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Le Mans 24-hours 2003

Le Mans 24-hours 2003

6/14/2003 - 6/15/2003 Le Mans

The Ferrari marque was represented on the top step of the Le Mans podium with Britain's Jamie Davies, Dutchman Peter Kox and Czech Tomas Enge victorious at the 80th anniversary edition of the 24-hours in their Ferrari 550 Maranello.

The three drivers had driven an almost faultless race to record a deserved victory over the factory Chevrolet Corvette team in the GTS class. The drivers crossed the line ten laps in front of the Corvettes, a figure that flattered the American rivals as the Veloqx Prodrive team made a precautionary pit stop at the end of the race.

"To see the support with the Ferrari flags around the circuit, and then to stand on the podium with thousands of people below you, it was a special moment that I will picture for the rest of my life," said a jubilant Davies. "To win at Le Mans, in a Ferrari, it doesn't get any better than that."

"It looked like a perfect victory from the outside, but it wasn't straight forward from the inside," said Prodrive's George Howard-Chappell. "We had one or two gremlins with the car. We swapped an engine after the warm-up, before the race, but this is the engine that we swapped and it won the race. We are really pleased. I couldn't be happier."

Their team-mates Darren Turner, Kelvin Burt and Anthony Davidson, retired early on Sunday morning when Davidson had a wheel bearing failure at the end of the straight at Mulsanne, and went straight into the barriers. The Briton climbed from the car unassisted, but was shocked and bruised, and was taken to hospital for a precautionary brain scan. He returned to the circuit on Sunday afternoon with a head-ache.

"I can remember everything, it was a nasty one," said Davidson. "In a way, it was good that it happened to us so that we could keep a close eye on the other car. We knew what the problem was, it was a wheel bearing failure, so we could keep an eye on the other car. I have a head-ache now and I was in shock, it was such a quick accident at high speed so it was quite dangerous really.

"It is a brilliant circuit, and I would love to come back and do it again in my career. I am not busting a gut to do it though. It was a really fun event, but the whole middle stint of the race seemed to go on forever, and it lost its magic after that really."

Jerome Policand, Luc Alphand and Frederic Dor drove the Luc Alphand Adventures Ferrari 550 Maranello to fifth position in class after suffering a drive shaft failure on Sunday. "This was part of the project, to develop the car and sell to private customers like this team," said Dor. "That was one goal, and the other was to win Le Mans and we have done that this year. "I think that the worry of the team was quite difficult for me as well as learning to drive the circuit. "I needed to concentrate on the driving. Because of the closing speed of the other cars, you have to keep a close eye on it. Driving here at Le Mans is like driving on the road, like 25 years ago when there were no speed limits!"

The LM-GT category saw Ferrari 360 Modenas finish seventh and eighth in class, David Terrien, Fabrizio de Simone and Fabio Babini finishing ahead of Ralf Kelleners, Anthony Lazzaro and Terry Borcheller's ACEMCO Ferrari.

Terrien said: "We had a huge problem with the gearbox, which we had to change, and had a problem with the new one and lost a total of three hours. That was a shame, because we could have won against the Porsche. We were consistent with all the drivers, but we had the gearbox problem and we lost all that time."

Giuseppe Risi's Ferrari 360 Modena, of Johnny Mowlem, Shane Lewis and Butch Leitzinger, led the category briefly after fantastic drives from the trio before Mowlem pulled to the side of the road with a blown engine ten-and-a-half hours into the race. The XL Racing Ferrari of Gael Lesoudier, Ange Barde and Michel Ferte, went out in the 21st hour of 24, when their GT-class Ferrari 550 caught fire.

Under the blazing sunshine and in humid conditions, Bentley drove an almost faultless race of their own to score its first overall victory in 73 years at Le Mans, and the team was proud to score a 1-2 finish against the previously dominant Audis.

It was Tom Kristensen's fourth straight win, a new record, and his fifth ever success at the classic race, which brings him level on overall victories with the legendary Derek Bell and just one short of the outright record of race wins of Jacky Ickx. "I will have to grow up quite a bit to be considered a legend," said Kristensen, who shared the car with Rinaldo Capello and Britain's Guy Smith.

The British car completed the race with less than half an hour spent in the pits during the course of the entire race. "They didn't even have to change a light-bulb," said Johnny Herbert, who finished second with Mark Blundell and David Brabham.

Stefan Johansson, Emanuele Pirro and Johnny Herbert were third in their Champion Audi, Pirro toasting the extraordinary achievement of the Bentley team and his winning co-driver for the past three years, Kristensen.

Results, Le Mans 24-hours

1. Tom Kristensen (DK)/Guy Smith (GB)/Rinaldo Capello (I), Bentley Speed 8, 377 laps, 5143.927 kilometres in 24 hours, 00 minutes, 00.000s
2. David Brabham (AUS)/Mark Blundell (GB)/Johnny Herbert (GB), Bentley Speed 8, 375 laps
3. Emanuele Pirro (I)/Stefan Johansson (S)/JJ Lehto (Fin), Audi R8, 372 laps
4. Jan Magnussen (DK)/Seiji Ara (J)/Marco Werner (D), Audi R8, 370 laps
5. Gunnar Jeannette (US)/Max Papis (I)/Olivier Beretta (F), Panoz LMP-1, 360 laps
6. Andy Wallace (GB)/Jan Lammers (NL)/John Bosch (D), Dome S101, 360 laps
7. Jean-Marc Gounon (F)/Stephane Gregoire (F)/Jonathan Cochet (F), Courage C65, 360 laps
8. Stephane Sarrazin (F)/Jean-Christophe Boullion (F)Franck Lagorce (F), Courage, 356 laps
9. Soheil Ayari (F)/Eric Helary (F)/Nicolas Minassian (F), Courage, 352 laps
10. Peter Kox (NL)/Tomas Enge (Cz)/Jamie Davies (GB), Ferrari, 336 laps

Fastest lap, Johnny Herbert, Bentley Speed 8, 3m 35.529s on lap 236

courtesy of FOS.

Can you believe The Bentleys...WOW !!

Come to Le Mans and smoke the field of also rans!!!

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