Ingolstadt/Le Mans, June 21, 2013 For the first time in the 90-year history of the Le Mans 24 Hours, two hybrid race cars are on the front row. On Thursday night, Audi Sport Team Joest with its three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars took the three best grid positions for the worlds most important endurance race.
The squad of the number 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro decided the battle for the top spot on the grid in its favor. The fastest time of 3m 22.349s (242.5 km/h), which Loïc Duval had achieved right at the beginning of the first qualifying session on Wednesday night, remained unbeaten on Thursday.
For the 31-year-old Frenchman, who is running together with Le Mans record winner Tom Kristensen (Denmark) and Allan McNish (Scotland), this marks the first pole position at Le Mans, and the eighth for Audi. And as in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2012, the brand with the four rings secured the complete front row on the grid.
Starting the race from position two on Saturday will be the number 1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of last years winners Marcel Fässler (Switzerland), André Lotterer (Germany) and Benoît Tréluyer (France).
André Lotterer was one of the few drivers who in the final qualifying session on Thursday night managed to improve over the day before on a track that was just slowly drying after rain showers and, by setting a time of 3m 23.696s, advanced from third to second place.
Le Mans newcomer Lucas di Grassi (Brazil), Marc Gené (Spain) and Oliver Jarvis (Great Britain) in the number 3 Audi R18 e-tron quattro secured third place. The fastest lap of this squad (3m 24.341s) was driven on Wednesday by the seasoned campaigner Marc Gené.
As on the day before, incidents caused several red flags and shortened the time available for qualifying. Despite the few dry laps all three Audi teams managed to optimize the set-up of the three Audi R18 e-tron quattro cars on Thursday night for the race.
Before the race starts at 15:00, CEST, on Saturday another 45 minutes of practice time will be available in the mornings warm-up session. 27 channels will broadcast the race live or delayed-as-live, including Eurosport in Europe.
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): This is a nice way to start the weekend. Especially as all three cars set their fastest times during the normal preparation for the race. This is what we concentrated on in all the practice sessions so that all the drivers would be one-hundred-percent happy with the car. The first three positions on the grid are a nice reward for the whole team but, as always at Le Mans, not really crucial.
Chris Reinke (Head of LMP): The result looks pretty commanding and is a nice confirmation for the team. But were here to win the race, not the qualifying session. Tomorrow, were going to tackle the day with concentration and motivation in order to clarify the final details for the race.
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): Today, the conditions were even a bit more chaotic than yesterday. Rain kept setting in and there were interruptions. We managed to make another step after wed prepared the cars from scratch again overnight. All three driver teams are happier with the cars balance than they were yesterday. Theyre saying that theyve got a good race car. Thats the most important thing because at Le Mans the qualifying result doesnt mean very much.
Loïc Duval (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): Yesterdays lap time was enough to defend the pole position. Thats why we scored a Championship point that may be decisive at the end of the year. Its always better to start from the pole position even though that doesnt really mean a lot at such a long race. Still, were happy about the top spot on the grid.
Yesterday, we werent completely satisfied with the balance of our cars yet, but today the set-up was much better. As the track at the end was faster today than it was yesterday I was a bit worried that we might still lose the pole position. But in the end, we made it. Everything went according to plan. Thats why were very happy with the result.
Tom Kristensen (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): One, two, three, thats a dream result for Audi just as wed been hoping for. After Loïcs (Duval) dream lap yesterday we fully concentrated on the set-up for the race tonight. Were all very happy with our car. But were still going to get together with the guys from the team and from Audi Sport to be really perfectly prepared. To stand our ground against the competition, we need a car that we can drive hard and fast for 24 hours.
Allan McNish (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #2): Congratulations to everybody at Audi Sport. Weve spent a few rough weeks to prepare for this race. But we couldnt have been off to a better start than on grid positions one, two and three. Were on the top spot ourselves and have found a good balance in racing conditions for our car.
On Wednesday, Loïc (Duval) managed setting a very impressive time on a pretty dirty track that has made him enter the history books. Tom (Kristensen) and I felt very comfortable in the car as well tonight. Were well set but, as always, these are very long 24 hours.
Marcel Fässler (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): Congratulations to our sister car on clinching the pole position. André (Lotterer) recovered a place tonight and put our car on the front row that makes me very happy. I finally got to drive myself as well today and was able to prepare for the race in different conditions.
André Lotterer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): A brilliant result for the whole team. Im personally very pleased too because we improved by another position. But more important was the fact that our Audi felt quite a bit better than yesterday. I didnt expect us to have such a speed even on used tires. Wed saved the new ones for Ben (Tréluyer) because we were hoping for the track to dry off some more. Our second place is a superb starting base for the race.
Benoît Tréluyer (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #1): Naturally, wed have liked clinching the pole position but we didnt have a clear lap at the end. We drove very fast intermediate times, so I think that we could have made it. Loïc (Duval), however, was struggling with traffic at the end and could have improved some more as well. But thats part of motorsport. The whole team did a great job. Its a brilliant result for Audi, but from now on, weve got to concentrate on the race.
Lucas di Grassi (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): All in all, it was a good qualifying session, even though there was more potential for our car at the end. I had a best time in the first sector at the end and was also running really well in the middle sector but in the final sector I got stuck in traffic. Having three cars at the front is a very good starting base for Audi but we all know that the race is very long.
Marc Gené (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): In the third qualifying session I was only able to do one lap, but that one was in the dark. Today, Lucas (di Grassi) showed that our car is fast, as I did yesterday. We feel well set for the race.
Oliver Jarvis (Audi R18 e-tron quattro #3): What we can say after qualifying is that weve got a very good car. We were running fast even on used tires. On new tires and a clear lap even the pole position might have been possible, so were starting the race with confidence.