Audi privateer teams final qualifying report

The grid for the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans features a trio of Audi privateer teams. LE MANS, France (June 12, 2003) -- The grid for the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans has been set. As expected it was a battle between the two factory Bentley Cars and...

The grid for the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans features a trio of Audi privateer teams.

LE MANS, France (June 12, 2003) -- The grid for the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans has been set.

As expected it was a battle between the two factory Bentley Cars and the three Audi 'privateer' teams of Team ADT Champion Racing, Audi Sport UK and Audi Sport Japan Team Goh.

The two-car Bentley Speed 8 team with qualifying times of 3:32.843 (Tom Kristensen) and 3:35.098 (Johnny Herbert) will share the front row. The Audi Sport UK car will be grid 3rd with a time of 3:35.745 set by legendary Le Mans driver, Frank Biela. Jan Magnussen, brand new to the Audi R8, put in a lap time of 3:36.418 to secure 5th position for Audi Sport Japan Team Goh. Team ADT Champion Racing is in 6th position with a time of 3:36.857 set by JJ Lehto.

Three drivers per team will share the duties behind the wheel of the 3.6-liter, bi-turbo Audi R8 which has been de-tuned by 60bhp due to imposed power reductions for the Le Mans Prototype 900 class this year. Each driver will normally drive in "stints" lasting between two and three hours, at speeds in excess of 200mph. Since the race is comprised of four different classes of cars (LMP 900, LMP 675, GTS and GT) lapping the slower cars is one of the driver's most difficult tasks.

Rod Bymaster, Audi Sport North America's Motorsport Manager, stated the Audi privateer teams chose to spend most of their qualifying time in prepping the cars. "Champion, Audi UK and Team Goh used this qualifying session to test various set-ups for the cars as opposed to just going after the pole position. All three Audi teams feel confident that they have a very good car and a good shot at winning Le Mans. It's going to be a fantastic race!"

The quaint town of Le Mans is situated on the outskirts of France and has been hosting the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans for 71 years. The field of 50 cars will compete on an 8.48 mile circuit made up of public roads, purpose-built sections and 21 turns. The green flag will be dropped Saturday at 4:00 pm Central European time.

In North America, race fans will be able to watch 17 hours of live coverage of the event on SPEED Channel, beginning at 9 a.m. (EDT) on Saturday. Live coverage of the entire race can be heard online at www.radiolemans.com.

Driver quotes:

AUDI SPORT UK, #10 AUDI R8

Frank Biela from Germany: "I'm very happy for the team and Audi UK - especially considering what happened at the pre-test when I spun off on oil and damaged the car - that upset me. I had a good run on my last set of qualifiers but third place on the grid does not mean a great deal - obviously it's the race that matters but we've shown well in each qualifying session."

Perry McCarthy from Britain: "It was more enjoyable for me tonight. I felt more comfortable in the car so got my head down, relaxed and enjoyed myself out there in the dark and I was pleased with my times."

Mika Salo from Finland: "I did not get many laps tonight which was a shame and also always on full-tanks. But Frank has shown has the car works well and is fast. I think that the race will be definitely different to qualifying and we'll be much closer to the Bentleys."

TEAM ADT CHAMPION RACING, #6 AUDI R8

Emanuele Pirro of Italy: "We accomplished a lot in the pre-test last month so arrived this week very well prepared. Qualifying on the third row is not a problem to me - importantly the car is good in race trim and that is all that matters."

JJ Lehto of Finland: "We've worked on tactics and set-up specifically for the race - we could not challenge for pole-position. There has been a massive amount of preparation - it's the biggest privateer operation I've seen in my career."

Stefan Johansson of Sweden: "The team has made a huge effort - quite extraordinary. You can speculate and predict about the race but no one knows how it'll work out. We have done everything humanly possible in terms of preparation."

AUDI SPORT JAPAN TEAM GOH, #5 AUDI R8

Seiji Ara from Japan: "The car was better than yesterday and if I got a clear lap during my stint, I could do 3.38 to 3.39 easily. The best thing about our car is that it is so consistent and we can rely on it. I'm really looking forward to race day."

Jan Magnussen from Denmark: "After changing our front section, the car was getting better and better. The balance was so nice. There was just a little bit bounce under braking but I got the 3rd fastest time in the first session. Then in the 2nd session, I tried again for a better time but I locked the tires when I entered the first chicane. "

Marco Werner from Germany: "I drove most laps in the 1st session to set up our car. It was a little bit nervous around the front section and bouncing but the car got better after each pit stop. In the 2nd session we made more progress with the set-up and I am very happy with the car. Now I have confidence to race our car."

-www.audiusa.com

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About this article
Series Le Mans
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Seiji Ara , Mika Salo , Marco Werner , Perry McCarthy , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto