McNish takes provisional pole for the 24H

McNish takes provisional pole for the 24H

Audi dominated the opening two-part qualifying practice session for the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx ...

Audi dominated the opening two-part qualifying practice session for the 2004 Le Mans 24 Hours. The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx #8 car of Frank Biela, Pierre Kaffer and Allan McNish finished with the fastest time, narrowly ahead of the three other Audi entries after a frantic exchange of fastest laps at the start of the second half.

#8 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx Audi R8: Frank Biela, Pierre Kaffer, Allan McNish.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
"We had some issues in the opening test which restricted us to a 3:39.229s but made some adjustments during the interval which worked well allowing me to claim provisional pole with a 3:34.683 in the opening minutes of the second session," said McNish. "It was a 'comfortable' lap with no real heroics required as the Audi was working very well."

Kristensen went fastest in the first session in the Audi Sport Japan Team Goh car with a blistering lap on new tyres but McNish responded straight away to move up to second. Herbert, in the sister Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx car, returned to the track in car and took pole position by over two seconds.

At the start of the second half McNish and Kristensen were immediately on the pace, improving their times but still keeping their places. McNish soon went fastest of all, however, with a 3m 34.683s lap while Kristensen was unable to respond and Herbert was sidelined with a minor gearbox problem.

"I ended the first two hour time trial fastest on a 3:39.907 but was still not entirely happy with the car's handling - it was hard work to achieve," said Herbert. "I tried to improve my time immediately after the interval but a combination of traffic and a slight gear selection problem thwarted me but in general we're very happy with tonight's performance."

#17 Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd: Emmanuel Collard, S?bastien Bourdais, Nicolas Minassian.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
The best of the non-Audi cars was the #15 Pescarolo Sport Judd which moved up to fourth at the start of the second half with a 3m 38.801s lap at the hands of Sebastien Bourdais and eventually finished fifth. The car was sidelined for most of the first session with a problem but was able to take part later despite Bourdais picked up some minor damage in an incident with another car.

Racing For Holland's #16 Dome Judd eventually finished in sixth place after setting the fourth fastest in the first half. The sister Racing For Holland car ground to a halt with a gearbox problem with Tom Coronel at the wheel at the very start of the first half. The car returned to the pits during the break and was repaired in time to allow Justin Wilson and Ralph Firman to participate in the latter stages.

The LM2 category was dominated by Courage Competition AER of Jean-Marc Gounon, Alexander Frei and Sam Hancock which was fastest throughout the session. They finished eleven seconds ahead of the second-placed Epsilon Sport Courage Willman that had undergone significant last-minute work to the car.

Corvette Racing dominated the GTS category with Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Jan Magnussen constantly improved their times in the #64 car throughout the evening. They finished three seconds ahead of the #66 Prodrive Racing Ferrari 550 Maranello of Tomas Enge, Peter Kox and Alain Menu.

#90 White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR: Sascha Maassen, Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long.
Photo by Tom Haapanen.
Dale White, White Lightning Racing finished fastest in the GT category with a stunning display towards the end of the first half. Jorg Bergmeister set a 4m 09.679s lap to go three seconds clear of the JMB Racing Ferrari 360 Modena. The team had a scare in the second half when Sascha Maassen spun off the circuit but he was able to return to the garage albeit with a car full of gravel.

The Panoz Motor Sports LMP1 car remained in the garage for the whole of the first part after the car suffered a gearbox problem but was able to take part in the second part and ran 28th overall with a 4m 06.515s lap from Patrick Bourdais.

Paul Belmondo Racing's Courage AER spent most of the evening in the garage after the car developed a fuel pressure problem early in the first half and, despite frantic work, the team were unable to find the problem.

The third and fourth parts of qualifying take place on Thursday starting at 7pm and 10pm local time, 5pm and 8pm GMT, respectively.

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Series LEMANS