High downforce brings the pole to Peugeot at Spa

High downforce brings the pole to Peugeot at Spa

By setting a new lap record in the qualifying for the 1000 km Spa, Sebastien Bourdais scored the pole position for Team Peugeot Total. The French team improved the previous lap record -- from 2008 -- by almost two tenths of a second and were more...

By setting a new lap record in the qualifying for the 1000 km Spa, Sebastien Bourdais scored the pole position for Team Peugeot Total. The French team improved the previous lap record -- from 2008 -- by almost two tenths of a second and were more than half a second faster than the Audi Sport North America car, driven by Timo Bernhard.

#3 Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 HDi-FAP: Pedro Lamy, S?bastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

With Audi using the low-downforce Le Mans aero configuration, it was expected that Peugeot would be the primary candidate for pole position. But against all expectations Bernhard paced the Audi to the fastest lap time driven at that moment. Halfway during the session, Bourdais got a clean lap and lapped the 7.004 km track in 1:57.884. This proved to be good enough for pole position.

"I was able to put together a nice, clean lap," Bourdais explained. "I wasn't really sure what to expect in qualifying, but everything worked out pretty well. Hopefully this is a preview of what will follow tomorrow."

Even though Audi was running the Le Mans aero configuration, the other Peugeots weren't able to beat the top Audi. Eventually Bernhard would be a second faster than the other two Peugeots and the Audi sister cars on the third row.

"I'm quite satisfied with my qualifying," Bernhard said. "This is only our second race with this car and with the rain we had yesterday and the high competition, having a spot on the front row is a nice result."

Behind the Peugeot/Audi front row, the second row will be all-Peugeot affair with Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Nicolas Minassian in third position and the Team Oreca MatMut Peugeot in the fourth spot. The Peugeot with start number 1 ended up in seventh spot and was the slowest diesel. The 008 Lola Aston Martin will be the highest ranked non-diesel car in eighth place.

Early in the LM P1/P2 session Tom Kristensen collided with Danny Watts, while overtaking the HPD ARX-01c in La Source. It clearly didn't slow either of the cars down, as proven by Watts who drove his car one lap later to provisional P2 pole. Watts was at that moment four seconds faster than any other P2 car and would eventually keep a 2.5-second gap on his closest contender.

"I had two exciting laps early in the session," Watts said after scoring his second pole of the season. "First I got hit in La Source by my 'good friend' Tom Kristensen, and one lap later I had a clear lap and set the fastest time."

Belgian reigning Formula Le Mans champion Nico Verdonck drove his Hope Polevision Racing entry to the Formula Le Mans pole, in spite of the fact that Verdonck was asked only a couple of days before the Spa 1000 km to drive the car.

#9 Audi Sport North America Audi R15 TDI: Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Mike Rockenfeller.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Local favorite Bas Leinders gave the fans on the grand stands something to cheer for by setting the fastest LM GT1 time with his Ford GT. The 34-year-old driver impressed many by driving a fastest lap that would be more than a second faster than the second GT1 car, the Matech Competition Ford GT car driven by Thomas Mutsch. Leinders' pole is the first Ford GT GT1 pole in Le Mans Series history.

"I was really surprised by the grip of the tires," explains Leinders, who usually competes in the GT1 World Championship. "The tires also seem to suit our car very well, it's almost like I'm back driving single seaters again! Of course being on pole is pretty good."

The competition seems to be the closest in LM GT2. Jaime Melo drove his Ferrari F430 GT to the GT2 pole, but had only a one tenth of a second gap on the Team Felbermayr Proton Porsche of Marc Lieb.

"It's indeed very close in GT2," Melo said. "It's nice to be in front of Porsche, since this track suits them very well and they've got more speed on the straights. My car can still be improved for tomorrow, but I'm satisfied to be on pole."

The GT qualifying had to be red-flagged for about seven minutes after fourteen minutes because of a bizarre accident. Swiss driver Rahal Frey spun her car in Fagnes and ended backwards with two wheels on the tire barrier. Except from a damaged rear wing and some left side damage, the Ford GT had relatively only minor damage, but race control had to pause the session to get the car removed.

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Tom Kristensen , Franck Montagny , Nicolas Minassian , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Sébastien Bourdais , Jaime Melo , Timo Bernhard , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Eric Gilbert , Mike Rockenfeller , Bas Leinders , Nico Verdonck , Simon Pagenaud , Thomas Mutsch , Danny Watts
Teams Team Felbermayr