Nick Green is a pretty handy photographer with a penchant for endurance racing. Who better, then, to do our first ever picture feature? I'll hand over to Nick to narrate...
"Forty six teams lined up on the grid for the 32nd running of the Le Mans 24 hours. Twenty teams would not see the finish. Endurance racing is a war of attrition and this race was no exception. Heavy overnight rain didn’t help and, along with fatigue, was the cause of many crashes.
Honda France (Steve Plater/ Matthieu Lagrive/Sebastien Charpentier), back after a few years break, were in surprise pole position ahead of Yamaha France GMT94 (Sebastien Gimbert/ David Checa/E. Nigon) and 6 places ahead of favourites, and current World Champions, Suzuki Endurance (Vincent Philippe/Barry Veneman/Guillaume Dietrich). British hopes lay in the hands of Phase One (19th), Team Alf’s (24th), Phil Giles in Team Endurance 33 (27th) and Calvin Hogan in MCS Racing (46th).
Yamaha Austria showed their intentions early on with Igor Jerman leading after the first hour making the bike buck and squirm out of the corners, Honda France hot on their heels. Unfortunately Lagrive in his haste to catch Jerman crashed the Honda to put it back to 40th place. Kawasaki France were 2nd , Suzuki Endurance 3rd.
Phase One exited the race in the 2nd hour through an oil leak as did Yamaha France after a radiator leak caused terminal engine failure. Honda meanwhile were in 35th place and lapping faster than the leaders. Suzuki leading, Yamaha 2nd.
As evening closed in the first of the rain started to fall causing a number of crashes but the experienced Steve Martin on Yamaha Austria pulled out a lead of 1 lap over the Suzuki. Meanwhile the Honda was charging through the field in 15th and incredibly had climbed back up to 3rd by 10pm.
By 09.00 Yamaha Austria, who had led through the night, were 2 laps clear of Suzuki and 10 laps clear of Honda. Quite a few teams had retired during the night including all British hope. Team Alf’s Kawasaki crashed whilst running in 26th place, and the hub-centre steered Metiss suffered a similar demise.
Honda France swapped places with the Suzuki after a small crash by the latter at around the midday mark. That is how it stayed until 3pm. Yamaha Austria (727 laps) took their first ever victory with Honda France (722 Laps) a superb second and Suzuki Endurance (716 laps) third. Junior Team Suzuki came 5th but won the ‘Superstock’ class beating Qatar Endurance by an unbelievable 20 seconds after 24 hours of racing!
Also worthy of note is the RC30 (566 laps) which had been entered as a tribute to its 25th anniversary. Although it finished second from last (it’s only a 750 don’t forget), it won the ‘Open’ class. KTM (555 laps) entered their first endurance race and finished……..in last place."