La Sarthe Circuit, Le Mans, France - 14th June 2002: The Judd-powered Ascari KZR1 of Werner Lupberger, Ben Collins and American TJ Bell will line up 14th on the grid for the 70th edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend. South African Lupberger improved the qualifying time from Wednesday by more than a second during Thursday's two two-hour sessions, setting a best of 3m37.825s before leaving Bell to learn the car and the track, and Collins to work on race set-up in preparation for Saturday's race.
A fresh Judd V10 engine had been fitted overnight and the British team - based in Banbury, England - will fit another, and a new gearbox, in preparation for the race. Thursday's sessions were spent concentrating on setting up the car, and was delayed only by a clutch problem.
Werner Lupberger, Driver, Team Ascari:
"The car was good for a 3m36s or a low 3m37s, but there was a Ferrari that crashed in the Porsche Curves, and there was gravel all over the place. That lost the first good lap of the tyres, they were a qualifying set. I tried a second lap, but they are not really good enough for two laps, so that is why we only did a 3m37.8s. We are happy to have out-qualified some of the factory competition, and be the highest placed LMP900 on non-Michelin tyres. The new transmission assembly we have been running has been working very well but has needed set-up work as we have never run it at Le Mans before. We had a strong overall performance, with TJ and Ben also posting good times." Bell continued to learn the circuit with laps during the night sessions. The American first joined the team at the Daytona 24 hours in January, but this is the first time that he has been to Le Mans.
Ben Collins, Driver, Team Ascari:
"I am happy with the balance of the car after initial work on Wednesday, and feel we have a very good race package. Werner didn't get two clear laps on qualifying tyres but it is always difficult at Le Mans. TJ has also done a very good job, especially considering his only laps around here have been in the dark!"
Ian Dawson, Race Director, Team Ascari:
"I was very pleased with the teams performance, bearing in mind we had to do more work with our three drivers on optimising the new chassis components. The performance level of the car has increased and Werner was able to use the Dunlop softer qualifying tyre of the first time here at Le Mans with good effect but, like so many situations, getting a clear lap here is most important. Werner, Ben and TJ have completed a good balance in lap times between them and I feel the car, in race set-up, is capable of achieving a strong top six finish." The 70th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans commences at 4pm (local time) on Saturday 15th June.