-track battle with the Kruse Lola - not for position, but to unlap himself.

The #59 Team Modena Aston Martin is reported as travelling slowly. I appears to have a left-rear puncture, but not clear how this was caused. It is heading slowly back to the pitlane.

Confirmed that the #41 Zytek is another retirement, having made contact with the #12 Muscle Milk Lola at the Ford Chicane earlier in the race. The car cannot be repaired.

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar

6:31 (Pitstop. Driver change: Newton-Wallace)
Mike into the pitlane. Car is refuelled and fitted with fresh tyres, and Andy Wallace is strapped into the cockpit and away in under a minute. Out at the sharp end, the #7 Peugeot has regains the lead, via pitstops, and as an advantage of 39 seconds over Capello in the #2.

Nielsen is on a charge, and not only does the Team Essex Porsche now lead LMP2 from the Van Merksteijn car (the man himself at he wheel), but he's just posted a new fastest lap for the metallic blue car; 3:37.277.

As a result of various retirements and problems, the MG is now in 46th position overall, but still 10th in LMP2, although the #26 Bruichladdich Radical is in the pits, and has been for some time.

Photo: David Downes / Dailysportscar

Big-ish accident for Amanda Stretton in the #19 Synergy Lola on the exit of Tetre Rouge. It's her out-lap, and there's a suspicion her tyres may not have been up to temperature. She's made heavy contact with the armco on the inner edge of Tetre Rouge, and is now struggling to get back, but the car is clearly difficult to control, having sustained serious suspension damage both front and rear down the right hand side.

Amanda has pulled over part-way down the first section of the Mulsanne, surrounded by white smoke. It's not clear if this is from fouled tyres or an engine issue. Hugh Chamberlain has said that something failed on the car, and the accident was no fault of Amanda's.

Maassen now in the #34 Porsche, and a new fastest lap of the race from Montagny in the #9 Peugeot, from third overall, with a time of 3:21.22. After its earlier problems, the #8 (blue) Peugeot is up to 16th overall.

Andy reports that the car is "perfect". he's just set a lap of 3:46.724. It's one of his quickest, and he is now closing rapidly on the #94 Spyker for 45th position overall.

Hour 5 (7:00-8:00)

7:06, and Andy is on good form, although the radio signal occasionally breaks up, making it hard for the team to understand what he's saying. There's no change in position, but he's circulating consistently in the mid-forties.

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar7:18 (Pitstop. Driver: Wallace)
Andy pits for fuel only.

There are now three confirmed retirements, with the #41 Trading Performance Zytek quoted as completing 22 laps, ten more than the #83 Risi Ferrari, but four fewer than the #76 Imsa Performance Porsche.

After his pitstop, Andy is shown as having passed the stricken Synergy Lola, Amanda Stretton unable to recover the car from the Mulsanne, although it must be assumed she's still trying. The MG is now 45th.

A puncture for the #14 Creation, Johnny Mowlem at the wheel. He manages to get back to the pitlane. Elsewhere, Allan Simonsen, making his debut as a prototype driver, sets a new fastest lap for the #44 Kruse Mazda of 3:47.217.

Amanda Stretton gets the #19 Synergy Lola back to the garage, where it is hauled back inside for repairs. Being under Hugh's care, be certain it will be running again soon.

For the first time there appears to be a distinct gap between first and second in LMP2; the Team Essex car now forty seconds clear of the #34. The #33 is third, and the #45 retains fourth. Simonsen follows his first "new fastest" with another; 3:46.061.

Andy has closed to within half a minute of the #23 Creation, and is narrowing the gap typically by five seconds a lap.

The #14 is back in the pitlane, and this time is hauled back into the garage for more extensive attention.

The gap between first and second in LMP2 has grown steadily, and Maassen now has an advantage over Bleekemolen in the #34 of more than 70 seconds. The #33 Lola still has a hold on third, but the battle between Embassy and Saulnier for fourth is closer, with a new fastest lap for Lahaye in the #35 (3:44.690) suggesting that the green and white car is up for the challenge. Close on his heels, however (by a generous 73 seconds) is Olivier Pla in the #40 Quifel ASM Lola, who is consistently quicker even than Lahaye's best efforts.

Photo: David Downes / Dailysportscar

Hour 6 (8:00-9:00)

Andy is preparing for his next pitstop, and complimenting the tyres on their consistency throughout his double-stint.

8:07 (Pitstop. Driver change: Wallace-Erdos)
Andy into the pits, and hands the car over to Tommy, who begins what is expected to be his second double-stint. Simultaneously, the Bruichladdich Radical pulls over just after the second Mulsanne Chicane.

There have been various changes in order around the MG, both as a result of others' misfortune, and the pitstop. The #14 Creation remains in the garage after its earlier stop, and the MG has now eased ahead and holds 42nd overall, but looks set to take two further places in the near future, one being that previously occupied by the #53 Vitaphone Aston Martin. The elegant DBR9 has now been in the box for about twenty minutes - reason unknown.

Photo: David Downes / Dailysportscar

Tommy's first lap takes him ahead of the #53 Aston, and he is now in line to overtake the still-stationary '#26 Radical.

Another succession of pitstops has revived the battle for the LMP2 lead, with the two Porsches now mere heartbeats apart. Less than a second in fact.

The MG moves ahead of the Bruichladdich Radical, which still remains stranded out on track. It is not yet a retirement, but the prospects don't look good.

The #44 Kruse Lola is in the garage, and Tommy eases ahead to take 39th position overall. The MG now lies 8th in LMP2, although fourteen laps down on the leading pair.

Marc Rostan gets the Bruichladdich Radical moving again, and he makes a slow return to the pitlane.

Chris McMurry pits the #23 Creation, and Tommy passes him for 38th position. It's a scheduled stop for the LMP1 car, and with another pitstop due for the MG, the situation is likely to be redressed shortly.

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar8:53 (Pitstop. Driver: Erdos)
Tommy into the pits. Fuel only this stop, so it's a very brief pause for the #25 MG Lola, and within about fifteen second or so, Tommy's on his way again. He did have 45 seconds over McMurry, but it may not have been enough to retain the position.

Timing screens confirm that McMurry has regained 38th slot, but only by nine seconds, so confirmation of a very quick pitstop by the RML crew.

Hour 7 (9:00-10:00)

The number of confirmed retirements has risen to four (although others are expected to join the list shortly). To hose listed previously is added

Just as the #53 Aston pulls over at Indianapolis, Gunnar Jeanette sets a new fastest lap for the #26 Radical; 3:46.031, but he's eight laps behind Tommy.

Chris McMurry pits in the #23 Creation. His advantage over Tommy was just 25 seconds last time they crossed the line, so the position is likely to swap again.

LMP2 leader, the Team Essex Porsche, sustains a puncture and leaves a smoky trail. The Van Merksteijn Porsche, #34, retakes the lead. Tommy, meanwhile, has recovered 38th from McMurry.

Photo: Peter May / Dailysportscar

9:40 (Pitstop. Driver change: Erdos-Newton)
Tommy pits for fuel and tyres. He hands over to Mike. This time McMurry also pits - out of sequence - and it looks as if the position won't revert to the #23 Creation. During the pitstop the additional lighting pod, built into the front damper cover, are replaced, having been lost in the first-hour accident. As the darkness continues to descend, the extra light will become more important. For now, it remains light enough for these to be largely unnecessary. Their turn will come.

. . . . but not just now. After a couple of laps the cover works loose, and Mike notifies the crew that he's going to "pit this lap". He manages to make it back to the pitlane without losing the cover, although it is noticeably not in the right position. The team refuels the car and then draws the car back into the garage to ensure correct refitting of the lighting cover.

Chris McMurry is still in the pits, and is now five laps down on the MG, but in danger of losing 39th to Jeanette in the recovering Radical.

A spin for Michael Vergers in the #32 Barazi Zytek. He pulls over and stops beside marshals' post 117, which is beside the bridge at the early part of the Porsche Curves.

Hour 8 (10:00-11:00)

The order in LMP2 has just changed with the #40 ASM Lola passing the #32 Zytek for 24th overall, and 6th in class. The overall positions in the category are:

1. 12th overall, the #34 Porsche on 112 laps
2. 14th overall, the #31 Porsche two minutes behind
3. 16th overall, and o 110 laps, the #33 Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola
4. 17th overall, the #45 Embassy WF01 Zytek, with 107 laps completed
5. 18th overall, and just 5 seconds behind, the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo
6. 24th overall, Guy Smith in the #40 Lola on 106 laps
7. Slipping to 28th overall, but moving again, the #32 Zytek on 104 laps
8. 38th overall, and still in the garage, Mike Newton and the RML MG on 94 laps
9 .39th overall, but three laps behind, the #26 Radical
10. 43rd overall is the #44 Kruse Mazda on 88 laps

No other LMP2 cars are listed as running now.

Photo: David Downes / Dailysportscar

Klien has a major "off" in the #9 Peugeot and beaches the second placed 908 in the gravel, where he digs the rear wheels even deeper into the litter. The car is very exposed on the second element of the Ford Chicane, but eventually gets going again under many waved yellow flags. He loses at least one place, to Kristensen in the lead Audi.

Embassy back into the garage, and start slipping down the order, losing a place almost immediately to Guy Smith in the #40 ASM Lola.

10:30 (Pitstop. Driver: Newton)
Mike rejoins after the team completes a series of repairs, all of which can be traced back to the first-hour accident. Some are bodywork related, such as the mountings for the damper cover, and others are mechanical. The additional delay has cost several positions, and the MG rejoins in 40th overall, now two laps behind Goosens, in the #14 Creation, and three laps adrift of Ben Devlin, who's taken over the #26 Radical.

Mike has had an accident at the entrance to the Porsche Curves, and reports he got airborne in the process. "I drove across what I think was a patch of loose gravel on the track, and the next moment I was looking over the side of the car at the road," he said. He's going to assess the damage to the car, but is not certain whether he can get the car back. He's got out of the car and having a look.

The timing screens suggest that Mike's accident is at the same spot where Andy had a similar meeting with the tyrewall in 2007, but Mike later explains that it actually originated quite a distance before that point, but he'd just ended up in the same place. He also says that, with hindsight, he doesn't believe there was any gravel on the track. "I wasn't braking hard or late," he insists. "I braked short of where I had before. I'm thinking now that perhaps there was a puncture." Whatever caused the accident, the net result is well documented, thanks to the on-board TransVu (DIR) video recording system. What appears to have happened is that the car attempted to switch ends, but unlike Andy's case (when he spun 180 and headed backwards into the wall) Mike's pirouette paused half way. With the MG side-on to the direction of travel the air was able to get under the side, and next moment the whole car was airborne.

Having lifted, the car was on the point of going over onto its back when the front right-hand corner dug into the grass beyond the edge of the track. That immediately reversed the direction of rotation, kicking the car back the other way, and ending when the left rear smashed heavily into the ground. Luckily, the car ended up resting on its wheels.

The car was dragged free of the gravel by the nearby marshals, and once in a position of safety, Mike was allowed to examine the extent of the damage, It looked bad. "The marshals were reluctant to allow me to move the car, but I managed to convince them that if I could drive it three quarters of the way along the length of the barrier, then it would be OK to drive it back to the garage. I had no problem with that, and just drove along the grass at the top edge of the run-off.," he said.

That brought Mike and the MG to the edge of the track, and the start of the Porsche Curves. "I still had the mirrors, which was fortunate, but I came down the Porsche Curves very carefully indeed!" he added.

He signalled his impending arrival to the team over the radio. "I'm delivering a mess," he said. "Don't worry," came the reply from Phil Barker. "We specialise in messes!" Even so, nobody was quite prepared for the sight of the MG as it crabbed awkwardly down the pitlane, one headlight ablaze, the other dead.

10:56 (Pitstop. Driver: Newton)
Mike and the MG arrived back at the garage at just before eleven, and the RML guys knew immediately that they faced another major rebuild. They began by stripping away all the obviously damaged components, including the rear left-hand corner subassembly, the underfloor (both front and rear) and nearly every body panel. There was hardly a single one that could be used again.

Hour 9 (11:00-12:00)

With all the nooks and crannies accessible, the crew embarked upon a massive clean-up routine, using the airline to blast away the loose particles of grass, gravel, sand and dust that had been carried back from the accident scene, and then vacuumed away anything that remained. It was a very thorough process - it is essential that the components are as clean as possible before the reassembly process can begin.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Out at the back of the garage the replacement body panels were being prepared. That proved to be a bit of a challenge, thanks to the two accidents that the car had already sustained. With no spare bonnet to the latest 07 design the team had no alternative but to select an older 06 nose - one that hadn't been used for almost a year. Set aside with the spares in a medium downforce configuration, the nose had to be re-fettled to generate higher downforce, but with so much work to be done on the car itself, there was no pressure.

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMCBetween them, Phil Barker and chief engineer Rick Perry examined every element of the car's suspension for damage, and to see what, if anything, could be used again. Their assessment erred on the side of caution every time. Any questionable components were set aside for replacement, even if it looked OK. It was a major exercise, but the car would only be sent out again if they were 100% confident in its integrity.

Phil took on the appearance of a general marshalling his troops - directing operations with brisk efficiency - and there was no sign of panic, no rush, just the usual measured and meticulous attention to detail. That included the drivers, and it was suggested to Mike that he ought to take a break, despite his assurance that he felt fine. He didn't look as though he'd been perturbed by his accident, but Phil wasn't taking any chances, and Adam Wiseberg agreed. Andy Wallace would be going out next, assuming the car could be fixed.

Such was his composure that Phil even had the presence of mind to share a joke or two with some of the crew, and looked relaxed, despite the frenetic activity around him. RML is good at this recovery process, and over the years they've grown used to the high expectations their own standards demand.

The struggle continues. The MG has dropped to 44th overall, and is falling perilously close to those other cars that are already known to be non-runners, even if their official retirements have yet to be announced.

The pace of the work around the car has eased somewhat, but there's still a spring in the step of anyone running to find a particular tool, or collecting replacement parts. There's even a burst of song from under the car, where Adam Hughes declares, above the sound of cars still racing, that "We love it!".

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC

Photo: Marcus Potts/CMC11:40
The car is starting to come back together again. The ear left sub-assembly - the suspension arms, hub, brake ducts, disk and calipers - is almost complete. Coolant and oil hoses are being replaced with new ones, and the MG is recognisable as a race car once more.

The new front floor section is brought into the garage from the truck and held ready for fitment. There are fourteen guys working on the car at the moment.

The replacement floor is slid under the car, offered up, and then fitted.

Then engine has been drained of all fluids, and fresh oil is being pumped into the system.

12:00 Midnight
There is still hectic activity in every direction, but the MG is finally starting to look like a car again.

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More photographs will be added later.
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