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Le Mans Series 2008
Round 4. Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres. August 16th - 17th 2008

Sunday Review


For a third day in a row, the Eifel mountains were bathed in sunshine as the 46 entrants for this weekend's Nürburgring 1000 Kilometres headed out for the official warm-up at quarter to nine on Sunday morning. That included the #95 Virgo Motorsport GT2 Ferrari 430 - the only car to suffer serious damage during the previous two days of practice. The British team (favourites for the class title this season) had the car fully rebuilt by late on Saturday evening, and were able to roll out the restored Ferrari in time for the pitlane opening. It would subsequently set fastest time in GT2. Also on track was Olivier Panis after some questions were raised after qualifying, when he reversed the #6 Oreca Courage LMP1 in the pitlane - apparently having been reminded by his team that the tyres hadn't been logged before leaving the garage. The team is believed to be running "under appeal" and will start as qualified, but any result and points may be subject to change.

Tommy was suited and strapped into the car by 08:35, and the MG was among the first LMP2 prototypes onto the track. After the disappointment of qualifying, when track temperatures were higher than anticipated and the team's choice of tyre compound no longer suited the conditions, Tommy and the team were keen to reassure themselves that , tyres aside, the handling of the MG was back to the very promising peak achieved during third practice. He completed two timed laps before returning to the pitlane for a quick tweak to the settings before heading back out again. "We were trying to fine-tune the car a little after qualifying," explained Erdos. "We wanted to restore some of the stability to the rear of the car that we'd had in final practice, so made a few changes in the middle of the session."

Prior to handing the car to Mike for the final eight to ten minutes of the twenty-minute session, things looked promising, and while some others went quicker later on, the net result appeared to be good. In full race trim, a 1:51 wasn't blisteringly quick in qualifying terms, but it was ball-park for a healthy race pace. "It was good to establish that we'd restored the balance to the car and have a good set-up for the race," added Erdos, "but we weren't setting times this morning - just checking systems."

Mike was more than content with setting two laps in the 52s and one 53. "My race target is to run in the fifty-sixes or better, so to be doing fifty-twos with a full tank and amid heavy traffic was quite pleasing," said Mike. "All the systems are working fine now, and we're ready to race."

With the car back in the garage, the team began on final preparations for the race, including thoroughly polishing the car from one end to the other, and checking on the fitting of "helicopter" tape (usually used to protect the leading edges of rotor blades) to exposed and vulnerable areas of the bodywork.

The MG is carrying an extra passenger this weekend. A regular member of the Dailysportscar "team" for the past five years, Danny Bear (right) has taken part in a succession of races over the years, and has a very good record of highly-placed finishes.

Runs with Jan Lammers in the Le Mans 24 Hours, aboard the Racing for Holland entry in 2005, saw the chequerboard Dome through to the flag, although Danny did get a bit exposed to some terrible weather that year. He came home looking a little the worse for wear! He also completed the Spa 24 Hours in 2004 with Mike Jordan aboard a GT2 Porsche, and has raced with several leading teams in the British and the FIA GT championships.

Danny has a presence on Facebook, and his personal profile can be seen on the Dailysportscar website. He's hoping for another successful run with Mike and Tommy this weekend. It will be his first 'serious' race of 2008.

Top LMP2 Times - Warm-up

Pos No. Overall Team Driver Car
1 31 8 Team Essex Nielsen/Elgaard Porsche RS Spyder
13 Van Merksteijn M/s Bleekemolen/Verstappen Porsche RS Spyder
3 33 14 Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola Bo8/80 Coupé
4 27 17 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Lammers Porsche RS Spyder
18 Saulnier Racing Ragues/Lahaye Pescarolo Judd
6 32 19 Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Vergers/Rees Zytek 07S
20 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Lola B05/40 AER
21 Embassy Racing Hughes/Kane WF01 Zytek
22 Embassy Racing Manning/Foster WF01 Zytek
23 Kruse Schiller de Pourtales/Noda Lola B05/40
26 Bruichladdich Rostan/Petersen/Lueders Radical SR9 AER
28 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX264
Trading Performance Ojeh/Gosselin Zytek 07S
WR Salini Salini/Salini/Roussel WR Zytek

At ten o'clock the two drivers joined the throngs in the paddock by setting up a table beside the tractor unit and signing HeroCards.

Attendance at the Nürburgring is always good, but the fine weather has certainly attracted more spectators than usual. Their half-hour autograph session saw Mike and Tommy signing nearly 200 cards, and almost as many photographs, posters, programmes and other memorabilia. Some of the fans and photographers brought forward some very early material, including HeroCards from Mike and Tommy's Saleen period, and photos of the Marcos LM600 from Le Mans in 1995 and 1996 for Tommy to sign.

The Race

Race Start Hour 2 Hour 3 Hour 4 Hour 5 Hour 6-Finish

The race coverage which follows is created "live" starting from approximately two hours into the event, and then driver quotes and additional observations are added later. This can lead to some inconsistency with tenses, for which we apologise.

For links to live timing and Radio Le Mans live radio coverage, please see Nurburgring intro page. After the race there will be archived recording of interviews and race reporting.


Material between the start of the race and two hours was added progressively as action and time permitted during the course of the remaining four hours.

The assembled grid moved off at dot on twelve o'clock, following the Audi pace car around the circuit at a brisk pace on what needed to be a five-minute green-flag lap. Needless to say, the leaders arrived at the start-line somewhat ahead of the 12:05 schedule, and the bellow of accelerating racecars (whisper-quiet diesels excepted!) started at 12:03.

It was a clean start by any standards, with only one significant casualty at the first near-hairpin corner: Juan Barazi in his eponymous Zytek spinning on the exit and being left stranded, facing the gravel, until the entire field had filed around behind him. There was no contact, and no apparent reason for the spin, but it forced Jonny Kane to run wide, and allowed Didier Theys in the Horag Porsche to make up some ground. Not until Rob Bell, taking first stint in the last-starting Virgo Ferrari had rounded the corner could Barazi regain the track, and then both could begin their recovery from the tail-end.

As the leaders headed away from the central grandstand complex, the Van Merksteijn Porsche fronted LMP2 from the Team Essex car, with the Speedy Lola coupé third and the #40 ASM Lola fourth. The Horag Porsche was fifth, followed by Kane in the #45, then the #46, Tommy in the RML MG, and then Pierre Ragues in the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo. In essence then, no change apart from the loss of Juan Barazi in the #32.

Things had settled down just a little by the end of the first lap, with a few small gaps opening out, although some serious battles still persisted - especially amongst the overall leaders. The two Peugeots eased away rapidly, but there was a keen battle for third between the two Audis and the Charouz Lola Aston Martin sandwiched in between.

Early into the second lap Tommy moved ahead of Darren Manning in the #46 Embassy Zytek WF01 to take seventh, and started to close on Theys in the Horag Porsche. "Darren just ran unexpectedly wide at the last corner, and I got ahead down the main straight (below), but I thought we'd struggle for that first stint, knowing what the soft tyres had been like in qualifying," said Tommy, aware that the track temperature before the start had been 33 degrees and likely to rise.

Recovering from what must have been a minor lapse in concentration, Manning had the Saulnier car right under his rear wing, and the Kruse Lola-Mazda was close too (below).

Four laps into the race and the recovering Barazi was already up amongst the leaders in GT1. Almost as rapid was Rob Bell's charge from the back in GT2 - the yellow-fronted Ferrari already up to fourth in class.

Tommy continued to press hard on Theys in the Horag Porsche, and closed to within half a second. He had eased out a small advantage over Manning in the #46 Embassy car.

Only eight laps into the race, and a stop already for the Kruse car, which re-emerges just ahead of Theys and Tommy. Theys soon leaves the Mazda-powered Lola trailing in his wake, and the Brazilian sweeps past soon afterwards.

Lap nine, and the order in LMP2 remained largely unchanged, with the two Porsches first; #34 and then #31, heading the Speedy Sebah Lola by two seconds. The ASM Lola was fourth, with Kane fifth, They's lay sixth and Tommy seventh. Manning had dropped back a little from the tail of the MG, and had Ragues in the #35 Saulnier tight on his tail. The out-of-position Kruse car was next up on track, but not for position, with the Trading Performance Zytek next up in class.

In relatively short order, the prototypes were mixing it with the GT cars. Tommy found himself in the midst of heavy traffic, but was dealing with the gaggle of Porsches and Ferraris swiftly enough, and this allowed him to pull even further clear of Manning, and close down on Theys.

Working strategy on the fly, the team elected to leave Tommy out longer than perhaps first planned, for so long as he continued to make such good pace. "We were pleasantly surprised at how well the soft tyres held up in that first stint," said Adam Wiseberg. "Bearing in mind how they'd upset the balance of the car in qualifying, we had been ready to bring Tommy in early and swap to the harder, medium compound tyres earlier than our normal pitstop window. I the end, he drove a very strong, competitive first hour."

Ahead of him, while the two leading Porsches may have eased out a comfortable cushion, the battle for third between the Speedy Sebah Lola and ASM car remained tight (above left). Jonny Kane has fallen away from this somewhat, and was isolated in fifth. There was a matter of just a second or so between Theys and Tommy, but fluctuations in traffic had allowed Manning to close up once again on the MG. The #35 Saulnier Pescarolo had dropped back.

The Virgo Ferrari moved into third place in GT2.

The pressure from Manning (above) was back on in earnest now, and the black and gold WF01 had latched on tightly to Tommy's tail. A little further up the race, Olivier Pla in the ASM Lola had also caught the #33 Speedy Sebah car, outpacing Andrea Belicchi despite the latter's benefit of a roof over his head!

Tommy was lapped for the first time by the leading Peugeots.

The gap between Tommy and Darren Manning opened up again, and the MG closed back down on the Horag Porsche, which was less than a second ahead now.

Rob Bell (left) takes second in GT2.

The Speedy Sebah Lola pits from third. It seems very early. At the time there's an assumption that the team is trying to get the car deliberately out of sequence, as the stop is not overly long, but later it is suggested that some wire gauze had been fouling the rear tyres and needed to be pulled free.

Rob Bell had caught up with the Felbermayr Porsche and is challenging for the lead in GT2, less than forty minutes after starting from the back of the grid.

The Team Modena Aston Martin leads GT1, while it's a Peugeot one-two again in LMP1, with Audi third, Charouz fourth, and the second Audi fifth.

Rob Bell takes the lead in GT2.

Tommy now running in P6 after the #33 car's unscheduled pitstop, but still has Manning on his rear. It's been much the same since the start of the race, ever since Tommy overtook the #46 Embassy car.

The Speedy Lola has rejoined just behind the Tommy-Manning duel on the track, and looks set to get involved any moment now!

After having the race all his own way for the opening three-quarters of an hour, Verstappen is coming under increasing pressure from Caspar Elgaard in the #31 Team Essex Porsche. They're nose-to-tail now (above), but have a massive advantage over the ASM Lola, now third. Jonny Kane retains a grip on fourth, but is also some way behind.

Having recently rejoined, Belicchi in the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola has passed Manning, and is now looking to unlap himself on Tommy.

Belicchi gets ahead of Tommy, who decides there's no point in resisting the Italian's attack as the #33 car is a lap down anyway.

12:54 PITSTOP 1
Tommy heads down the pitlane for his first pitstop - fuel and tyres. He rejoins immediately behind the #33 Lola on track, proving that a pitstop is almost exactly worth a lap on track, although it wasn't the quickest of RML pitstops, thanks to a jammed wheelnut.

Verstappen pits from the lead. Elgaard moves through. Other pitstops mean that the Horag Porsche is third. Tommy comes over the radio to suggest that the MG feels "like a different car" after the pitstop. "It was like I'd climbed into a completely new car," he admitted later. "It was a revelation! I meant I could settle down and really enjoy the drive, knowing that we had the car handling and performing exactly as it had done in that last free practice session. It was great!"

The #17 Pescarolo ends the first hour by running a very slow lap and heading for the pitlane.

Overall, the #7 Peugeot leads LMP1 by about half a second from the #8.

Hour 2

The order in LMP2 at the start of the second hour has the #34 Porsche first from the similar (but peacock blue) Team Essex Porsche second and ASM third.

Tommy appears to be falling back marginally on the #33 Lola.

The Horag car is catching the #45 on track - it's not for position. The #35 Saulnier Pescarolo is tight on the back of Manning in the #46, followed by the #33 and then Tommy.

Horag passes #45.

Tommy overtakes Manning on the run between the Bit Kurve and the final chicane, but it's a desperately tricky moment, as the two LMP1 rivals are caught in the middle of an equally serious duel for the lead between the two Peugeots. Three a-breast through the kink is tight!

Tommy is finally able to close down on the #33, taking advantage of traffic.

Van Merksteijn leads by about two seconds from the Team Essex car, but the ASM Lola is some half-minute or more in arrears.

The #33 Speedy Sebah Lola makes it's second pitstop. It returns to the track just behind Tommy (right).

There's a very tight battle between the two Embassy cars - little quarter being given in this intra-team duel. Tommy meanwhile has Verstappen snapping at his heels, ready to put his first lap on the MG.

Phil asks Tommy if he's happy to stay in the MG for a third stint, after his next pitstop. There's only a momentary hesitation before the Brazilian comes back on the radio to say it was 'OK'. "I felt pretty happy with the car once we'd got rid of those qualifying tyres, and I was very happy to stay in for a third stint," he said afterwards. "The first stint itself had been very hard work, but I felt good for a third."

The #90 GT2 Ferrari spins off into the gravel at the final chicane, bringing out waved yellows and a recovery crane.

It's all getting very tight again in the middle of LMP2, with Tommy, the two Embassy cars and the chasing #34 Porsche all circulating tightly together.

Verstappen laps Tommy, who then has Elgaard in the Team Essex Porsche looming large in his rear-view mirrors. The #33 is also closing rapidly on the Horag Porsche.

Major error for Elgaard at the final chicane, and without apparently touching anyone - or being touched - he spins off into the deepest section of gravel. Tommy sees enough out of the corner of his eye to warn the team over the radio that there may have to be a safety car, but the recovery marshals are quickly into action and have the metallic blue Porsche hauled backwards and onto firmer ground within a few minutes

The #33 Lola passes the #27 Horag car for position as Tommy heads for the pitlane.

13:51 PITSTOP 2
Tommy makes his pitstop for fuel only. The #31 Essex Porsche is still in the gravel, but getting nearer to the grass (right).

Team Essex Porsche rejoins. The ASM Lola sustains a puncture, and heads for the pitlane. The photos reveal a severely damaged wheel rim is the culprit.

Tommy has been having a hard time holding off the attack from Verstappen in the #34 Porsche. At dot on the hour, the purple and white car moves through to add that long-anticipated lap.

The order in LMP2 has the #34 leading from the Horag Porsche second, the ASM Lola third and Tommy fourth.

Tommy is ten seconds behind Amaral for third, but has the #33 Lola closing on his tail. "During my second stint on the medium tyres, they started to go away from me quite early on, and I didn't feel able to push so hard," he said.

Hour 3

Gap to Amaral is nine seconds

As the race began it's third hour, Tommy occupied fourth position in LMP2, but was closing rapidly on Amaral in the #40 ASM Lola. The remaining commentary was added "live", so please make allowances for changes in tense, and perhaps some spelling mistakes due to rapid typing!

Tommy has rapidly narrowed the gap to just 4.5 seconds.

Tommy moves ahead of Amaral to take third in LMP2 - a lofty position that few outside the team would have predicted before the start of this race.

Verstappen in the #34 Van Merksteijn Porsche leads the class from a relatively comfortable position, 8th overall, and almost a complete lap ahead of Pompidou, now at the wheel of the Speedy Sebah Lola in second. The #33 is lying 11th overall, with Tommy 12th, sixteen seconds behind him.

Tommy continues to pull ahead of Amaral in the ASM Lola, building up a buffer that may become vital as the race develops. It has already grown to 10 seconds, but it may need to be more. While outpacing Amaral with ease, he seems unable to make any inroads on the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola, which continues to maintain an impressive pace in second.

Fifth is currently the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, Lahaye at the wheel, followed by Lienhard in the Horag Porsche, and then Joey Foster in the so-far untroubled #46 Embassy Zytek. He has an advantage of 47 seconds over Nielsen, pushing hard in the recovering Team Essex Porsche.

Tommy is amid some pretty thick traffic, and having issues with the #4 Saulnier Pescarolo. The LMP1 car, unlike it's LMP2 sister car, is way off the pace, but seemingly it's drivers are not aware of this, and blithely ignore almost everything else happening around them. Tommy must also be aware that he has the Lola Aston Martin on his tail.

Tommy is clipped in the rear by one of the GT2 Porsches on the run down from Bit Kurve. The #95 Porsche appears to come off worse, apparently picking up a front puncture. "I'd already passed him, but I'm not sure he was aware of me coming by, and pulled back in across my tail. I just felt a gentle nudge at the rear, nothing more. I didn't realise he'd picked up a puncture. I radioed Phil to advise him of the contact, and the team monitored the telemetry to ensure we'd not sustained a puncture ourselves, and then I pressed on."

Tommy continues to have problems with the #4 Saulnier car, declaring that the driver's behaviour is nothing less than "dangerous". The wayward car is currently running in 42nd position overall. "It was an absolute nightmare having to deal with that car," said Erdos. "I saw him involved in incidents with at least two other cars ahead of me, and I'm sure there would have been others. It was quite unbelievable driving."

Pompidou in the #33 Speedy Lola has pitted - once again, amongst the first to do so. Tommy moves through to second in LMP2. It is good to see the two lights glowing on the rear flanks of the MG - see photo by David Stephens below.

Despite a full fuel load, Pompidou sets the car's fastest race lap 1:46.085 - his first flyer after pitting.

Lahaye in the #35 Saulnier Courage takes Amaral for third in LMP2. Tommy is much relieved to have pulled well clear of the same team's troublesome #4 car, and also may have got away without incurring the feared puncture. He is now preparing for his next pitstop, which will complete his opening triple stint.

The low-fuel warning light flickers on his dashboard.

Tommy into the pits for fuel, tyres and a driver change. Lahaye moves through to second. A typical pitstop equates almost exactly to a full lap of the circuit.

A lap into his stint, and Mike is holding 5th in class now - although he had the honour of retaining the two-light signal on the side of the car for his out-lap - with others yet to make their scheduled pitstops for this period. Bleekemolen now leads in the #34 Van Merksteijn Porsche (7th overall) from Lahaye second (#35), Pompidou in the Speedy Sebah Lola third, Lienhard (Horag) fourth and then Mike Newton in the MG, just 3.9 seconds behind the Swiss driver.

The Kruze car, which hasn't had a very encouraging race anyway, has stopped in the pitlane with flames belching out of the exhaust. It looks pretty spectacular, but may not be as terminal as it appears. The car is 23rd overall, 12th in class.

Mike moves back into fourth after the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo makes its anticipated pitstop from second. Soon afterwards the leading #34 Porsche also pits for fuel and tyres before moving off smoothly and able to retain the lead, such was it's advantage over the #33 car in second.

Mike is a mere seven seconds behind Lienhard in the Horag Porsche, currently third, but is marginally slower lap-for-lap, but then the #27 car pits, and allows not only the MG through, but at almost exactly the same time, Lahaye as well, who passes Mike for position. So it's all change, but no change, for Mike. The MG remains fourth.

The #16 Pescarolo spins off . . . again, this time at the Bit Kurve. The car is going through a very difficult period, having lost a tyre some twenty minutes ago, and being left stranded for several heart-stopping moments right in the middle of the track just at the start of the main straight. This time Boullion steps out of the car, and abandons it - and possibly the race - in the gravel. However, after a few minutes of head scratching and gesticulating the marshals, the car is hauled back onto harder ground and he heads back to the pits. It remains to be seen if his restart will be permitted - depending upon how far away from the car he walked.

Hour 4

Amaral in the ASM Lola marks the beginning of the fourth hour by running wide on the first section of the Mercedes Arena, and spinning through the marbles. It's a messy pirouette, but he recovers well enough, and probably only loses about five seconds in the process.

In the meantime, the #27 Porsche has stopped for fuel, tyres and a driver-change to Jan Lammers. It's a lengthy stop that costs several seconds, and the red and white car rejoins several places lower than it left.

The situation in LMP2 has Bleekemolen leading in the #34 Porsche, still 7th overall, from Pompidou second (9th) and Lahaye, back in third for Saulnier. Mike is fourth, but not able to match the pace of Lahaye, who's just set the #35 car's fastest lap at 1:47.652. Mike's typical laps are around 1:54, and Phil encourages him to "get back into the groove". His earlier laps were a second or so quicker. Mike admits later that he shouted a less than flattering response into his helmet at that point. "I was in the effing groove! There were just far too many other cars in my way! I had an eight or nine laps sequence when there wasn't really a single lap without a yellow flag - or two - and I was for-ever getting stuck behind GT2 cars. You only need to encounter one of those at the wrong section of the track and you've lost two, three, maybe four seconds on that one lap. It's very frustrating!"

Mike's immediate concern was John Nielsen - and wouldn't that be for anyone in his situation! - the imposing Dane pushing hard in his attempt to recover the ground lost by Elgaard's spin at the chicane.

The pressure is eased when Nielsen pits. Amaral has slipped to sixth in the one-time third-placed ASM Lola, while Joey Foster in the #46 Embassy Zytek moves ahead of the pit-bound Nielsen to take fifth. Lammers also passes the Team Essex Porsche, moving the similar Horag car through to seventh.

Mike has responded to Phil's appeal and upped his pace accordingly, popping in a few laps in the mid to low fifties. "It wasn't as straightforward as it might have been," he explained. "Towards the middle of my double stint the engine started to fade. There was a clear loss of power, and that became very obvious down the long main straight. I could go almost the whole length without getting up enough speed to warrant changing into sixth gear - no sooner had I done so, than it was time to step down again and brake for the first corner. That loss of power was also making coping with the GT traffic even more of a challenge."

Mike was 30 seconds behind Lahaye at this stage, but had Amaral just a second or so behind him as he started his 107th lap, and Lammers was less than ten seconds behind them both.

Amaral passes Mike for fourth place (below), so the MG may soon be coming under pressure from Lammers in the Horag Porsche.

Lammers has closed to within five seconds of MIke.

Lammers passes Mike into the first corner to take fifth, the MG therefore dropping to sixth.

Lammers passes Amaral, thereby moving into fourth, with Mike sixth from Nielsen in the #31 Essex Porsche.

Pitstop for the #33 Speedy Sebah Lola, and it stays there for some time.

A spin for the #26 Bruichladdich Radical. Last year's front runner has had an incident-packed race, having earlier run out of fuel and only been able to return to the pits on the starter motor. That knackered the motor, and necessitated additional repairs. It lies 43rd overall.

Bleekemolen (#34 Porsche) sets the fastest LMP2 lap of the race of 1:4.697

Michael Vergers in the #32 Barazi Zytek runs into Amaral in the ASM Lola, forcing the fourth-placed Lola into a spin. As a result the rear "legality panel" has been damaged. Moments later Jonny Kane unlaps himself on Amaral, who appears to run very wide as the Embassy car eases through.

Amaral pits, probably to have the damage to the car repaired. Darren Manning in the #46 Embassy car, who had just overtaken Nielsen for fifth, now moves ahead of ASM as well to inherit fourth. He's currently second-fastest in LMP2. Mike, meanwhile, looks likely to overtake the stationary ASM Lola, and move up one place from his current seventh.

Mike duly moves through into sixth in class, thirteenth overall. The #35 Saulnier Pescarolo makes a pitstop out of sequence and drops to fourth from second. ASM has completed a much quicker pitstop than expected and has Olivier Pla - perhaps the team's fastest driver - back out and running in 16th overall, 7th in class.

Both leaders in LMP2 are into the pitlane for scheduled pitstops.

Hour 5

The fifth hour begins with dramas for the WR Salini Zytek. Not quite last in LMP2 - the Bruichladdich Radical is behind - the tail-ender suffers serious rear-end damage and limps back to the pits.

The ASM Lola is hit in the rear for a second time, this time by the #85 Spyker. The "legal panel" is totally removed this time, so the Lola will have to make yet another stop. Moments later the second Spyker, the #94, is itself hit by the Team Essex Porsche. There's an awful lot of contact in this race!

The order in LMP2 is now . . . #34 leading from 6th overall, with nearly two laps over the #27 Porsche second, Jan Lammers ensuring a strong middle stint for the Horag car. Third is Ragues in the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, eighty seconds ahead of Manning in the #46 Embassy Zytek - the car's best showing all season. Elgaard, hoping perhaps to make up for his unforced error and spin at the final chicane earlier in the race, is running fifth. Mike holds sixth, but with a relatively comfortable cushion of half a minute over Olivier Pla, yet to address the question of the missing panel.

The #3 Lavaggi AER LMP1 is still running, which must be some kind of record in itself. Wolfgang Kaufmann is in his second stint at the wheel, and has just set the car's two fastest laps one after the other. A 1:49.857 is a perfectly acceptable race-pace, and must be an encouraging sign for team owner and co-driver Giovanni Lavaggi.

Darren Manning, really getting to grips with the #46 Embassy WF01, sets another fastest lap for the #46 machine. 1:48.340 is the kind of pace only currently being bettered by the leading Porsches of Verstappen and Lammers - good company indeed.

Olivier Pla - still with a missing "legal panel" - moves ahead of Mike to take sixth in class on the track. The team will subsequently replace the panel at their final pitstop, thereby restoring "legality" to the ASM Lola.

Another troubled pitstop for Kruse, with the car reaching the end of the pitlane before coasting to a halt. Luckily, it has not actually crossed the line, so can be hauled back to the garage by the crew.

Mike into the pitlane for his second pitstop - fuel, tyres and handing the MG back to Tommy for the final stints. The #33 Speedy Sebah car is also into the pits, just as Pla sets a new best for the ASM car 1:46.596.

A second attempt by the #4 Kruse car to leave the pits again ends in failure.

A very good pitstop from the RML crew has Tommy back out and into the race in double-quick time. It may take a few minutes for the order to resolve, but it looks encouraging for the final sector of the race.

Tommy is running in seventh but is only four seconds behind Pla in the ASM Lola, but closing at some rate.

A problem for the #27 Horag Porsche, which pits and is immediately hauled back into the garage. The car, with Lammers in the cockpit, had been lying second in LMP2 - the car will drop several places, but rejoins for the finish of the race.

Three cars are in contention for Lammers now-vacant slot - the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo (Ragues), the #31 Team Essex Porsche (Elgaard) and then Darren manning in the #46 Embassy car. Only five seconds separate all three.

Pla has responded to Tommy's challenge, and the gap has extended to nine seconds. "He's seen us mate!" suggests Phil Barker over the radio. "You'll just have to go quicker through the corners!"

Tommy responds a few minutes later, not with added pace, but a reposte over the radio to suggest that he isn't getting the performance he expects from the car, and confirming Mike's opinion that the engine has lost its edge.

Hour 6 - Finish

The final hour of the race, and Tommy holds sixth in LMP2, 14th overall. The class is being lead by the #34 Van Merksteijn Porsche, 6th overall, from the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo, the #1 Essex Porsche, and then the first (and less troubled) #46 Embassy Zytek WF01. Barbosa in the LMP1 Rollcentre Pescarolo is 12th overall, 40 seconds ahead of Pla in the ASM Lola fifth in class, and then Tommy sixth by 23 seconds. Vergers is seventh, two laps down on the MG, with Warren Hughes back aboard the second Embassy car in eighth. The #45 car had reported an engine problem earlier, and lost time in the pits as the team attempted to trace it. On restarting, despite finding no obvious fault, it has run well.

Hughes proves this at 17:18 by setting a new fastest lap for the #45; 1:47.904, and moving closer to Vergers in the Barazi Zytek. There's barely a hair's breadth between them, and it seems likely that there will be a change for position here very soon. His team-mate, Darren Manning, is still running very strongly in fourth.

Warren overtakes Vergers to claim seventh place, one down on Tommy but a full lap behind.

Tommy into the pitlane for a final splash of fuel - no need to change tyres, so he's only stationary for about ten seconds or so, then rapidly back out onto the track. He's told by Phil that the gap on Hughes is healthy enough to mean he only needs to take it steady for the remaining eight laps or so.

Out at the sharp end, the "wrong" Peugeot is leading. Sarrazin leads in the #8 car from Marc Gene in the #7, but the latter leads the championship. Similarly, the #1 Audi is ahead of the championship contending #2 R10. The cynical in the press room are suggesting that in both cases, the leading team-mate may make a few unforced errors over the remaining few laps!

Sarrazin runs unexpectedly wide and takes some time to regain the track. Gene closes to within 30 seconds.

An unexpected pitstop for Allan McNish in the #1 Audi, who takes on fresh tyres and fuel. He has just two laps to run, so the rational purpose of fresh tyres is unclear.

The second-placed #35 Saulnier Pescarolo makes a brief stop for fuel. It looks likely to retain its place comfortably.

Last lap for the leading Peugeot, which still has a 24 second lead. Maybe the cynics are wrong!

Chequered Flag

A win in LMP2 for the #34 Van Merksteijn Porsche. An excellent second place to the #35 Saulnier Pescarolo denies Team Essex, third, the points needed to maintain the championship challenge, so the LMP2 title will go to Van Merksteijn Motorsport, subject to confirmation. With Peter himself absent, that means a solo title for Jos Verstappen. Fourth is Darren Manning, the best ever result for Embassy, with Pla fifth for ASM and Tommy sixth. Warren Hughes brings home the second #45 Embassy WF01 seventh - both cars finishing for the first time - and Vergers eighth. Ninth was Belicchi in the #33 Lola - perhaps a disappointing result after such a strong early run - and then Ojeh brings home the Trading Performance Zytek in 10th.

Eleventh in class, and well in arrears, was the #44 Kruse Lola-Mazda, 21st overall, with the #27 Horag Porsche slumping to a lowly twelfth in the final minutes after the extended pitstop - reason unknown at present. Still running, the Radical takes thirteenth and the WR Salini fourteenth, although the latter fails to cover the necessary distance and is unclassified. With all LMP2 starters also finishing the race (albeit with one non-classified) that must be a "first" for the category once considered the most delicate in sportscar racing.

Fastest lap of the race for the #1 Audi came on the final lap, with McNish setting a 1:41.211. Point proven.

LMP2 Result

Pos No. O/all Team Driver Car
7 Van Merksteijn M/s Bleekemolen/Verstappen Porsche RS Spyder
9 Saulnier Racing Ragues/Lahaye Pescarolo Judd
3 31 10 Team Essex Nielsen/Elgaard Porsche RS Spyder
22 secs
11 Embassy Racing Manning/Foster WF01 Zytek
12 Quifel ASM Amaral/Pla Lola B05/40 AER
13 RML AD Group Erdos/Newton MG Lola EX265
14 Embassy Racing Hughes/Kane WF01 Zytek
8 32 15 Barazi Epsilon Barazi/Vergers/Rees Zytek 07S
56 secs
9 33 16 Speedy Sebah Belicchi/Pompidou/Zacchia Lola Bo8/80 Coupé
Trading Performance Ojeh/Gosselin Zytek 07S
4 secs
21 Kruse Schiller de Pourtales/Noda Lola B05/40
12 27 23 Horag Racing Lienhard/Theys/Lammers Porsche RS Spyder
34 Bruichladdich Rostan/Petersen/Lueders Radical SR9 AER
WR Salini Salini/Salini/Roussel WR Zytek


"I'm pleased to have finished, but disappointed not to have done better than sixth," admitted Phil Barker, the team's manager. "The engine ran a bit flat in the last part of the race, but that apart, it was a trouble-free run, and we netted three useful points, but it would have been nice to finish a little higher up the order. Perhaps a few more laps and we might have got fourth!"

"Tommy drove a very strong triple stint, and that got us up to second," said Adam Wiseberg, Motorsport Director at AD Group, the team's principal sponsors. "To start ninth and be running second by the mid-way stage must have raised a few eyebrows! We knew that, with paired professional drivers in several of the other cars, Mike would have difficulty maintaining that position, but overall the car ran reliably, and there were no mistakes by either of the drivers, or the pit crew. That makes this a good performance that just deserved a better result. Adam was also happy to point out that the EX265 is now based on a car that first raced several years ago. "We ran close to several much newer cars, and for the two open-topped Lolas, ASM's and ours, to run so competitively and finish fifth and sixth with what is really a five-year-old design is testament to Lola's efforts."

"Apart from the Van Merksteijn car, which was a very fast car driven by two extremely competent professional drivers - one ex-Formula 1, the other nearly so - everyone else was very close. It's a highly competitive class these days and it could have gone two or three positions either way very easily," concluded Adam. "That seemed like an awful lot of hard work for just three points, but it was a job well done."

"I don't think I ever got a clear lap at all during my second stint," said Mike Newton. "There were a lot of yellow flags, a lot of incidents and mechanical failures, and a succession of GT cars to contend with. As soon as you come up on one of the quicker GT2 and GT1 cars, that's several seconds lost on each lap. There were also times when I knew the engine wasn't giving its best. All in all, that was tough, although the car behaved so much better on the medium compounds. It felt much better balanced and the oversteer had all but gone."

"It wasn't exactly a pleasant first stint," admitted Thomas Erdos. "I was very glad to get through it, and as soon as the mediums (tyres) were fitted, the whole car was transformed. Getting up to second was something I never truly expected, although I think I had help! Some of the others encountered unexpected problems, fell off or whatever, and made early pitstops, so the second place might have been deceptive, but it felt good to hear P2 over the radio."

There are high resolution images posted in the Nurburgring Gallery. With thanks to David Downes (dailysportscar) and David Stephens of Studio 21 for additional images this weekend.

During the races it is possible to follow live timing on the Internet, visit the Le Mans Series website and click on the highlighted panel in the centre of the page. Full results details can also be downloaded in PDF format from the Le Mans Series website. Click here for access.

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