Patrick Dempsey: "It’s wonderful to be back at Le Mans."
Stuttgart - In the first of three qualifying sessions for the Le Mans 24-hour race, all Porsche GT works drivers turned their mandatory laps and are therefore qualified for the race on the 13.629-kilometre Circuit des 24 Heures on the 13/14 June.
The number 91 Porsche 911 RSR, with Richard Lietz (Austria), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) sharing driving duties, occupied seventh place in the GTE-Pro class late on Wednesday evening. Their factory pilot colleagues Patrick Pilet (France), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) set the ninth quickest time with their #92 Porsche 911 RSR.
We’ve fulfilled our obligations with the five laps and are therefore qualified for the race.
As the best Porsche customer squad in the GTE-Am class, Abu Dhabi Proton Racing finished the qualifying on fourth place. Competing for the team in the 911 RSR with the starting number 88 was Christian Ried (Germany) with Khaled Al Qubaisi (Abu Dhabi) and the former Porsche Junior Klaus Bachler (Austria).
The sixth spot went to the American race driver and Hollywood star Patrick Dempsey and Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) as well as Marco Seefried (Austria) in the 911 RSR (#77) fielded by Dempsey Proton Racing.
While two drivers must normally qualify a car for a WEC race, at Le Mans only the fastest time of one pilot determines the grid position in the race.
Comments after the first qualifying
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “I’m reasonably pleased with the qualifying result of our GTE-Am teams. The number 88 and 77 Porsche 911 RSR sports cars are well prepared for the race. But we still have room for improvement in the GTE-Pro class. Although I don’t believe we can close the gap to our fastest rivals completely, we’ll do our utmost tomorrow to improve our starting positions.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #91): “We’ve fulfilled our obligations with the five laps and are therefore qualified for the race. This qualifying session was total chaos with red flags and a very dirty track. I’m relieved that I managed to bring my 911 RSR back to the pits in one piece.”
Michael Christensen (911 RSR #91): “It was critical for me to get an idea of how the track is at night. That was a good orientation and a small taste of what to expect over the weekend of my first Le Mans race.”
Jörg Bergmeister (911 RSR #91): “I didn’t get a clear run on my first set of tyres. But afterwards it went well. I got a good lap in on my second set of fresh rubber, but it still wasn’t enough to improve my starting position.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #92): “We still need to improve, of course. As long as it stays dry tomorrow we have many chances to achieve a better lap time. But first and foremost we want to improve the balance of the car with regard to the race.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #92): “The car handles well. At Le Mans, it’s really important to get a good run at the right time and to have optimum grip. Unfortunately I encountered a lot of traffic. But it can be completely different in tomorrow’s second qualifying session.”
Wolf Henzler (911 RSR #92): “The qualifying ran better than the free practice. I was able to drive in dry conditions, but unfortunately I was hampered by a yellow flag. Still, I completed my mandatory night laps.”
Patrick Dempsey (911 RSR #77): “It’s wonderful to be back at Le Mans. Our qualifying went well. We’ll now take a look at the data and try to continue to improve tomorrow.”
Patrick Long (911 RSR #77): “My qualifying session was good – until the last corner. A prototype in front of me lost control and that ruined my chance of a good lap. Perhaps we could manage a time in the top three tomorrow. As a team, we’re constantly learning.”
Klaus Bachler (911 RSR #88): “I drove our fastest time right in the first lap. Our starting position for the race is not bad.”
Result 1st Qualifying
1. MacDowall/Stanaway/Rees (GB/NZ/BRA), Aston Martin, 3:54.928 minutes
2. Bruni/Vilander/Fisichella (I/SF/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 0.378 seconds
3. Turner/Mücke/Bell (GB/D/GB), Aston Martin, + 0.538
4. Sörensen/Thiim/Nygaard (DK/DK/DK), Aston Martin, +0.855
5. Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe (DK/E/AUS), Chevrolet Corvette, + 1.035
6. Gavin/Milner/Taylor (GB/USA/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, + 2.153
7. Lietz/Christensen/Bergmeister (A/DK/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.264
9. Pilet/Makowiecki/Henzler (F/F/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 2.739
1. Dalla Lana/Lamy/Lauda (CDN/P/A), Aston Martin, 3:55.102 minutes
2. Collard/Perrodo/Aguas (F/F/P), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 1.621 seconds
3. Bertolini/Shaytar/Basov (I/RUS/RUS), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 2.169
4. Ried/Bachler/Al Qubaisi (D/A/UAE), Porsche 911 RSR, + 3.157
5. Mann/Giammaria/Cressoni (I/I/I), Ferrari 458 Italia, + 3.376
6. Dempsey/Long/Seefried (USA/USA/D), Porsche 911 RSR, + 3.720
13. Chen/Vanellet/Parisy (TWN/F/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 8.015
14. Chen/Kapadia/Maassen (TWN/GB/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 9.725
Two more qualifying sessions are held on Thursday from 19.00 to 21.00 hrs and from 22.00 hours until midnight. The race starts on Saturday at 15.00 hrs.