Kristensen: Le Mans pole position interview

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Kristensen: Le Mans pole position interview

Tom Kristensen: "Thank you for staying up so late! I am very very happy to be on the pole position. The car has, as you already saw, showed the pace for qualifying. We used one set of Michelin's hard qualifying tyre and it was successful...

Tom Kristensen: "Thank you for staying up so late! I am very very happy to be on the pole position. The car has, as you already saw, showed the pace for qualifying. We used one set of Michelin's hard qualifying tyre and it was successful because my lap time I did quite a quite big margin to the second, I think 2.5 seconds, and again when I qualified yesterday that was my fastest lap. I started the lap at 10 o'clock last night on my second set of qualifiers yesterday and today I only used one so in total I have only used three sets and that is much less than any of the competitors so that's good as well.

Press conference: pole winner Tom Kristensen.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
"Just to mention the key to get the best time is 10 o'clock. When the session starts at 10 o'clock we have put on, both days, this hard set of qualifiers which allows me two laps. This is very important at Le Mans. You get problems on having a softer qualifying tyre as I have never got a clear lap at Le Mans. Sometimes I get laps during the race where I pass guys on the straight and it doesn't cost you, but you never get a clear lap at Le Mans in qualifying. I only had one car both times through the Porsche corners and I lost a little bit but that means it is good to have a harder qualifying tyre that allows you to go an extra lap. In that sense we did the right choice. Today, on the qualifying day, I was nine-tenths faster than my lap time but I had to abandon that lap because of a Ferrari through the Porsche corners. The Bentley just behaved superbly as you can see over one lap and the car seems to be very good for race simulation as well as my team-mates mentioned beforehand."

Q: "Tell us Tom, how do you find, in terms of handling, the Bentley in relation to the Audi?"

Kristensen: "From where I'm sitting behind the steering wheel the first thing is that they are two completely different cars. First of all from the completely different theory, building a fast racing car for Le Mans. The GTP rules, you have to go a completely different way and that is what Bentley have done over the years, trying to build on the history and the whole thing of Bentley is tradition, and that means a closed-car, it's the most beautiful car I've ever driven and I think we have been too nostalgic. I think also it is the most beautiful racing car ever because it has picked up this aggressive look and I think this has been the way of Bentley choosing the GTP class. Obviously the car is built for Le Mans but the narrow tyres and the closed cockpit is the two things to mention as different to the Audi. The car is much more nervous on the limit because of the two inches narrower, especially on the rear tyres, and then it is much much warmer to sit inside and the visibility is not as good. But then you get a little bit for free with the top speed. I think we are between two to four kilometres faster on the top speed but of course normally we should brake a little earlier and we have more tyre wear because of the narrower tyres, and maybe the drivers get more exhausted being in this extreme heat which will arrive at the weekend."

Q: "Tom, coming over to the race, I have been speaking to your last year's time mate and this year's rival Emanuele Pirro, and he was reckoning that the Audis could probably do an extra lap on the fuel than you. How do you think this will affect your race strategy?"

Kristensen: "Now I have to say I know Emanuele pretty well from what we have achieved together in the past three years together with Audi so I think he is trying to make two more laps than us, so maybe he didn't tell you everything that's what they are definately trying to do. And of course we know that, with the GTP engine, we know that we have high fuel consumption and we are trying to limit to one lap, and they are trying to extend it to two laps more than us. This is the game that we will play now, and of course if they can do two laps that means we have to be even faster on track because definitely Audi can do three stints on these tyres so the drivers stay for three stints and then they do more laps than us. They know that we have to see that we have to be faster than them, and then they will come back at us, and you will see either way that is what will be exciting. Obviously if we can continue the times that we have done in qualifying then that is not a problem, but things always even out when you come to race. We have practiced very hard our pit stops. The boys are very good at the pit stops and the drivers now getting in, we are not loosing time through the doors, obviously the drivers have to get in and out the same door with a closed car, so that is optimised so we should not loose time there. I'm confident that we could have a very good race but Emanuele is thinking of two laps, not one."

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Series LEMANS