Spa: Michelin qualifying report

Six hundredths of a second in it as Peugeot/Michelin claim pole at Spa! The dying minutes of today's qualifying session in Belgium saw Stephane Sarrazin step in to topple Scotland's Allan McNish (Audi R10 Tdi/Michelin) from the top of the ...

Six hundredths of a second in it as Peugeot/Michelin claim pole at Spa!

The dying minutes of today's qualifying session in Belgium saw Stephane Sarrazin step in to topple Scotland's Allan McNish (Audi R10 Tdi/Michelin) from the top of the timesheets and secure pole position with the N8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Michelin's partners were quickest at the legendary circuit of Spa-Francorchamps in the LMP2 category, too, thanks to former F1 driver Jos Verstappen (Porsche RS Spyder), while the Team Modena-run Aston Martin/Michelin was fastest in GT1.

Before today, no Audi R10 TDi had succeeded in qualifying either on pole or on the front row since the start of the 2008 LMS campaign. After posting the fastest lap early in this afternoon's session, however, Allan McNish must have thought he would finally have the honour of starting the 1,000km de Spa, round three of the 2008 Le Mans Series, from the front of the grid.

Step hane Sarrazin deprived the Scot of that privilege, however, at the very end of the session which was twice interrupted by red flag incidents. The N8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP of Sarrazin/Lamy/Wurz will consequently head the field away on Sunday afternoon, while the N7 Peugeot of Gene/Minassian/Villeneuve (third fastest today) will start ahead of the Audi R10 TDi of Premat/Rockenffeler.

Matthieu Bonardel, Director of Four-wheel Competition

"Over the past two days, we have been faced with constantly changing track conditions with differing levels of grip, and that hasn't helped tyre choices. On top of that, the sessions were frequently interrupted so we weren't able to make any rigorous comparisons between the different tyre solutions available here in Belgium, although we did succeed in identifying suitable options for all the different categories.

"The weather has been unusually warm for Spa, with ground temperatures of more than 37 C, which is hotter than we saw at Monza. That could have compromised the chances of running with the soft compound, but in the end it worked very well.

"The medium compound which wasn't really considered to begin with given that Spa is a low grip circuit performed well, too, because the hot weather helped it climb to its ideal working temperature. We consequently find ourselves in a situation where the low-grip surface makes the soft tyre a possibility, while the high temperatures help the performance of our medium compound option.

"Compared with Monza, Spa is harder on the front tyres and much easier on the rears. The latter have a tendency to slide a lot, while the front tyres quickly climb in temperature and we tend to see a drop-off in performance.

"To sum up, certain teams tried the bold choice of soft tyres, which is to say they favoured grip and performance, while others went for what might be termed the 'reasonable' alternative of the more consistent medium compound. The latter is more suited to double stinting during the race which promises to take place in hot weather."

Stephane Sarrazin, driver Peugeot Sport:

How has your tyre testing gone this weekend?

"As usual, several options were available and we tried to find the best compromise for qualifying and the race. Fabrice, the Michelin engineer who works with our team, has a very good understanding of our car and of what we need. We go through the data together throughout the weekend. The way we function enables him to advise us on the best choice."

Have this weekend's unexpectedly high temperatures affected your tyre strategy in any way?

"It's true that it's hot and that's something we're not accustomed to seeing at Spa, but Michelin's range performs very well even in this heat. We will see how we fine-tune our strategy in tyre terms as a function of the weather and how the track evolves during tomorrow's race."

-credit: michelin

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Allan McNish , Stéphane Sarrazin