Andretti Team Leads at Le Mans
LE MANS, France (AP) _ Mario Andretti’s Panoz car led the Le Mans 24-hour race after a disrupted first hour, much of which saw racers trailing the safety car.
David Brabham, sharing the Panoz car with Andretti and Jan Magnussen, held a lead of 3.207 seconds over the Audi trio of Laurent Aiello, Stephane Ortelli and Allan McNish, who won the race for Porsche in 1998.
Michele Alboreto (5.39 seconds behind) and Franck Biela (9.27) were next, both in Audis.
The silver Audis, which dominated qualifying following the withdrawal of last year’s winner, BMW, took the first three places as the race got under way on a sweltering afternoon.
But Brabham moved into the lead while a safety car was on the track for more than 40 minutes after a fire in a Dams Cadillac car sent smoke billowing across the track.
The first car out of the race was the Reynard of France’s Yannick Dalmas, a member of last year’s winning BMW team and a four-time champion. His car had an engine problem on the first lap.
Andretti, 60, is racing at Le Mans for the first time since 1997. He won the 1978 Formula One world championship and four CART Indy-car titles. His resume includes victories at the 1967 Daytona 500 and the 1969 Indianapolis 500.
But he has come up short seven times at Le Mans, including a second-place finish in 1995.
This year’s race on the 8.456-mile track features 38 drivers who are new to Le Mans.