Davidson leads Peugeot assault on Petit pole

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Davidson leads Peugeot assault on Petit pole

Anthony Davidson spearheaded a Peugeot attack for the Petit Le Mans pole position, leading a front-row lock from the French works team for tomorrow's American Le Mans Series race. ...

Anthony Davidson spearheaded a Peugeot attack for the Petit Le Mans pole position, leading a front-row lock from the French works team for tomorrow's American Le Mans Series race.

#07 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDI FAP: Marc Gene, Alexander Wurz, Anthony Davidson.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Davidson, who will be sharing the driving duties with Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz, lapped the classic Road Atlanta road course in a time of just 1:07.187 in the #07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, two tenths faster than Pedro Lamy in the sister #08 car.

"My aim today is to qualify inside the top-four because it promises to be a crazy race tomorrow," Davidson said midway through qualifying. "The session isn't over yet. Let's wait before celebrating!"

But Davidson could in fact have broken the champagne out already: no one besides Lamy could get even close to his pole position time, and the team decided to conserve tires rather than going out for a second qualifying run late in the session.

It was the second qualifying outing today for the Audi R15 Plus in its new high-downforce trim, but this time the German juggernaut could not match the Peugeots.

Benoit Treluyer set the fastest time for the team in the #9 car, but the time of 1:07.610 was still 0.201 seconds away from breaking into the front row of the grid. However, it was a credible performance for the 23-year-old, as he had never driven a Le Mans prototype in a qualifying session before today.

Rinaldo Capello qualified the second Audi, the #7, in fourth place, nearly a second off Davidson's pole-setting pace but still a comfortable two seconds in front of the first privateer entry, the Jon and Clint Field's Intersport Lola AER.

For the crew of the #7, the fourth place was a victory of sorts, as the front of the carbon fibre monocoque had been damaged in an incident in the closing minutes of the morning practice session. Capello had run wide in Turn 3, and the front left corner had been caught in the bumps.

#7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R15: Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

The team disassembled the entire car, replaced the monocoque and reassembled the car, all in the four and half hours remaining before qualifying.

"I've got to really congratulate the crew," said Capello. "To prepare such a heavily damaged car again in such a short time is really exceptional. It shows yet again why we've won so many races and championships with this team. These guys are simply great. Of course the car didn't have optimal balance in qualifying and was difficult to drive. The lap time I was able to drive under these conditions makes me optimistic for tomorrow."

Guy Smith claimed the LM P2 pole position in the Dyson Lola-Mazda, a scant 0.131 seconds in front of Klaus Graf in the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder. Smith will be teaming up with Chris Dyson and Anthony Meyrick for the race.

"This qualifying shows the progress we have made," Smith said. "Andy Meyrick got in the car this weekend and the first thing he commented on was how much the car has improved. We thought we could get pole position, but knew it was going to be close."

Luis Diaz claimed the LMP Challenge class pole for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports by a margin of 0.229 seconds.

In the always hard-fought LM GT2 category, it was another Risi Competizione battle for the class pole. In the end it was Jaime Melo showing off his raw speed in the #61 Ferrari F430 GT, beating out Gianmaria Bruni in the #62 sister car by 0.171 seconds.

"It's pretty warm today compared with yesterday or this morning's practice sessions," Melo explained. "I think the lap time is good considering the setup we have in the car is a race set up, not one for qualifying. We worked hard to find a good race set up and I have to say I was a bit surprised to be on pole."

#61 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT: Giancarlo Fisichella, Jaime Melo, Mika Salo.
Photo by Darren Pierson.

Bruni rued a setup change on the #62 car that had moved the handling in the wrong direction, but the car was still fast enough to take second in class.

The two Risi cars were just the first half of the Ferrari onslaught in LM GT2, as Guy Cosmo and Johannes van Overbeek qualified their Extreme Speed Motorsport F430s third and fourth in class, respectively, just 0.095 and 0.115 seconds behind Bruni.

The Porsche contingent had to satisfy themselves with seventh on the class grid, and hope for a stronger performance in the race, as the venerable 911 GT3s were beaten not only by the Ferraris, but also the Rahal Letterman Racing BMW M3 and the two works Corvettes.

The Porsche 911 GT3 Hybrid, driven by the this year's Le Mans 24H-winning trio of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller, did not take part in the qualifying and will start from the back of the grid. The experimental hybrid model does not fit into the existing ACO classifications and will be competing by special invitation and was the reason they sat out qualifying.

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