'A positive start,' says Michelin's Matthieu Bonardel Patience is a virtue - but there was no sign of it among the competitors in the 76th running of the Le Mans 24-Hour race. After a rainy test day on June 1, the first qualifying session from...
'A positive start,' says Michelin's Matthieu Bonardel
Patience is a virtue - but there was no sign of it among the competitors in the 76th running of the Le Mans 24-Hour race. After a rainy test day on June 1, the first qualifying session from 7-9 pm and 10 pm - midnight was run in ideal weather conditions., which meant the teams could put in some intensive work as they evaluated the various slicks on offer. For Michelin's 4-wheel competition manager Matthieu Bonardel, the results were very positive.
As expected, the Michelin-shod Peugeot 908 Hdi-FAP cars quickly made their way to the front, Sarrazin eclipsing the lap record with a 3 :18.513. Three Peugeots finished at the top ahead of three Audi R10's. Romain Dumas was seventh-quickest despite a big accident. In the LMP2 class, Maassen set a 3:33.441 in his Porsche Spyder, while in the GT1 class it was the number 63 Corvette that set the benchmark, with Neiman's Porsche 997 GT3 dominating the GT2 runners.
In the first half of the session the prototype teams took advantage of a relatively warm track to try out the medium tyres while the GT runners were on the hard compound. " We clearly learned a lot more in these four hours of qualifying than on the whole test day, " said Matthieu Bonardel. The teams worked through a range of settings, using different tyre pressures, looking at two or even three change-overs. " The track conditions were very good, it's all very positive at this stage. We're comfortable with the medium tyres, " was the verdict.
In the second half of the session the teams focussed on the 'soft' compound tyres. " And we are very happy with the work done in that area as well, " insisted Matthieu Bonardel. " The performance is there as well as the durability, and that's what we're really looking for, some teams were able to do long runs. The time laps improved compare to 2007 and thanks to our partner teams for the way they worked with us this winter. "
Only a few cars used the tyres prepared specifically for qualifying purposes. " Not many teams worked on sheer performance, " said Matthieu Bonardel. " That wasn't the main aim tonight. They were all a bit short of data after the wet test day. The Dome team asked to try out the two specifications of specially-marked 'qualifying' tyres on offer, and the results were as we anticipated. The softer tyres are worth about three seconds. "
All of the teams are now focussing on the second qualifying session on Thursday June 12 from 7 - 9 pm and from 10 pm - midnight. " We have recommended that the teams look at fine-tuning their strategies over two, three or even four change-overs, " says Matthieu Bonardel. " " It's all about getting some serious mileage in. But as far as we are concerned the main thing to come out of the first evening's qualifying is the marked improvement in lap times. It's going to be a real battle in the LMP1 class, of course, but the same applies to the LMP2 and GT classes. It should be great ! "