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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 June, 2003, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Bentley claim Le Mans crown
The two Bentleys completed a one-two at Le Mans
Bentley had not won at Le Mans since 1930
Bentley took their first victory in the Le Mans 24-Hours race for 73 years as Denmark's Tom Kristensen entered the record books with a fourth successive win.

The number 7 Bentley of Kristensen, Cottingham-based Guy Smith and Rinaldo Capello came home two laps ahead of the team's second entry driven by Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell and David Brabham.

Audi, winner for the past three years, could not match Bentley's robust Speed 8 prototypes and finished third and fourth.

The Champion Racing Audi, driven by Emmanuelle Pirro, Stefan Johansson and JJ Lehto, was five laps adrift and the Audi Sport Japan team of Seiji Ara, Marco Werner and Jan Magnussen seven laps down.

Bentley's victory was its sixth overall, with the previous five titles clinched in the golden era of the flamboyant "Bentley Boys" between 1924 and 1930.

I'm absolutely exhausted - we pushed hard right from the start
Bentley driver Rinaldo Capello

The marque, owned by the Volkswagan group, had been firm favourite to end Audi's three-year winning streak.

"I can't tell you how I'm feeling - this is something unique," said Capello. "I'm absolutely exhausted - we pushed hard right from the start."

Briton Smith was at the wheel to take the chequered flag at 1500 BST with a new course record of 377 laps.

The Bentleys maintained the top two positions for almost 22 hours straight, easily holding on to their advantage during the difficult overnight period.

The Audi number 10 car had nosed in front early in the race, but three-time Le Mans winner Frank Biela was forced out less than two hours in after running out of fuel.

The number 6 Audi of Emanuele Pirro, JJ Lehto and Stephan Johansson
The number 6 Audi was the best of the rest

"I'm just so upset for the team, devastated," said Biela, who was partnered by former Formula One driver Mika Salo and Britain's Perry McCarthy.

British driver Anthony Davidson was taken to hospital after losing control of his Veloqz Ferrari 500 at 0320 BST, just 10 minutes after taking over in the driver's seat.

The accident was caused by a wheel bearing problem.

"He's with his father and team manager, and he's in good hands at the hospital," team spokesperson Fiona Miller said.

"They'll keep him in for a while just for observation, but he should be fine."

Earlier, the Dome S101 Judd team's Tristan Gommendy got into trouble at the PlayStation chicane but was able to resume racing after the pit mechanics mended the car's bodywork.

A total of 19 cars from the 49 which started abandoned the race, with gearbox malfunction, chassis trouble, engine and transmission failure accounting for the large majority.


Final race positions after 24 hours

1 Team Bentley (Kristensen, Capello, Smith) 377 laps
2 Team Bentley (Brabham, Herbert, Blundell) at 2 laps
3 Champion Racing (Pirro, Lehto, Johansson) 5 laps
4 Audi Sport Japan (Ara, Magnussen, Werner) 7 laps
5 JML Team Panoz (Beretta, Jeannette, Papis) 17 laps
6 Racing for Holland (Lammers, Bosch, Wallace) 17 laps
7 Courage Competition (Cochet, Gounon, Gregoire) 17 laps
8 Pescarolo Sport (Boullion, Lagorge, Sarrazin) 21 laps
9 Pescarolo Sport (Helary, Ayari, Minassian) 25 laps
10 Veloqx Prodrive Racing (Kox, Enge, Davies) 41 laps




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