20. The rotary engines' roar echoed in the darkness
Soon after 11 p.m., with the race entering the middle stages, the sky grew pitch black. The three Mercedes were still leading and their five-liter turbo power, stability and durability were looking unbeatable. However, in the middle of the night the No. 32 Sauber Mercedes dropped back, leaving the team with just two cars in front. Behind them, the battle for fourth place between the No. 55 Mazda and the previous year's champion Jaguar continued neck and neck for over eight hours. Shortly after 3 a.m., on lap 175, the Mazda pushed into third place ahead of the No. 35 Jaguar. It then proceeded to gradually pull away by around two seconds a lap. The other two Mazdas, cars 18 and 56, were also lapping well and creeping up the standings.