LE MANS, FRANCE (June 19, 2013) – Collectively this year, a biggest-ever contingent of 33 drivers is representing the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrón and GRAND-AM Road Racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Optimism is high. Podiums on Sunday afternoon are envisioned if not, in some cases, expected.
On Wednesday night however, circumstances crippled the weekend’s opening qualifying session, with an early-session accident causing a red flag and eventual premature stoppage. Few teams were able to show their hand.
Qualifying was more of the same at the top with Duval leading the field of 56. The two-hour evening session was red-flagged early and then shortened by 16 minutes because of a Mulsanne Straight crash by Pierre Thiriet in an LMP2 entry, which resulted in an extensive barrier repair. Duval’s provisional pole lap: 3:22.349 (150.68 mph/242.4 kph).
The best effort from the ALMS/GRAND-AM crowd was turned in by the No. 12 Toyota/Lola of Rebellion Racing that has ALMS regulars Nick Heidfield and Neel Jani teamed with Nicolas Prost. A second-lap clocking of 3:30.841 put the No. 12 fifth in LMP1.
The sole all-American driving lineup in this year’s race, courtesy of the ALMS and GRAND-AM – Patrick Dempsey, Patrick Long and Joe Foster – qualified seventh in the LMGTE Am class – and 45th overall.
The large driver contingent from the ALMS and the GRAND-AM is serendipitous, as it underscores the burgeoning interest in the ongoing merger of the two entities. Next year the ALMS and the Rolex Series will combine into the new United SportsCar Racing series. On Thursday, the two current series’ founders – Don Panoz and Jim France – will be joined at a special press conference by Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO). Jim France will be presented with the French flag he’ll wave to start Saturday’s 90th anniversary running of Le Mans.