A frantic end to the first part of the opening qualifying session for Le Mans 24 Hours saw Bentley provisionally claim the top two places on the grid with Team Goh moving their Audi R8 into third place with a final lap effort. The top of the ...
A frantic end to the first part of the opening qualifying session for Le Mans 24 Hours saw Bentley provisionally claim the top two places on the grid with Team Goh moving their Audi R8 into third place with a final lap effort. The top of the timesheets was dominated by Bentley throughout the session and the times tumbled when the teams started on qualifying runs after they had spent much of the session doing set-up work.
The pair of Bentley Speed 8 cars took the advantage straight away at the start of the session and then went quicker still towards the end. The cars exchanged fastest laps with series of improvements over the first sixty minutes with Blundell ultimately going fastest with a 3m 35.321s lap. Kristensen edged away at his time over the next hour to narrow the gap to the lead car to just a quarter of a second
"That was not too bad," said a confident Kristensen. "The car is running well - there are no problems. It is looking very positive regarding qualifying". "It went okay. I think I got one pretty clear lap" said Herbert, whose only complaint was traffic.
Audi, meanwhile, concentrated on development, set-up work, driver familiarisation and worked methodically in several areas during the session. They even took time to carry out a simulated pit stop. The team was relatively slow getting under the 3m 40s barrier although Jan Magnussen set his team's fastest time on his last lap to move the Team Goh Audi R8 to a provisional third place with a 3m 37.739s lap.
Behind the leading manufacturers the competition was led by Jan Lammer's Racing for Holland Dome S101-Judd, Olivier Beretta's Team JML Team Panoz LMP-01 Evo and the Riley & Scott Racing MkIIC-Ford. Ultimately, however, it was the pair of Pescarolo Sport Courage--Peugeot C60s that surprised onlookers with Jean--Christophe Boullion and Eric Helary finishing sixth and tenth respectfully after a relatively quiet session.
Jan Lammers's session almost got off to the worst possible start when the Dome S101-Judd stopped on its out lap. Fortunately the car was returned to the pit lane within half an hour and Lammers responded superbly by putting his car in fourth place with a blistering 3m 40.782s lap to split the Audi R8. Half an hour later he improved this time by two seconds to jump ahead of the Audis and close in on the Bentley pair, although was ultimately beaten by Magnussen's Audi.
"So far I'm really pleased with the car and I'm really pleased with the pace. I hope we can knock a few more seconds off" said Lammers optimistically.
The LMP675 class was comfortably headed by the RN Motorsport DBA 4-Zytek O3S of John Nielsen, Hayanari Shijmoda and Casper Elgaard, which impressively was eighth overall and eight seconds ahead of the nearest competitor, Intersport Racing's Lola-MG B2K/60.
The LM GTS class was a lot closer with the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Kelly Collins, Oliver Gavin and Andy Pilgrim two seconds ahead of the Valoqx Prodive Ferrari 550 Maranello of Jamie Davies, Peter Kox and TomasEnge. The sister Corvette Racing car was a couple of seconds behind in third place.
The Racer's Group Porsche 911 GT3-RS of Kevin Buckler, Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard led the LM GT class, despite Buckler's spin after 40 minutes which left his car temporarily stopped in a dangerous position at the Porsche curves.
There were a few other minor incidents during the session but fortunately there was no serious damage. Chris McMurry spun off his Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam-JPX MP91 (LMP675 class) into the gravel trap early on but was able to rejoin and continue, as did Peter Cox in his Ferrari 550 Maranello (LM GTS class) at the end of the session. Andrew Bagnall also went off the track in his Seikel Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3-RS (LM GT class) but was able to rejoin soon afterwards. Apart from these minor spins the driving was very clean and the main problem that drivers encountered was traffic.
The second part of the first qualifying session will take place at 10pm local time (+2 hours GMT).