Peugeot still perfect in Spa qualifying

Nicolas Minassian was a model of perfection for Peugeot Sport again, as the French ace claimed the fourth pole position in the four Le Mans Series races this year, missing the two-minute mark by only 105 thousandths of a second at the ...

Nicolas Minassian was a model of perfection for Peugeot Sport again, as the French ace claimed the fourth pole position in the four Le Mans Series races this year, missing the two-minute mark by only 105 thousandths of a second at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

In today's qualifying session, at the famed road course in the Ardennes, there was little question as to who would start at the front of the field, with Minassian beating the sister #8 Peugeot of Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin by a clear margin of 0.452 seconds.

It hasn't been quite the same story in the races, though, as the pair of Minassian and Marc Gene have only one victory and a second place to show for the three events so far, putting them eight points behind Lamy and Sarrazin in the fight for the championship.

"If we don't win tomorrow, we can say goodbye to the title," Gene admitted.

Behind the two leading Peugeots, there was no one, and then nobody, with the third-placed Charouz Lola, piloted by Stefan Mucke, over four seconds off the pace of the leading Peugeot. The privateer Czech effort continues to impress, though, fighting off the usual LM P1 stalwarts Zytek, Pescarolo and Courage.

"It was difficult to do a quick lap in the free practices because the traffic was quite high even though the track is quite long," Mucke mused. "It was a bit better in the qualifying but again I was delayed in my quickest lap when the tyres were at their best. Fortunately, it did not cost too much."

Had Mucke been delayed by just a tenth of a second, he would have fallen into the claws of Arena Motorsport's Zytek 07S. In the event, Hayanari Shimoda was just 0.044 seconds adrift of the Charouz entry, and will start fourth overall. Fifth overall, and starting from the third row tomorrow, was Jean-Christophe Boullion, driving the top Pescarolo entry.

"The handling of the car is much better and we are very confident for the race," said Boullion. "We have good fuel consumption, the car is better with fuel in it and we hope that it will be dry for the race."

Tommy Erdos claimed the LM P2 class pole for RML Motorsport in another strong showing, taking the tenth overall position and a fifth-row starting spot. The RML Lola AER was a comfortable 0.477 seconds clear of the Barazi Epsilon Zytek entry.

"It is a great car to drive and we have a very good tyre compound for the race," said Erdos.

The Zytek, driven in qualifying by Michael Vergers, was 12th overall, the two P2 cars sandwiching Rollcentre Racing's customer Pescarolo Judd entry. Embassy Racing took third starting spot in class in their Radical SR9 Judd, just a second adrift of Rollcentre Racing.

Akin to the Peugeot dominance in LM P1, it was all Saleen in the LM GT2 class, with Stephane Ortelli taking the pole in the Team Oreca Saleen S7-R, 0.555 seconds ahead of the Racing Box Saleen, and 22nd overall.

"It was nice to be able to take both Eau Rouge and Blanchiment flat out!" said Ortelli, smiling, after qualifying.

Luc Alphand Aventures claimed third in class, slotting the Corvette C6.R ahead of the team's archrivals: the American challenger beat the best of the Aston Martin DBR9s by some 0.6 seconds.

There were, in fact, three of the DBR9s trailing in the Corvette's wake: Team Modena was the best of the three, but both the jetAlliance Racing -- in the team's debut in the Le Mans Series -- and AMR Larbre entries were within a tenth of a second of the leading Aston Martin.

Felbermayr-Proton took the LM GT2 pole, with Marc Lieb showing his speed, taking the class pole in the team's Porsche 997 GT3 RSR by a convincing 0.540-second margin over GPC Sport's Ferrari F430 GT.

"Pole for the 1000 km is always very good," said Lieb, class winner at the Spa 24H race earlier this month. "We got a good set up for the track at the 24 hour race two weeks ago."

IMSA Performance Matmut took third in class in a second 997 GT3 RSR.

The 1000 km race will take the green flag with a rolling start at 12:30 CET tomorrow afternoon, with an expected finish six hours later.

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About this article
Series European Le Mans
Drivers Nicolas Minassian , Marc Gene , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Michael Vergers , Stéphane Ortelli , Jean-Christophe Boullion , Luc Alphand , Marc Lieb , Stefan Mücke
Teams IMSA Performance Matmut