Motor sport: Andretti thwarted at Le Mans

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The Independent Online
Mario Andretti, seeking the only major international title he has yet to win, faltered yesterday as a TWR Porsche prototype entered by the German team Jost won the Le Mans 24 Hours race, with Germany's Manuel Reuter, the American Davey Jones and Austria's Alexander Wurz driving.

The winning car, with a British chassis and a German engine, covered 354 laps (2,991.3 miles) after taking a lead in the first hour which was only briefly surrendered after a brake change. Factory-backed Porsches were second and third.

Reuter had won previously in 1989; Jones was second in 1991, while 22- year-old Wurz - the youngest-ever winner of the race - was making his Le Mans debut after racing in Germany's Formula Three last year. The six- times champion Jacky Ickx was 24 when he won in 1969 for the first time.

The victory was Porsche's 14th victory at Le Mans, the most by any car- maker. They last won in 1994 after 10 victories between 1976 and 1987.

The team of Hans-Joachim Stuck of Germany, Thierry Boutsen of Belgium and France's Bob Wollek finished second, more than a lap behind while Austria's Karl Wendlinger, Yannick Dalmas of France and the Canadian Scott Goodyear finished third, 13 laps behind.

Andretti, sharing the driving of a Courage-Porsche with Dutchman Jan Lammers and Britain's Derek Warwick, finished 13th, having dropped as low as 44th after early electrical problems cost them an hour.

Just after the 20-hour mark - after battling back to eighth - Andretti missed a turn and went into the gravel, prompting 40 more minutes of repairs. "I just went straight on at the Indianapolis corner and went into the barrier," Andretti said. "I locked up. I was a bit on the limit with the tyres. We were thinking of going on harder tyres a little earlier."

In the final hour, the trio lost a wheel for the second time while racing, but Warwick managed to keep the car in balance to return to the pits for a replacement.

Last year, Andretti's team was second, three minutes behind, after losing half an hour in the pits following a spin-out four hours into the race. "We need 48 hours to win," Andretti said. "I know we're capable of winning. Just to be able to measure up is a good feeling. It was not our day."

The 56-year-old's winning credentials include the 1969 Indianapolis 500, the 1967 Daytona 500, the Formula One world championship, 52 IndyCar races and 12 Formula One grands prix.

An American Riley and Scott car with an Oldsmobile engine, seeking an unprecedented third victory, had to drop out just before the 12-hour mark while running in 15th place.

The car, driven by Wayne Taylor from South Africa and Americans Jim Pace and Scott Sharp, had difficulties from the start, losing three and four laps at a time with 10 to 15 minute pit stops.

The fastest lap of the race was 3min 46.958sec by Erik Van Der Poele in an all-Belgian driven Ferrari that crashed out of the race just after dawn.

McLarens took fourth and fifth. Dane John Nielsen, Germany's Thomas Bscher and Dutchman Peter Kox finished in fourth with Briton Lindsay Owen Jones, France's Pierre Henri Raphanel and David Brabham of Australia in fifth.

LE MANS 24-HOURS RACE: 1 D Jones (US), M Reuter (Ger), A Wurz (Aut) TWR Porsche (354 laps, 4,814km, 2,991.3 miles, ave speed 200.58kph, 124.66mph); 2 H-J Stuck (Ger), T Boutsen (Bel), B Wollek (Fr) Porsche AG GT1 +1 lap; 3 K Wendlinger (Aut), Y Dalmas (Fr), S Goodyear (Can) Porsche AG GT1 +13; 4 J Nielsen, (Den), T Bscher (Ger), P Kox (Neth) McLaren F1 +16; 5 L Owen Jones (GB), PH Raphanel (Fr), D Brabham (Aus) McLaren F1 +19; 6 A Wallace (GB), O Grouillard (Fr), D Bell (GB) McLaren F1 +28; 7 H Pescarolo (Fr), A Collard (Fr), F LaGorce (Fr) Courage-Porsche +27; 8 N Piquet (Bra), J Cecotto (Ven), D Sullivan (US) McLaren F1 +30; 9 R Bellm (GB), J Weaver (GB), JJ Lehto (Fin) McLaren F1 +31; 10 P Cobb (US), M Dismore (US), S Hendricks (US) Chrysler Viper +34. Selected: 13 M Andretti (US), D Warwick (GB), J Lammers (Neth) Courage-Porsche +39.