Communiqué n°3 - Friday 11/6/99 - 12h00

Second practice session : Thursday 10th June 19h00 - 24h00


It was much warmer than the previous day when the cars rolled out for the second session. These conditions were ideal for getting down to the job of sorting out race settings but less so for doing a flyer!. Thus, the times set the previous evening by Brundle and Boutsen's Toyotas looked unbeatable. However, at the end of the first part of the session when it was a little cooler, both Bernd Schneider and JJ Lehto - Mercedes-Benz (no.6) and BMW (no.17) ­ mounted respectively really went for it. Hardly had the German set third quickest time in 3 mn 31.551 secs when the Finn pipped him with a lap in 3 mn 31.209 secs.
There were numerous visits to the s and traps but the most serious accident happened at around 19h25 between Mulsanne and Indianapolis. The car in question was the no.4 Mercedes-Benz in the hands of Australian, Mark Weber, which, in attempting to pass another competitor was brutally deprived of aerodynamic downforce. After turning over in the air, it landed on its wheels and then struck the guardrail. Luckily, the driver emerged almost unhurt apart from a slightly sore neck !.
Philippe Gache was also the victim of an "off" at Tertre Rouge, near where van de Poele had crashed on Wednesday. His Riley & Scott no.31 went backwards into the tyre barrier suffering severe damage to the rear right-hand corner. A new engine is being sent from Avignon to enable the car to be on the starting grid tomorrow afternoon.

Toyota : All three cars did short series of laps to check race set-ups as their front row positions never looked threatened. Thus, the 2 red and whita cars will lead the field away at 16h00 on Saturday afternoon which, from a media point of view, is victory in the battle for prestige opposing the six major manufacturers entered in the LMP Category.
"We're ready for the race and all we have to do now is to cover a few laps to check the headlights" said Thierry Boutsen.

BMW : Lehto's third quickest time brought smiles of joy to the faces of the works BMW team. In addition, no.15 in the hands of Winkelhock-Martini-Dalmas signed the sixth best performance without undue effort so a place among the top three appears well within the grasp of the Bavarian manufacturer.

Mercedes-Benz : Mark Weber's accident certainly did nothing to add to the serenity of the Mercedes-Benz camp and it would be an undertstement to say that the team is content with Schneider's fourth place on the grid. However, no.4 is being repaired at the moment and it will be ready to take up its tenth place on the grid tomorrow as confirmed by Jean-Marc Gounon : "The engineers will have no problems in rebuilding the car and it'll be as quick as before."

Panoz : Both Panozes ran into a whole set of glitches as after having gone for a time on Wednesday, Thursday was to be used for dialling in race settings. New engines had to be put in and their installation caused numerous problems due mainly to fitting the water pulley. Later on, when the cars got out onto the circuit the gearbox and clutch began to act up so all in all it was a pretty fraught session for the American team.

Audi : Both spiders improved their Wednesday times by around three seconds finishing the evening in ninth place overall for the Alboreto-Capello-Aiello car in 3 mn 34.891 secs while the second Joest entry ended up in eleventh spot with a best lap in 3 mn 35.371 secs. This is obviously a learning year for Audi but if the cars hold together then a finish in the top six looks on the cards as no one knows better than Reinhold Joest how important reliability is in the Sarthe.

The other LMP1s

The remaining Nissan contented itself with 12th overall while in the Courage camp niggling problems at the start of the session upset the evening's program of going for a time and then working on fuel consumption. The Riley & Scott entered by Philippe Gache were hindered first of all by Gache's accident but their lacklustre performance can be atributed to problems with the Ford engine which was overheating even though the temperatures shown were normal.
This problem also affected the Autoexe no.24 of Terada-Fréon-Donovan and the no.27 Lola driven by Saldana-Orbell-de Radiguès as both use Ford power. On the other hand, the Lola­Judd entered by Dams continued improving and a lap in 3 mn 36.468 secs gave it thirteenth place on the grid. There were smiles too in the JB-Giesse camp as the 333 SP Ferrari of Policand-Baldi-Pescatori ended up fourteenth overall with a lap in 3 mn 38.468 secs.


Chrysler : The Vipers completely dominated the Porsches in the GTS Category filling the first five places with the Beretta-Wendlinger-Dupuy GTS-R ahead of Archer-Bell-Duez, both from the Oreca stable. However, no.55, the Belmondo entry in the hands of Emmanuel Clérico snatched third spot from the third of Hughes de Chaunac's protégés. It was a just reward for the team after their problems on Wednesday.

Porsche : As the Vipers were out of their reach, Goueslard-Chéreau-Yver's aim was to be the quickest of the GT2 Porsches. Mission accomplished thanks to a set of qualifying tyres. Next up was the Jarier-Bourdais-de Thoisy 911 while Rook Racing suffered a setback when their car went off at Tertre Rouge. For the race the German cars can only count on reliability as they are outpaced by the Chrysler Vipers.
In LM-GT the Alzen-Huisman-Ricitelli 996 GT3 was quickest followed by Müller-Wollek­Maylander. Finally, the Stewards of the Meeting have authorised the Perrier-Ricci-Nourry 993 RSR Porsche to start even though it just failed to meet the qualification minima.