Braselton, Georgia - The ...
Braselton, Georgia - The #18 VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will start the 11th Petit Le Mans tomorrow morning from the sixth row of the grid after a very solid qualifying session this afternoon when the team's focus was firmly on final preparations for the challenge of one of the world's most demanding endurance races. Marc Basseng, who will be joined in the cockpit of the #18 car tomorrow by Nicky and Francesco Pastorelli, was entrusted with qualifying duties this afternoon and his best lap of 1:21.876 (111.681 mph) was enough to put give the team a steady springboard into the tough 10- hour/1,000-mile race at the Road Atlanta when the green flag is waved at 11:15 AM tomorrow morning.
Today's (Friday, Oct 3rd) track action here was scheduled to start off with an hour long practice session (9:05-10:05 AM) well before the 25-minute qualifying session, reserved for the GT1 and GT2 entrants, got underway in the mid-afternoon (3:25-3:50 PM).
The air temperature was 55 degrees and the track temperature was 60 degrees as the ALMS cars from all four classes took the green flag at 9:14 AM for the start of the slightly delayed morning practice session, which would now be truncated in order to fit into its 10:05 AM finish time. Francesco was the first driver in the cockpit of the #18 car as the youngster bid to learn more about the track. With no further practice sessions before this afternoon's 25 minute qualifying session the morning session would be a vital final opportunity for all the teams to finalize their qualifying set- ups.
The morning session would, unfortunately, follow the pattern of yesterday morning's practice, and be blighted by a rash of waved red flags. In fact with just a minute on the clock the #48 Zytek prototype was involved in an accident and the red flags waved for the first, but not the last time, sending Francesco diving into the pits. At 9:17 AM the 2.54-mile, 12-turn permanent road course went to full green conditions again, and the 21-year- old Dutchman powered the #18 car back onto the track. At 9.22 AM the course went to red flag again, going back to green four minutes later. Barely had Francesco rejoined the track and at 9:29 AM the #15 P2 Acura went off into the gravel at Turn 10A and the red flags fluttered once more. At 9:32 AM the circuit returned to green, and finally Francesco managed to turn in back-to-back flying laps; both were impressive, especially so as Francesco hasn't been here before this week: a 1:25.059 (22 mins) and a 1:23:770, squeezed in before the reds came out again at 9:38 AM as several cars got mixed up in an incident. Francesco pitted and handed over to brother Nicky, and almost 10 minutes passed by before the stricken cars were cleared from the track and the Dutch former F1 test driver took the red, white and black car back onto the track. At 9:51 AM the track went to green again and that was to be the last caution period. Nicky got some steady laps in as the team checked it set-up ahead of this afternoon's qualifying run. The 25- year-old Dutchman posted a 1:24.168 (41 mins), 1:23.164 (42), 1:23.510 (44), 1:24.604 (45), 1:23.158 (46), 1:23.262 (48), 1:23.555 (49) and finally 1:25.520 (51) as the session drew to a close. Nicky's lap of 1:23.158 (109.959 mph), set on lap 11 of the 15 that the #18 car ran, was the best that the two brothers posted during the session.
Marc Basseng was handed the job of qualifying the #18 car during the 25- minute session which got underway on time at 3:25 PM. His first flying lap after 4 mins was a 1:29.234, and the experienced German followed this up with a 1:24.593 (5), 1:22.001 (6) and a 1:22.052 before he dived into the pits after 9 mins. A quick splash of fuel later and Marc was back out after 11 mins, turning in a 1:21.876 (14), 1:22.360 (15) and finally a 1:22.115 (17) before coming in on 18 mins to conclude our participation in the session. His best lap of 1:21.876 (111.681 mph) on the seventh of ten laps was good enough for 12th position in GT2 and a solid platform for the team to build upon.
Race day tomorrow (Saturday Oct 4th) will get underway away bright and early with a 25-minute warm up session (8:15-8:40 AM) before the 10 hour or 1,000 mile (whichever comes first) Petit Le Mans, the 11th round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series goes to green flag conditions at 11:15 AM.
Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: "I'm reasonably happy with where we are now. We can focus on the race and I think we have a good set- up. I'm pleased that we have no bumps on the car, no alien paint, and after some of our recent races it's good that we can look to routine preparations. I'm happy with efforts of the team this week, the crew have pulled very hard, and the drivers all look quick and comfortable on this circuit. Let's hope that we can demonstrate our full potential tomorrow and have a fast, safe race."
Jason Myers, Motorsports Development Director, Kumho Tires: "I can't wait for the race to get underway tomorrow, I think we are ready to go. The tires have performed well this week, although we have had less track time than we expected. The tires were good in the night practice where we got more running done and we were able to settle on a race compound yesterday as the direction we needed to go was very clear. Roland has got a good set- up in place, the drivers all seem to be quick on the track, so I think we are in a good position."
Marc Basseng (Germany): "We've got a pretty good car here, the car and the tires seem to suit this track. I would have liked to be a bit faster in qualifying and I don't think we fully unlocked the potential we had, but the focus was on getting a good setup for the race and I think we have this now. The RSR handles well here and Roland [Wall] has got a decent setup, it's quite stable and it's grippy out there. My team mates are both quick and I'm looking forward to the race, it's going to be tough out there so we have to be fast but we need to be careful. The biggest problem with this being a shorter circuit will be the speed the prototypes close at, I'ts hard to judge the closing distance, and this will be bigger as it goes dark, as we saw in night practice yesterday."
Francesco Pastorelli (Netherlands): "I'm excited to be here and I can't wait for the race to start tomorrow. To be racing at Petit Le Mans is great; the whole year in ALMS has been a good experience. This is one of the biggest sports car races in the world; it's an honour to be on the grid. Once again here I've been unlucky with red flags today and yesterday, it seems to be the story of my year, but I like this track a lot. It's quick, it's fun for the driver and reasonably easy to learn, it's mostly a case of a couple of laps to learn where the blind crests go. As usual it's great to be racing with my brother, we are very similar and his experience helps me; Marc too is quick and knows the RSR very well, so we have a strong combination. I now hope to help the team towards a decent result."