LE MANS, Wednesday 13 June, 9.00pm - Corvette Racing and DAMS Team Cadillac put in fine performances in the first part of the first qualifying session. Both Corvettes provisionally lead the GTS class ahead of the Larbre Viper and the factory Saleen. Frenchman Emmanuel Collard managed a seventh fastest time overall in the #5 Cadillac Northstar LMP in the very last seconds of the session.
"Car No. 5 ran the way we planned this morning," said DAMS Team Cadillac principal Jean-Paul Driot. "It had no trouble. We put a set of soft tires on it at the last minute, and Emmanuel started his flying lap just 30 seconds before qualifying ended, which worked very well, since it was the last car to roll before the checkered flag came out. It had quite a good time and cut three to four seconds off its previous fastest time, so we are quite happy."
"We need to carry on with the No. 6 car, because we still have some brake-balance ajustments to make, but that will be done quickly."
Corvette Racing had equally happy faces: "That was a pretty good session for us," said Scott Pruett, driver of #63 Corvette C5-R. "Our focus right now is trying to get something that's good and conservative for the race and that is the best average lap time for full fuel load instead of looking for what's quickest for just one or two laps."
"The handling is very good and the brakes are pretty good, as well," said #64 Corvette driver, Kelly Collins. "We're working on a communications problem, because the team couldn't hear me. But that's something that can get fixed during the break."
<pre> QUALIFYING TIMES AT 9.00pm
1. Capello/Aiello/Pescatori Audi R8 3m34s880 2. Biela/Kristensen/Pirro Audi R8 3m35s222 3. Lammers/Crevels/Hillebrand Dome-Judd S101 3m36s352 7. Bernard/Collard/Goossens Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m40s070 16. Taylor/Angelelli/Tinseau Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m44s875 25. Fellows/O'Connell/Pruett Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (1st GTS) 3m55s552 26. Pilgrim/Collins/Freon Chevrolet
LE MANS, Wednesday 13 June, midnight - General Motors' two Le Mans teams, Corvette Racing and DAMS Team Cadillac, continued fine-tuning their respective cars' set-ups in the second part of Wednesday's qualifying session. The Corvette team suffered a slight setback when Canadian Ron Fellows spun off the track after a brake locked up. "Unfortunately, it never rains but it pours," Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan explained. "We had a really hot set-up on the #63 car, one that Ron Fellows really liked and we were ready for some good laps. The night was perfect with cool air. For some unexplained reason, the brake on the right rear locked up as he came through the chicane and it swapped ends on him. He ended up in the tire wall with some pretty extensive damage. We will have to get the car at the end of this session and take a look at the damage. If it is just parts, we have plenty of time to fix it, but it hurt us to loose so much time in this session tonight."
"The #64 car has a good set-up, also, but we have a little electrical problem that we are chasing," Fehan continued. "The drivers are very happy with it and the way it is handling. We will get that worked out before tomorrow night, too."
Next door at DAMS Team Cadillac, work continued on fine-tuning the setup of the #5 and #6 Cadillac Northstar LMPs. "We're only working on fine tuning a few areas of our setup to get the car where we're happy with it for the race," said driver Christophe Tinseau. "Drivers always want the 'perfect' setup, which, of course, is impossible to achieve. Now we just need to decrease the lap time. We only had four hours today and will have four tomorrow, so we need to work together to get it as perfect as possible."
"This year's car is completely different for the driver compared to last year's. It's easy to drive, it has more power, a better gearbox and improved aerodynamics. We can gain a lot of time per lap and over the course of the race," Tinseau concluded.
DAMS Team Cadillac team boss Jean-Paul Driot summed up today's qualifying sessions as follows: "We had some good qualifying runs in both cars, but on our fastest laps, we were blocked and couldn't take time off of our previous best. With a little luck tomorrow, we'll show some improvement."
QUALIFYING TIMES AT 00.00am
1. Biela/Kristensen/Pirro Audi R8 3m32s458 2. Aiello/Capello/Pescatori Audi R8 3m33s514 3. Herbert/Kelleners/Theys Audi R8 3m34s349 11. Taylor/Angelelli/Tinseau Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m39s596 12. Bernard/Collard/Goossens Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m39s892 27. Fellows/O'Connell/Pruett Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (2nd GTS) 3m55s552 29. Pilgrim/Collins/Freon Chevrolet
LE MANS, Thursday 14 June, 9.00pm - DAMS Team Cadillac two Cadillac Northstar LMPs continued to improve the car setups during today's first half session. Emmanuel Collard was one of only four drivers in the top fifteen to improve on his yesterday's time.
At Corvette Racing, Pratt and Miller technicians worked all day to repair the #63 Corvette C5-R, which had left the track in the second half of yesterday's qualifying. By the time the lights turned to green at 7.00 p.m., the car was as good as new, and Ron Fellows and partners were ready to complete the work they started yesterday.
"This session, we've been making a comparison of different shocks on car #5," said David Spitzer, Chassis Engineer for Team Cadillac, "We've gone back to the original shocks with some setup improvements, which, combined with better conditions on the track, has made the car a little quicker."
"On car #6 we've made some small changes in shock valving, which has improved the handling, though the time may not reflect that. We're also doing a really comprehensive run through of tires for varying conditions, anticipating sunshine during the day, cooler temperatures at night, trying to find a good balance for both of those different conditions," Spitzer continued. "Both cars are participating in the tire test with each doing a different part of the test. We still have not done a qualifying run per se; we've been working as quickly as we can on race setup. We're very pleased with the potential and may get the chance to do the qualifying run before the end of the second session tonight."
After Ron Fellows' accident in yesterday's second session, the mechanics had to wait until well past midnight before the #63 Corvette was brought back to the pits. "We brought the car back to the garage, evaluated the damage and didn't see any major damage to the chassis," said crew chief Bill DeLong. "It was mainly cosmetic stuff. We went home, got some sleep and came back at about nine this morning and basically put a new body on the car and replaced the suspension on one corner - that was it."
QUALIFYING TIMES AT 9.00pm 1. Biela/Kristensen/Pirro Audi R8 3m32s458 2. Aiello/Capello/Pescatori Audi R8 3m33s514 3. Herbert/Kelleners/Theys Audi R8 3m34s349 8. Bernard/Collard/Goossens Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m37s402 12. Taylor/Angelelli/Tinseau Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m39s596 27. Fellows/O'Connell/Pruett Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (2nd GTS) 3m55s552 29. Pilgrim/Collins/Freon Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (3r
LE MANS, Thursday 14 June, 00.00am - DAMS Team Cadillac and Corvette Racing finished two days of setting up and qualifying for the 69th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans feeling confident and looking forward to Saturday afternoon's 4 o'clock start.
"We're really happy that the pieces have come together," said Jeff Kettman, Cadillac Program Manager. "Our team worked through its plan and was able to get a clean set of qualifiers on with Emmanuel Collard in car #5, which ran a 3m37s4.
"Car #6 never put qualifying tires on, but continued to work on race setup and turned just under a 3m42s, which is a pretty good race pace. The feedback from the drivers is that the car feels good and that they're comfortable with it. We're able now to check some of the configurations on fuel load, so we know how the car will potentially feel at different stages of the race. Tomorrow, we install the race engine and transmission; Saturday morning, we'll make sure everything functions okay, then it's Green Flag at four.
"For the LMPs, qualifying position is not important - it's how you finish the race," Kettman continued. "We always knew we'd be in the top 15. What's important for any team is making sure all of the drivers qualify by getting in the required number of laps, day and night, at speed. Because we're in the LMP class, we don't have to worry about starting way in the back and working our way up through the field. Over 24 hours, there are a lot of other factors that come into play besides how fast you can qualify your car. Qualifying is more bragging rights."
Over at Corvette Racing, technicians and drivers are as confident as their Cadillac brethren: "Qualifying today was much better than yesterday," said Corvette #64 driver Andy Pilgrim. "We worked on and fixed the electrical problem that cost us time yesterday, and the car seems to be running good right now. I didn't get a clean lap to do a really good qualifying run, so I think I could have done a bit better... maybe a low 56. Unfortunately, the one lap on qualifying tires, which was better than we did last year, was in traffic and ended up a 57. I'm happy with that, I mean it is 24-hour race, and we needed to concentrate on set-up anyway. So we really only tried just the one qualifying run. I'd say we're pretty happy to be where we are right now. "
Corvette #63 driver Ron Fellows paid tribute to his technicians for turning the car, which had been damaged in the second half of yesterday's session, around so quickly: "The car is fine, and the guys did a great job of putting it back to where it was before the incident last night. We made one change in terms of the chassis that we hoped would be a major step forward, but it doesn't seem to get as much grip as before. I suspect that we will go back to the set-up we had before and that will be good enough for the race."
FINAL QUALIFYING TIMES AT 0.00pm
1. Aiello/Capello/Pescatori Audi R8 3m32s458 2. Biela/Kristensen/Pirro Audi R8 3m33s514 3. Herbert/Kelleners/Theys Audi R8 3m34s349 4. Lammers/Crevels/Hillebrand Dome-Jud S101 3m34s838 5. Johansson/Coronel/Lemarie Audi R8 3m35s128 6. Beretta/Wendlinger/Lamy Chrysler Mopar 3m36s155 7. Brundle/Ortelli/Smith Bentley EXP Speed 8 3m36s535 8. Bernard/Collard/Goossens Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m37s402 9. Wallace/Leitzinger/V.d.Poele Bentley EXP Speed 8 3m37s408 12. Taylor/Angelelli/Tinseau Cadillac Northstar LMP 3m39s596 27. Fellows/O'Connell/Pruett Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (2nd GTS) 3m55s552 29. Pilgrim/Collins/Freon Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (3rd GTS) 3m57s052