MAGNUSSEN, BERGMEISTER LEAD SERIES CONTINGENT IN QUALIFYING AT LE MANS Jan Magnussen and Jorg Bergmeister captured pole positions Thursday for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as teams and drivers from the American Le Mans Series asserted themselves well...
MAGNUSSEN, BERGMEISTER LEAD SERIES CONTINGENT IN QUALIFYING AT LE MANS
Jan Magnussen and Jorg Bergmeister captured pole positions Thursday for the 24 Hours of Le Mans as teams and drivers from the American Le Mans Series asserted themselves well in qualifying for the world's greatest motor race. At the head of the field, Stephane Sarrazin's late flying lap of 3:22.888 (150.266 mph) gave himself and Peugeot three straight overall pole positions over Audi in the battle of the two diesel powers.
Sarrazin was 0.762 seconds ahead of three-time American Le Mans Series LMP1 champion Allan McNish in the new Audi R15 TDI. McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen debuted the new diesel prototype with a victory at the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. In a warm- up for Le Mans, Audi beat Peugeot by just over 20 seconds.
Magnussen won his second straight Le Mans GT1 pole position with a time of 3:54.230 (130.159 mph) in the last race in class for Corvette Racing. The final hurrah for the Corvette C6.R is off to a rousing start with a 1-2 start at Le Mans. Magnussen was 0.472 seconds better than Olivier Beretta in the second Corvette Racing entry.
Magnussen will team with Johnny O'Connell and Antonio Garcia, the trio already victorious together this year at Sebring.
Corvette has won five times in class at Le Mans since 2001 against the likes of Ferrari, Aston Martin and Saleen. One of the most successful GT1 teams in endurance racing, it will transition to GT2 starting in August at the Mid-Ohio round of the American Le Mans Series.
"So far so good!" said Magnussen. "The Corvette C6.R goes really well and responds well to changes. I set my qualifying time on soft tires with a couple of laps on them already, which shows how good the car is. In the second part of the qualifying session Antonio did a long run to see how the tires would behave over a distance. With the new rules on tire changes, we'll have to double-stint them to avoid losing too much time in the pits. Tonight we learned how hard we can push them."
Beretta will team with Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler in the sister car. Beretta and Gavin were Le Mans class winners together from 2004-2006.
Bergmeister's time of 4:03.202 (125.357 mph) in the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was the first pole for the team in five Le Mans appearances. The German Porsche factory driver was only 0.03 seconds ahead of the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche of Marc Lieb, who also drives for Flying Lizard in American Le Mans Series endurance races.
It's a week of firsts for the Flying Lizards. Thursday didn't just mark the first pole for the team but also for Bergmeister, a past class winner in the race. It also is the first Le Mans appearance for Darren Law.
"It was a really great lap by Jorg," said Seth Neiman, who rounds out the driving trio. "You have to time it properly and Jorg did a great job. He had it right on the limit. As we worked our way through the practice, we didn't think it was possible. We were having some trouble with the setup but the guys kept working. But Jorg proved that a near-impossible-to-drive car can still be fast in his hands."
Lieb is teaming with Richard Lietz and Wolf Henzler, both of whom drive for Farnbacher Loles Racing in the American Le Mans Series; Henzler shared last year's GT2 championship with Bergmeister.
Third in class was Risi Competizione's Jaime Melo at 4:04.056 (124.919 mph) in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will share with Pierre Kaffer and Mika Salo. The trio won in class at Sebring, and Risi is the defending class champion at Le Mans.
"I was hoping to get out a bit earlier in the second session (the car was slightly delayed by the completion of some scheduled pre-race mechanical preparation) to get some daylight and I think I could have been a little bit faster then," Melo said. "In the dark you cannot see your lines as well so you are a bit more conservative. I'm happy as third is not bad and the important thing is that the car is really well balanced; we will be able to keep a good lap time which gives me a lot of confidence for the race."
Staying in GT2, American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long qualified the IMSA Performance Porsche sixth in class at 4:04.648 (124.617 mph). A two- time winner at Le Mans, Long will team with Patrick Pilet and Raymond Narac.
Drayson Racing's Aston Martin Vantage GT2 qualified ninth in class at 4:06.482 (123.690 mph). Paul Drayson, Jonny Cocker and Marino Franchitti are driving the car in the team's first appearance at Le Mans. The Hankook Team Farnbacher Ferrari, featuring Panoz Team PTG's Dominik Farnbacher was next, and the second Risi Ferrari of Tracy Krohn, Eric van de Poele and Nic Jonsson was 13th at 4:08.758 (122.557 mph.
Among the prototype ranks, two Acura stars will start from near the front of the grid Saturday. De Ferran Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud is part of the Pescarolo Sport lineup in a Peugeot 908 that will start fourth; he will team with Jean-Christophe Boullion and Benoit Treluyer. Patron Highcroft Racing's David Brabham - driving a factory Peugeot with Alex Wurtz and Marc Gene - will start fifth.
In LMP2, the RML Mazda-powered Lola coupe featuring Dyson Racing's Chris Dyson and teammates Tommy Erdos and Mike Newton, qualified fourth in class. It was a spot ahead of the Quifel-ASM Team's Ginetta-Zytek 09S of Guy Smith, Dyson's teammate in the American Le Mans Series, along with Olivier Pla and Miguel Amaral.
Dindo Capello, Audi Sport
Audi R15 TDI (LMP1)
"Our schedule was to do a full stint to see how long we could go on tires. The surprise was that the car had no front bite. I had some understeer in a mid-speed corner. We had to pit to fix the problem. The car was getting faster when I went back out but still wasn't turning."
Lucas Luhr, Audi Sport
Audi R15 TDI (LMP1)
"It's pretty tough competition. I don't know what spec the Pescarolo Peugeot is in. We knew the car would be fast. Everything right now is pretty close together. We are a team and we all work together to achieve the maximum for Audi and our team. We know how strong our competition is and how tough the race can be."
Chris Dyson, RML
Lola B09/86-Mazda MZR-R (LMP2)
"Le Mans is a massively exciting race and unmatched as an international event with such worldwide attention focused on it. The American Le Mans Series does a good job of consistently capturing the buzz this race has. I would say that the Petit Le Mans connects every year with the fans the way this race does. The Series does a good job of representing the 24 Hours of Le Mans 10 times a year."
David Brabham, Team Peugeot Total
Peugeot 908 HDi (LMP1)
"The track was very dirty in the first stint and in the second it got better and better. Two cars were doing tire evaluations and one did setup work. We are doing different tires and doing double-stints and finding out our options for the race."
Allan McNish, Audi Sport
Audi R15 TDI (LMP1)
"The car balance from the first part of the session wasn't ideal. A lot of people came into the pits because of the reduced time between the session, and I was fortunate to get a clean lap. I do enjoy this and loved the lap ... when you build a lap from the first corner, see the delta flash up on the display and where you might be at the end of it. It will be fun. We have a better, raceable car and hopefully better than the R10 was."
Patrick Long, IMSA Performance Matmut
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2)
"We're overall pretty happy here. Things are pretty good. We saw last year that being on the pole by a couple of seconds doesn't mean much when you go out after just a few hours."
Nic Jonsson, Risi Competizione/Krohn Racing
Ferrari F430 GT (GT2)
"It's great to get a few dry laps in before the race. The Risi Competizione and Krohn Racing guys did a great job to set the car up and it seems to be very mechanically sound. Everything is working very well; we tried a few different types of tire and it seems like the soft tire in the night will work well to get rid of the understeer. We know we won't win this race on speed but we can win it by being smart and staying out of trouble and out of the pits. That's what we are focussing on and what we will be concentrating on doing. I'm looking forward to it."
Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing
Corvette C6.R (GT1)
"It's been a very good day, and I think we made some significant progress at the end of the session. It was good that Marcel got some extended time in the car. I drove the No. 64 Corvette at the end, and I was very happy with it. Olivier did an excellent job with the tire evaluation and the car setup - it was really his day today. We just missed out on the fastest GT1 qualifying time, but congratulations to Jan for that. Now we're focused on our job on Saturday and Sunday, and that's getting another Le Mans victory for Corvette Racing. This is one of the best race cars I've ever had here, so I'm very content."