We qualified! And then got really busy
By: Marino Franchitti
Once again, welcome to Le Mans. It's been very busy the last day or so, so I have put two days into one. Included with Friday's diary is a picture that Yvette Auberlen took at the parade on today with my camera. Bryan and I have decided she is the best photographer of us all. I've had a great time hanging out and getting to know Yvette, Bill, Bryan and Scott better. It's a really fun group.
We finally got some dry, uninterrupted running last night. In the first session we ended up fifth on full tanks and hard tyres with a time I did early on. We were third in class (GT2) for most of the session which wasn't too bad.
My teammate Bryan qualified the #78 Panoz/ Bank of Scotland Corporate Esperante fifth on the grid in the second session. I thought he did a great job. We were fourth for most of the session right behind our sister car which ended up third. Bill did a mega job too as they limited there laps to keep their race engine fresh. Considering the lack of set-up time we have had on the 78 car we were pretty happy with that result. More importantly, we are getting closer to having a good race set-up. Our engineer J-F is just tweaking the car for warm-up on Saturday morning so that's good news.
It was nice to finally get some laps in last night after the terrible weather and fuel pressure problem from Wednesday night. All the drivers got there three required night laps which, apart from putting a good qualifying effort in, was essential. Patrick put in a good few laps last night and is coming to terms well with the car. I feel fairly comfortable with the Le Mans track now in daylight and darkness even though I have done very few laps. I'll hopefully have plenty of time to learn the rest in the race!
It was late to bed again last night after the midnight finish so we didn't get up till 10:30 this morning. It was nice to sleep late as if everything goes to plan we won't sleep much till Sunday night.
Today was oppressively hot and it's looking like being worse for the race. It's going to be tough for the drivers on the Panoz team but I guess that's why we train so hard. That hydration plan I mentioned in my first diary should pay dividends.
The annual drivers parade was today, what an amazing event. It seems the whole town comes to cheer the drivers as they pass through the town center in the back of vintage cars. Wow was about all that my fellow rookie Bryan and I could say. We both agreed it was one of the coolest things we have ever done.
Apart from that, it was last minute preparations for me. My teammates and I went through the cockpit and worked out driver changes and made sure all the belts, etc., were adjusted properly. The crew were rebuilding the car around us from basically the chassis up. Everything that can be new is new so we can make it for the entire 24hrs. Incase any of my guys are reading this, thank you all for the hard work since we have been here.
My Dad and Gary Henderson (a family friend and the funniest man alive) arrived today. I'm so pleased my Dad made it, it means a lot to me. Dad brought some boots from my brother as Puma couldn't quite get mine here in time. We use the same boot but slightly different colors. We both have the Scottish flag on the boots but I guess Dario thought it would be funny to send me ones Puma made in error with the Union Jack on them. My manager, Kaye Wilson, managed (as the name suggests I guess??!) to find two wee Scottish flags and cover up the other ones. Thanks Kaye.
Also two of my good friends made it into town today. Robert Reid (World Rally Champion co-driver with Richard Burns) and Neil Primrose (drummer with Travis, my favorite band) have always looked after me whether it's rallies or gigs so it's nice to be able to look after them for a change.
So, I'm just finishing this at 10 pm local time and it's time for me to get some rest before the big day tomorrow. I'll check in when I can after the race.
Thanks again for stopping by.
Due to the time difference, Marino did write his diary on Friday, Parade Day at Le Mans. By the time many of you read this edition, it will indeed be Saturday -- the start of the 24 Hours of Le Mans day.