Nurburgring: Series qualifying report

Gene heads Peugeot 1-2 as Aston Martin takes third Magnifique! What other word to describe the performance of the Peugeot Total team in qualifying at the Nurburgring, as Marc Gene snatched pole position from his team-mate Pedro Lamy to put the...

Gene heads Peugeot 1-2 as Aston Martin takes third

Magnifique! What other word to describe the performance of the Peugeot Total team in qualifying at the Nurburgring, as Marc Gene snatched pole position from his team-mate Pedro Lamy to put the 908 HDi-FAP diesel prototypes on the front row of the grid. And in third place was the Aston Martin Lola of the Charouz Racing System team after a fantastic performance from Berliner Stefan Mucke, who out-paced Alexandre Premat and Rinaldo 'Dindo' Capello in their Audi R10 TDI diesel prototypes.

Warm sunshine is always a treat in the Eifel region, and the Nurburgring is at its best this weekend as 46 car teams prepare for Sunday's 1,000 kilometre race, which is likely to be run at record speeds as Peugeot, Audi and Lola fight for victory. Nor are the LMP2 category Porsche RS Spyders to be discounted, for Dutchman Jos Verstappen set the seventh fastest time overall in the Van Merksteijn Motorsport team Porsche, closely chased by Casper Elgaard in the Team Essex Porsche and Andrea Belicchi in the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola-Judd coupe.

Last year Marc Gene started the German round of the Le Mans Series from pole position at 1m 41.867s and in the space of 12 months he has shaved 2.3 seconds off this time, underlining the progress made by the Peugeot team in 2008. Winners of the first three rounds of the Le Mans Series, Peugeot look now to sew up the series and move ahead in the driver championship, with one more round to be held at Silverstone on September 15. "It is our goal to win the series" says Gene, the day after competitions director Michael Barge confirmed that Peugeot would travel to America to contest the Petit Le Mans with two cars at the beginning of October.

Maybe the uphill chicane is a little faster this year as the kerbs have been eased, tempting drivers to widen the track at little. "The chicane is a downforce corner" says Jamie Campbell-Walter, who qualified 14th on his welcome comeback after his big accident at Spa. "Our telemetry shows the Creation is doing 174 km/h in the chicane, which is flatout in fourth gear!" Stephane Ortelli also returned to Team Oreca Matmut after breaking his right ankle in an accident at Monza, and although the Monagasque declares himself fit, team director Hugues de Chaunac has drafted Loic Duval into the team as third driver, with Soheil Ayari qualifing 8th, two places behind Oliver Panis in the team's Courage sister-car.

Team Epsilon Euskadi from Spain's Basque region set a goal of starting a car in the top 10, and Adrian Valles obliged by qualifying his black, Judd powered coupe in 10th position, having out-paced the two Pescarolo Sport entries, separated by thousandths of a second in 11th and 12th positions.

Verstappen heads Porsche 1-2

Porsche's RS Spyders were first and second in the "LM" P2 category, with Jos Verstappen setting the fastest time in the Van Merksteijn Motorsport entry. The Dutchman's time was sixth fastest overall in the car that he will share with, Jeroen Bleekemolen.

Half a second behind was Danish driver Casper Elgaard in the Team Essex Porsche. The team worked through a set-up programme in the morning which helped in qualifying.

Andrea Belicchi was third fastest aboard the Speedy Racing Team Sebah Lola B08/80 coupe Judd, before he spun the black car. Michael Vergers set the fourth fastest time in Juan Barazi's Epsilon Zytek 07S, outpacing the Quifel ASM Team's Lola AER in the hands of Oliver Pla.

"Work in progress" is the expression offered by Jonathan France's Embassy Racing team, new this season to all the Le Mans Series circuits. "We should qualify in the 1m 44s" said Jonny Kane before qualifying, and he obliged with a 1m 44.928s, seventh in LMP2 and ahead of Tommy Erdos in the RML MG Lola AER.

Enge King of the "LM" GT1

Tough competition is expected in GT1 with strong teams and cars and stellar driver line-ups. The Luc Alphand Aventures team recruited ALMS GT1 champion Olivier Beretta to help its bid to win the title this year.

The Monegasque battled team-mate Guilllaume Moreau for the lead of the class, but all the while, Team Modena played the waiting game, the dark green Aston Martin DBR9 on jacks in the garage with Tomas Enge at the wheel.

With five minutes remaining, hot tyres were bolted onto the Aston Martin, Enge was on the track and then...his flying lap was timed at 1m 52.387s, almost 1.2 seconds faster than Beretta could manage.

Peter Kox was fourth fastest in GT1 in the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT shared with Roman Rusinov with a respectable time of 1m 54.712s, the team looking to hold on to its second position in the title standings after three races. Three makes, from Britain, America and Italy prepared to contest the GT1 category on Sunday afternoon.

Beltoise heads "LM" GT2

In only his second Le Mans Series appearance this season, Anthony Beltoise claimed pole position in the Dunlop shod Farnbacher Racing Ferrari 430 GT, his time nearly twotenths faster than Marc Lieb in the Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche GT3 RSR.

"In Barcelona, the last time I drove this car it suffered from understeer, but this weekend the balance is perfect" said Beltoise. "I have a good feeling with the car, and the team is very happy."

Virgo Motorsport missed qualifying after a fire on Friday afternoon. With new parts due to arrive from Michelotto on Saturday evening, the Virgo team is confident of starting though from the back of the grid, with Gianmaria Bruni and Rob Bell.

Porsche drivers Richard Lietz (IMSA Performance Matmut) and Richard Westbrook (Farnbacher Racing) will start from third and fourth, ahead of Stephane Daoudi in JMB Racing's Ferrari 430 GT. Peter Dumbreck set the pace for the Snoras Spyker Squadron team from Holland, seventh quickest in the category.


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Series European Le Mans
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Gianmaria Bruni , Tomas Enge , Marc Gene , Pedro Lamy , Michael Vergers , Stéphane Ortelli , Peter Dumbreck , Rob Bell , Peter Kox , Jamie Campbell-Walter , Jonny Kane , Luc Alphand , Marc Lieb , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Soheil Ayari , Olivier Beretta , Alexandre Prémat , Roman Rusinov , Adrian Valles , Casper Elgaard , Juan Barazi , Stefan Mücke , Loic Duval , Jonathan France , Richard Lietz , Andrea Belicchi , Hugues de Chaunac
Teams IMSA Performance Matmut , Team Felbermayr