Nicolas Lapierre took advantage of his works-supported Peugeot 908 HDi FAP to claim another Le Mans Series pole position for ORECA Matmut's trophy case at Portimao, but unlike the qualifying at the Le Mans 24H last month, the Peugeot pole position...
Nicolas Lapierre took advantage of his works-supported Peugeot 908 HDi FAP to claim another Le Mans Series pole position for ORECA Matmut's trophy case at Portimao, but unlike the qualifying at the Le Mans 24H last month, the Peugeot pole position was not a foregone conclusion.
"It is good to be on pole and score one point," Lapierre said. "The gap is small, and we have to keep a close look at our rivals who have caught up since yesterday."
The 4.652-km Autodromo Internacional do Algarve is a highly technical circuit with only one substantial straightaway, and thus gives the powereful diesel cars little opportunity to take advantage of their engines' massive torque. The gasoline cars' restrictor size has also been increased by 4% since the 24H.
Still, Lapierre's best time of 1:30.681 was enough to keep at bay the gasoline-engined challengers, led by Rebellion Racing's Neel Jani. The Swiss ex-Formula One driver clocked a best lap time of 1:30.937, less than three tenths of Lapierre's pace.
Rebellion's second car was not as lucky: hampered by engine problems yesterday, the team decided to change the car's engine overnight, and the new engine ran for the first time in the qualifying session. Given that change, a fourth place on the grid, behind the #008 Lola Aston Martin of Signature Plus was a very credible results.
At the tight Algarve circuit, the LM P2 class is not far behind the overall leaders, either. The Strakka Racing HPD ARX is the clear favorite: the HPD (nee Acura) P2 cars conquered all there was to conquer in the American Le Mans series, and have been the cream of the class in LMS this year.
Danny Watts underscored that with a fifth place overall for Strakka, six tenths ahead of the team's nearest rivals, the Quifel ASM Team.
With the Le Mans 24H completed, there is the usual letdown in grid sizes, and tonight's race start will see only ten prototypes -- four in P1 and six in P2 -- take part, compared to the massive 21-entry prototype field at Spa-Francorchamps, which many teams used as a warmup and training event for the famed endurance classic.
Gianmaria Bruni edged AF Corse teammate Toni Vilander to the LM GT2 class pole position, as the two fought hard in their Ferrari F430s for the honour. The edge was just 0.202 seconds at the end of the session, as the two AF Corse ferraris not only locked out the GT2 "front row" but also outqualified the LM GT1 pole winner, Carlo Van Dam (Atlas FX-Team).
Third in class was also a Ferrari, but this one CRS Racing and piloted by Tim Mullen. Seven tenths behind Bruni's benchmark time, Mullen was still able to beat the gaggle of Porsches, the Felbermayr Proton, IMSA Performance Matmut and the second Felbermayr Proton, by some three tenths.