The opening round of the 2008 Le Mans Series is set to start tomorrow (Sunday 6th April) at 11:35 CET. The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain, will host the first of the five events on this year's calendar, but first the cars had to battle...
The opening round of the 2008 Le Mans Series is set to start tomorrow (Sunday 6th April) at 11:35 CET. The Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain, will host the first of the five events on this year's calendar, but first the cars had to battle for grid position in the two qualifying sessions held today.
The Pre-qualification indications were that the battle for the front row of the grid would be contested by the diesel powered LM P1 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi FAP and the Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 TDI cars. The Peugeots had the edge in free practice and kept it on qualifying. Stephane Sarrazin snatching the pole for the No. 8 Peugeot away from team mate Marc Gene in the No. 7 car in the closing minutes. The closest Audi of Alan McNish was nearly 1.4 seconds of the pace of the lead French car.
The first of the two 20 minute qualifiers were the LM GT1 and GT2 classes. The LM GT1 Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9 stormed to the LM GT1 pole with under 5 minutes of the session remaining. The impressive time of 1.44.484 set by Antonio García was enough to put the Aston, which will be co-driven by Tomas Enge, at the front of the class. The remaining GT1 competitors were unable to respond but Luc Alphand Guillaume Moreau managed a time if 1.44.531, which was enough for second in the Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.
Peter Kox on the IPB Spartak Racing Lamborghini Murcielago R-GT took third with a time of 1.44.969.
The Larbre Competition Saleen S7R and driver line up Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Bornhauser and Patrick Bornhauser failed to make it onto the track after a difficult morning practice session which required the team to change the engine.
In LM GT2 the Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430 GT with Robert Bell at the wheel took the honours with a time of 1.47.844. The Team Felbermayr Proton
Porsche 997 GT3 RSR driven Marc Lieb took the second fastest time of 1.49.093 and Raymond Narac in the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR with a time of 1.49.250 gave him third. The forth place Farnbacher Racing Porsche 997 GT3 RSR of Lars-Erik Nielsen was given the same time as the IMSA Performance car.
After a short break it was the turn of the mighty LM P1 and LM P2 cars to battle for top honours. In the Practice sessions it had all been about Peugeot. The LM P1 Team Peugeot Total 908 HDi FAP cars consistently topped the timesheets.
The first of three practice sessions (on Friday morning) saw Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy record the best lap. Impressively the time was almost half a second quicker than the best of the Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 TDI's driven by the Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello pairing. The McNish and Capello car recorded the second fastest time of the session. The second session (on Friday afternoon) saw Sarrazin and Lamy repeat the dominance, this time the sister Peugeot of Nicolas Minassian and Marc Gene was a mere 0.062 seconds behind. This left the Audi's with third and forth, with the Mike Rockenfeller and Alexandre Premat car seven tenths quicker than McNish and Capello.
In the final practice session which took place this morning (Saturday 5th April), Lamy and Sarrazin were quickest again. The two drivers in the number 8 car were the first to dip below 1:33 setting a time of 1:32.797. The eventful qualifying session continued to go Peugeot's way. The defending LM P1 championship team will start on the overall and class pole for the 1000km race tomorrow.
Gené recorded time of 1.32.454 early in the session which looked like it was going to be tough to beat. However in the dying moments of the 20 minute qualifying, Sarrazin recorded a staggering time of 1.31.875 and rightly claimed pole. McNish was third for Audi with a 1.33.250 while the Charouz Racing System Lola B08/60 Aston Martin managed fourth with a time of 1.33.734 courtesy of Stefan Mücke.
In LM P2 it was Jos Verstappen in the Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder with with the quickest with a time of 1.34.422, putting him in 5th overall. Swiss outfit, Speedy Racing Team Sebah put their Lola B08/80 Judd on 9th overall with the second fastest class time of 1.35.797, the fastest lap was thanks to Xavier Pompidou.
The LM P1 and LM P2 qualifying was somewhat compromised by incidents. A yellow flag nine minutes into the short stint was caused when the Quifel - ASM Team Lola B05/40 AER driven by Olivier Pla had an off track excursion. Further complications were caused by a late spin by Pompidou with just 7 minutes to go, this brought out the red flag.
The LMS Catalunya 1000km (215 lap) endurance race will take place at the 4.65km racetrack in Montmeló, to the north of Barcelona, Spain.
As an incentive for entrants to embrace green issues and efficient use of resources the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (A.C.O) and the Le Mans Series have announced that the winner of the 2008 Michelin Energy Endurance Challenge (MEEC), which will based on an Energy Efficiency Index (EEI), will automatically earn a place on the entry list for the 2009 Le Mans 24 Hours. The EEI will be calculated after each of the race meetings in the series.