Pescarolo speeds away in first 24H tests

Pescarolo speeds away in first 24H tests

As much as Audi's new R10 TDI is feared and respected, it was Pescarolo Sport that set the early pace in the pre-race testing in preparation for the 2006 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Franck Montagny. Photo by Eric...

As much as Audi's new R10 TDI is feared and respected, it was Pescarolo Sport that set the early pace in the pre-race testing in preparation for the 2006 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Franck Montagny.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
The French team's #17 car, piloted by F1 driver Franck Montagny, along with Eric Helary, set the fastest time of the day at 3:30.195 -- faster than the pole-winning time set in 2005 by the team's sister car.

"I have a great car!" exclaimed Montagny. "Eric set up the car well in the morning, so I could put in the laps confidently at the end of the morning's session, and I knew how to get the best out of my tyres in order to post a good time on my last lap."

The top entry from Audi Sport Team Joest was, to many observers' surprise, almost two seconds back, as Allan McNish set a time of 3:32.090 in the #7 R10 TDI, but Wolfgang Ullrich, the head of Audi Sport, was not concerned.

"We could have set the same time as Franck Montagny, but our drivers were (not) able to get any clear air," Ullrich explained. "The day was very productive as we were able to collect a lot of information that we will analyze. We believe that our diesel engine will enable us to complete one or two laps more than (with the R8)."

#7 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10: Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello, Tom Kristensen.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
And Rinaldo Capello's concerns were not serious, either. "The car is really easy to drive, and since Sebring, the tyres are working much better. I am already used to the weak tone of our engine!"

Pescarolo also took third, barely a tenth of a second behind the lead Audi, with Emmanuel Collard setting the fast time for the #16 Pescarolo. The #8 Audi was again further back, as Marco Werner clocked a time of 3:33.160, 0.955 seconds behind Collard. Jean-Marc Gounon set the fifth-fastest time in the #13 Courage-Mugen.

On the LM P2 front, it was RML at the front, with Mike Newton setting the fast time of 3:41.873, 11th overall. Rollcentre Racing and Intersport claimed the next two positions in the class.

In the much-anticipated LM GT1 battle, Aston Martin drew first blood, with Tomas Enge setting a fast time of 3:51.408 in the #007 car, followed by Stefano Ortelli in the #008 sister car at 3:52.664, for 17th- and 19th-fastest times of the day overall.

Their Corvette rivals had to concede the day, as Oliver Gavin set a time of 3:53.029 in the #64 Corvette C6-R, and Ron Fellows clocked a 3:53.174 in the #63, with Luc Alphand Aventures' 2004-spec C5-R a little less than a second behind Fellows.

#007 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9: Tomas Enge, Andrea Piccini, Darren Turner.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
In the LM GT2 class, it was Scuderia Ecosse setting the fast time of the day, as Tim Mullen clocked a time 4:04.252 in the team's Ferrari 430 GT. Anticipating a close fight for the race, IMSA Performance Matmut's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was less than a second off the Scotsmen's pace, with Romain Dumas setting the best time. Seth Neiman (Flying Lizard Motorsports) followed in third in another Porsche, with Gunnar Jeannette in fourth in the first Panoz Esperante.

After two days of scrutineering starting on Monday June 12th, the first qualifying session for the 24-hour classic race kicks off at 7 PM Central European Time on Wednesday evening, the 14th of June.

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