By Mikko Jalonen (Mixa) - Le Mans Series correspondent
- Rebellion earns season opener pole
- Aston Martin AMR-One struggles
- Porsche vs Ferrari GTE battle continues
LMP1: Jani puts Rebellion Racing to the pole position, Aston Martin in trouble
After the first qualifying session of the 2011 Le Mans Series, it was Neel Jani at the wheel of #12 Rebellion Racing Lola B10/60 Coupe-Toyota who posted the fastest time at 1.46.783 in the 20 minute qualifying session. On the Paul Ricard circuit, Jani took the pole on the last lap of the session and therefore gained Rebellion Racing its first pole of the season.
This is a good start for the 2011 season.
"This is a good start for the 2011 season," said Jani. "We changed a lot about the car since last season. The Toyota engine is a very strong addition to our new technical package. We now have 6 hours of racing to be done to know if the set-up choices we have made turn out to be good. There is not much lap-time difference between the cars, it will be a highly contested race."
The fight throughout the session for the pole and for the other front row position was very hard but in the end it was the Pescarolo Team of Emmanuel Collard/Christophe Tinseau/Julien Jousse who narrowly beat the Quifel-ASM Team of Olivier Pla/Miguel Amaral by 0.206 for the other front row position on the grid. Rebellion Racing's #13 driven by Jean Christophe Boullion were 4th fastest.
The story of the LMP1 qualifying was the slow pace of Aston Martin Racing and their all new AMR-One on Friday and again today. Earlier there were speculations during the practise sessions that Aston Martin does not probably want to reveal their speed yet but the qualifying told another story when Stefan Mucke was only able to post 11th fastest time overall, eventually beaten by most of the LMP2 cars even. Still we have to remember that the car is pretty new but it's a sure thing that the result is far from the result the team were hoping for the qualifying.
"We are learning about the car now, and we made a couple of changes between free practice and qualifying. We now know how the car is reacting and it's another step in our learning curve," explained qualifier Mucke. "I am quite optimistic that we will find more steps forward tomorrow; a lot of work to do but we are definitely heading in the right direction."
LMP2: Nissan boots the top 3 qualifiers, Beche puts TDS Racing for pole
When the 20 minute qualifying session was over, the top 3 of the LMP2s were all powered by the Nissan engines led by TDS Racing and Boutsen Energy Racing (Dominik Kreihamer/Nicolas De Crem) with their Oreca 03s . TDS Racing with drivers, Matthias Beche/Pierre Thiriet/Jody Firth seem to be enjoying for the track. In the end they on top of the LMP2 timesheets, the same as a few weeks ago at the official test day and have been very strong in all the sessions so far.
While the Oreca 03s seems to be a very strong car (three out of four fastest cars in the qualifying session), the HPD powered ARX-01s along with early favourites Strakka Racing and the multiple race winners RML must be wondering what they need to do in order to turn their cars again into being on top of the timesheets. The slow time of Strakka Racing in the hands of Danny Watts and RML ran in qualifying actually meant that these two LMP2 giants ended up being the slowest LMP2 cars around the track. It's pretty obvious that the new LMP2 regulations are part of the poor result but it will remain to be seen how many points these two giants will be able to get after the 6 hours of Le Castellet race. In the end, every point will be very valuable.
Formula FLM: Hope Polevision Racing manages to edge Genoa Racing for pole
For the Formula Le Mans class, Hope Polevision Racing and driver Nicolas Marroc managed to beat slightly the favourites, Genoa Racing from the United States. It proved that the competition also in Europe for the class is at a very high level in LMS which could mean that Genoa Racing taking the championship won't just be a walk in the park. Also Neil Garner Motorsport was mixing in the results early in the session but in the end, they had to settle for 3rd spot on the grid in the class. Tomorrow's race is expected to be very close for FLM cars and as some of the FLM cars were so close to slowest LMP2 cars, them are surely also looking a change to make fools of some of the LMP2 teams.
LM GTE: Ferrari and AF Corse take the advantage against Porsche and Aston Martin
It was the LM GTE cars that took to the track for qualifying before the prototypes and in the end of the LM GTE Pro it was Gianmaria Bruni -- Giancarlo Fisichella's team-mate -- who taken the pole in the AF Corse-entered Ferrari F458 Italia with a lap of 1.58.522. The other spot at the front grid was not as surprisingly fast, Aston Martin Vantage in the hands of Tomas Enge. Despite Enge's superb time, it was still the day of the Ferraris and a shocking day for Porsche. The best Porsche 911 RSR in hands of Prospeed competition (Marco Holzer/Marc Goossens) managed to take just the 6th spot on the LM GTE grid in what is a huge shock considering the expectations.
In LM GTE AM, it was instead the Porsches who were in control of the fastest times with the IMSA Performance Matmut team of Nicolas Armindo/Raymond Narac. Actually Armindo's fastest qualifying lap was so impressive that he managed to beat three LM GTE-Pro entries. Two of the Porsche favourites including the IMSA Performance Matmut's main team, along with Team Felbermayr Proton ended one, two with ahead of the AF Corse Ferrari.
the race will start Sunday at 12.00pm and will end at 6:00pm local time in France.