Spa: Series qualifying report

Sarrazin breaks two-minute barrier to demote McNish Peugeot and Audi will share the front row for the third race of the 2008 Le Mans Series, the Spa 1000kms after a record-breaking qualifying session. Stephane Sarrazin set a time of 1m58.069 to...

Sarrazin breaks two-minute barrier to demote McNish

Peugeot and Audi will share the front row for the third race of the 2008 Le Mans Series, the Spa 1000kms after a record-breaking qualifying session. Stephane Sarrazin set a time of 1m58.069 to head Allan McNish, who was second fastest for Audi. Peugeot's Marc Gene will share the second row with Mike Rockenfeller.

In high afternoon temperatures, expected to continue for tomorrow's race, Jos Verstappen again set the pole position in the LM P2 category, heading the Lola Coupe of Andrea Belicchi.

In GT1, fresh from his victory at Monza two weeks ago, Antonio Garcia waited until late in the session to set fastest time for the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9. Ferrari again held sway in GT2, Gianmaria Bruni setting pole in the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari, narrowly edging out the Porsche of Marc Lieb.

Action can be followed on the internet by logging onto www.radiolemans.com, and the live timing and scoring, as well as pit notes, on the Le Mans Series website, www.lemans-series.com.

Sarrazin magic demotes McNish Peugeot will start the Spa 1000kms from pole position after a fantastic qualifying effort from Stephane Sarrazin in the final minutes of a dramatic qualifying session.

The Frenchman was forced to wait until late in the session to set pole position in his Peugeot 908 HDi FAP after two red flags caused by accidents.

The first of those was caused by Jean de Pourtales, who crashed the Kruse Schiller Motorsport Lola Mazda. Pourtales was unhurt, but the accident caused heavy front-end damage.

Shortly afterwards it was the turn of Olivier Pla to crash the Quifel-ASM team Lola. The accident caused heavy damage to the right side of the Lola, and the LMP2 Porsche of Didier Theys was lucky not to also become involved in the accident.

McNish had set his best time early in the session, before the first red flag and so was able to sit out the rest of qualifying, saving the tyres on which he must start tomorrow's race. The Scotsman set a time of 1m58.705s, fastest in the opening section of qualifying ahead of his team-mate Mike Rockenfeller.

Following the two red flags, the clock was re-set to six minutes, long enough for Sarrazin to snatch pole position and Marc Gene to launch his own attack on the Audis. Though the Spaniard was able to better Rockenfeller's time, despite suffering from oversteer, he was eight-hundredths of a second slower than McNish and will line up on the second row.

The Lola Aston Martin was qualified by Stefan Mucke and the German, who will share the car with Czech driver Jan Charouz was demoted to fifth by the battling diesels.

Robbie Kerr managed only 11th fastest time in the Creation having gone off track in the final run to the flag.

Verstappen...again!

Jos Verstappen set his third successive pole position of the season in the Van Merksteijn Porsche RS Spyder, but he was disappointed with his lap time, which was just eight-hundredths of a second ahead of Andrea Belicchi's Speedy Racing team Lola Judd.

"I did a better lap this morning but we have completely lost the balance in the high speed corners," said the Dutchman.

Belicchi was delighted with second place after the team lost valuable track time in the morning practice session due to a number of stoppages.

Michael Vergers worked his way down to a 2m06.349s in qualifying, third fastest in the class, and 12th fastest overall in the Barazi Epsilon Zytek shared with Juan Barazi and Fernando Rees. Didier Theys was lucky not to become involved in Pla's accident, collecting a cockpit full of carbon fibre from the crashed Lola as he passed the scene of the accident on his way to fourth in class. The Team Essex Porsche of Casper Elgaard headed the time sheets early on, but finished the session eighth fastest in class.

Garcia continues form

Antonio Garcia picked up where the Team Modena left off in Monza when the Spaniard set pole position time in the Aston Martin DBR9, ahead of the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6R of Guillaume Moreau.

The team had worked late into the night on Friday fixing a gearbox problem that had prevented it from taking part in the second practice session on Friday. The car returned to the top of the time sheets on Saturday morning ahead of qualifying, and Garcia put in a fantastic performance to set class pole.

The two cars had fought a mighty battle in Italy and did so again in in Belgium, Garcia waiting until late in the session to demote the Corvette. Peter Kox set third fastest time in the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini, benefiting from improved Michelin tyres.

Sebastien Dumez was fourth fastest in the second Luc Alphand car, while Peter Hardman was fifth fastest in the Strakka Racing Aston Martin which is making its debut in the series this weekend. Nick Leventis is the second driver in the car.

Bruni and Lieb head GT2

Gianmaria Bruni continued to head the "LM" GT2 category in the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari 430 GT. After winning in Barcelona, the team's title hopes went up in smoke in Monza with a succession of punctures which destroyed the rear of the car.

The Italian beat the Team Felbermayr Proton Porsche of Marc Lieb, who will share with Alex Davison, by little more than a tenth of a second.

Pierre Kaffer went out late in the session and set third fastest time in the Farnbacher Racing Ferrari that he will share with Pierre Ehret.

The German went off on his fastest lap which he believed would have put him closer to the Team Felbermayr Porsche ahead of him on the grid. "This morning the car was perfect, but we made a change for qualifying and it was not the right way to go," said the German.

Richard Lietz set fourth fastest time in the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche shared with Raymond Narac, while Richard Westbrook was able to set fifth fastest time in the Farnbacher team's Porsche.

-credit: lemans-series.com

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Gianmaria Bruni , Antonio Garcia , Allan McNish , Didier Theys , Marc Gene , Stéphane Sarrazin , Michael Vergers , Peter Kox , Robbie Kerr , Pierre Ehret , Luc Alphand , Marc Lieb , Alex Davison , Olivier Pla , Mike Rockenfeller , Sebastien Dumez , Pierre Kaffer , Casper Elgaard , Juan Barazi , Stefan Mücke , Raymond Narac , Peter Hardman , Jan Charouz , Guillaume Moreau , Richard Westbrook , Richard Lietz , Andrea Belicchi , Nick Leventis
Teams IMSA Performance Matmut , Strakka Racing , Team Felbermayr