Communiqué n° 5 - Saturday 12/6/99 - 18h00


After 90 minutes racing there were no fewer than 4 cars covered by just 5 seconds, something that puts grand prix racing in the shade!. Between Bernd Schneider in the lead in his Mercedes­Benz and his immediate pursuer the no.2 Toyota in the hands of Thierry Boutsen the gap was a mere 5/10 sec while just behind the Belgian was Martin Brundle in the no.1 Toyota. From the start the Japanese cars confirmed their practice showing by taking up the running but did not open up a significant gap over the Mercedes-Benz. Behind came the BMWs nos 17 and 15 driven by Kristensen and Dalmas respectively, followed by the first of the Panozes. The other spider had a coming together with one of the privately entered BMWs (no.19) in the Dunlop chicane on lap 1.

While one of the Chryslers no.54 (Belmondo-Monteiro-Rostan) came in for an unscheduled stop at 16h05, Brundle set a new lap record in 3 mn 37.253 secs beating his 1998 best !. Alboreto stopped at his pit at 16h07 and as Gache (Riley & Scott) and Terada (Autotexe no.24), which started from the back row as they had not qualified all their drivers, fought their way up to the middle of the field by 16h20, the leaders were already among the tail-enders.
Ten minutes later the no.10 Audi R8C stopped for a transmission change. Meanwhile, up front the Toyotas continued their merry way but under menace from Schneider's Mercedes­Benz. The no.7 Audi lost 46 seconds following its stop and the driver was having problems with second gear.

BMW on a charge

The no. 2 Toyota came in for fuel at 16h36 almost immediately imitated by no.1 while both Mercedes-Benz stopped at the same time. This left the no.17 BMW driven by Tom Kristensen in the lead and it soon became evident that the Bavarian car was more fuel economical. By 16h45 there were 2 V12 BMWs in the first 2 places ahead of Schneider and the 2 Toyotas. The other Japanese car was down in 8th place.
The LM-GTS Category was dominated by the Oreca Vipers running in line astern no.51 leading nos 52 and 53 wih Hugh
Chamberlain's GT-R in 4th spot. In the LM GT category the Muller 996 GT3 (no.80) led no.81 in the hands of Uwe Alzen.
At 16h56 the only 333 SP Ferrari in the race stopped at its pit with a broken gearbox pignon : "We don't understand it," said J-P Jabouille, " as we fited a reinforced gearbox and we can usually do about 6 hours with the normal one. We'll just have to change it."
The BMWs then refuelled which allowed Schneider up into first ahead of Boutsen end Brundle. Just after 17h00 Schneider almost hit the no.24 Autoexe and came under severe pressure from the Japanese cars. At 17h15 Boutsen went ahead of the German and Martin tried to do the same. The BMW was only 4 seconds behind the new leader.17h30 saw the second round of refuelling stops no.17 going back into the lead when the Toyotas and Mercedes stopped. Müller went out behind his team-mate Dalmas (who refuelled a little later) while Heidfeld took over no.5 and Lamy replaced Schneider in no.6.
At 17h50, the no.66 Porsche (Monteiro-Monteiro-Maisonneuve) came in smoking and the 911 GT2 crashed into retirement in the Karting corner.
By 18h00 Muller's BMW had covered 32 laps 6.038 secs ahead of McNish's Toyota, Lamy's Mercedes-Benz and Collard in the second of the Toyotas. There were 6 different makes in the first ten and the Vipers still dominated the GTS category led by Beretta-Wendlinger­Dupuy. The Ferrari was about to retum to the fray.