TRICKY FIRST QUALIFYING FOR HALLIDAY AND INTERSPORT The first qualifying session for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans turned out to be a particularly tricky affair, as rain began to fall on the French circuit minutes after the cars took to the track...
TRICKY FIRST QUALIFYING FOR HALLIDAY AND INTERSPORT
The first qualifying session for the 2006 24 Hours of Le Mans turned out to be a particularly tricky affair, as rain began to fall on the French circuit minutes after the cars took to the track for the first time in earnest and continued for the evening. The combination of no rain for almost two weeks and several new sections of track caught many drivers out and the first of the two sessions was eventually red flagged following an accident on the circuit.
Intersport Racing LMP2 Lola/AER driver Liz Halliday avoided the worst of the incidents and returned to the pits between the dusk and full night-time sessions for a check over. Duncan Dayton had taken the first stint and posted a time which claimed second in the LMP2 category as the rain began to fall more heavily and the circuit became more and more water-logged.
Liz Halliday took over as the weather reached its worst and it appeared that it had started to affect the Lola/AER. "I didn't get a single clean lap in that session," explained Liz during the break. "We had a problem with the pit lane speed limiter on the circuit and I came in a couple of times to try to rectify that. But I have to say, that was no fun.
"There was so much standing water on the circuit that it was very difficult. I had several moments when the car aquaplaned over the water, including one when the rear snapped sideways under braking for the chicane. I managed to correct it but my heart-rate went sky-high! I've driven the car before in the wet, at Mid-Ohio in the ALMS and it was actually very nice to drive then, as there was no standing water. But with this much water on the surface, it's very tricky."
As this was the first qualifying session, Halliday was conscious that pushing too hard and making a mistake, as so many other drivers did during the session, could compromise the team's chances of success this year. "I certainly didn't want to damage the car," she said. "I hope that the weather isn't like this for the race itself, as if it is, it will be very difficult." However, while the weather forecast predicts prolonged rain for the rest of Wednesday and Thursday, when there are two more qualifying sessions, the weekend looks like a return to the sunshine and searing temperatures of the last few days.
The weather remained as bad for the second session and all three drivers went out, to record the required three laps each at night. And the conditions were no better, according to Halliday. "It was still pretty unpleasant," she said. "There was no reason to push in the second session -- I think we've all had enough moments for one day!"
Team Manager Brian Alder explained that the team was happy with the evening's work. "We had a small electrical problem at the end of the first session and the beginning of the second, which we were able to locate and fix. Once we rectified that, the car was running fine. We're happy with the way this evening has gone and with the pace in these conditions. It's was drying slightly towards the end of the session but then it start to rain again. If we had a couple more laps, then I think we could have improved our position. But we're happy with today and ready for tomorrow's sessions."