Peugeot takes front row in Monza qualifying

The new Peugeot works team clinched both spots on the front row of the starting grid at Monza, the first race of the 2007 Le Mans Series. The new diesel-powered LM P1 Le Mans challengers may have looked beatable in the practice sessions, but in ...

The new Peugeot works team clinched both spots on the front row of the starting grid at Monza, the first race of the 2007 Le Mans Series. The new diesel-powered LM P1 Le Mans challengers may have looked beatable in the practice sessions, but in qualifying they really were in a class of their own.

Sportscar specialist Nicolas Minassian set the fastest time in the #7 Peugeot 908 Hdi, setting a time of 1:34.503 to claim his second pole position at the famed Italian track. The Frenchman will share the drive in tomorrow's race with Formula One veteran Marc Gene.

"This happens at Monza," Minassian said. "It happened last time when I was on pole position in the Creation. Until this afternoon we had worked on the race set-up, and this was the first time I really tried to get a perfect lap."

Stephane Sarrazin was close, but could not quite match his teammate's single-lap performance, with a gap of 0.177 to the pole position. Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy, another former F1 driver, will, then, start on the outside of the first row.

19-year-old Jan Charouz had looked a threat to the works Peugeots, having topped the timesheets in two of the three practice sessions, but when the pole position was on the line, he found the Peugeots to be out of reach. Still, he took the third spot overall in his Lola B07/17-Judd in an impressive debut for the Charouz Racing System team. Stefan Mucke, 25, will join Charouz tomorrow in a the chase for the Peugeots.

Pescarolo (fourth) and Courage (fifth and sixth) took the remaining LM P1 grid positions.

In the hotly contested LM P2 class -- with ten entries taking the green flag tomorrow afternoon -- Angel Burgeno snatched the class pole and tenth overall for the Quifel ASM Team in the Lola B05/40-AER with a time of 1:39.271, beating Michael Vergers' Zytek 07S by just 0.210 seconds.

Burgeno will be joined by Miguel Amaral and Miguel Angel de Castro for the race. Meanwhile, Vergers, driving for Barazi Epsilon, will be sharing driving duties with Karim Ojjeh and Juan Barazi.

Mike Newton took third in LM P2 for RML in an MG Lola EX264-AER, 0.665 seconds adrift of Vergers.

It was an even closer-fought battle for qualifying supremacy in LM GT1, with Team Oreca's Saleen S7-R, in the hands of Stephane Ortelli, edging out the Corvette C6.R of Luc Alphand Adventures. Ortelli had had a bad day on Friday, spinning his Saleen after a brake failure, though he managed to recover without damage to the car.

"The car is still not perfect," Ortelli said. "Friday was wasted and we spent Saturday morning trying to find a good set-up. I would say that the car could still be better."

Jerome Policand took second in class for Alphand with a time of 1:45.471, less than three hundredths of a second behind the Saleen. Alphand Adventures, too, had had a troubled first day, as the team's second car, a Corvette C5-R, caught fire when Vincent Vosse brought it in for refueling. Five mechanics suffered burns, two of them severe enough to require a hospital stay.

"The news is a little better today," said team principal Luc Alphand. "The burns are less severe than we feared and he can return to France within a week. My mechanics are very upset, but we decided to carry on, and Jerome rewarded us with the second fastest qualifying time in our new C6.R, only three-hundredths from pole position."

Aston Martin had to settle for third on the class grid, then, with Antonio Garcia putting Team Modena's DBR9 in 22nd overall, four tenths behind the times set by Ortelli and Policand.

In LM GT2, it is Richard Lietz on pole position for Imsa Performance's brand-new Porsche 997 GT3 RSR. Lietz admitted that he was the beneficiary of some fortuitous timing, having received an aerdynamic assist from one of the GT1 competitors.

"I thought my tyres had gone and I wouldn't get the fastest time," Lietz recounted the dramatic end of the session. "But then I got a tow from an Aston Martin and followed it for the entire lap."

Farnbacher Racing's 997 GT3 RSR was hot on Lietz's heels, three tenths off the pace at the end of the qualifying session -- but without the advantage of the tow Lietz received.

Two Ferrari F430 GTs follow, with Fabrizio de Simone taking fourth in class for GPC Sport and Alex Caffi having to settle for fourth in the Scuderia Villorba entry.

The 46-car field will take the green flag for the 1000-km, 173-lap race at 1 PM CET tomorrow.

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Antonio Garcia , Nicolas Minassian , Marc Gene , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Michael Vergers , Vincent Vosse , Stéphane Ortelli , Luc Alphand , Alex Caffi , Mike Newton , Jérome Policand , Fabrizio de Simone , Miguel Amaral , Juan Barazi , Karim Ojjeh , Stefan Mücke , Jan Charouz , Richard Lietz