In a dramatic turn-around from the opening night qualifying sessions, Panoz Motor Sports made dramatic improvements aboard the two "Spirit of America" machines in tonight's final qualifying chance for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team...
In a dramatic turn-around from the opening night qualifying sessions, Panoz Motor Sports made dramatic improvements aboard the two "Spirit of America" machines in tonight's final qualifying chance for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The team made major changes overnight which greatly improved the Panoz LMP-01 Evo machines, with David Brabham pushing the #11 car onto 9th place on the grid. Brabham's time of 3:34.824 was nearly 1.5 seconds faster than what the team achieved at the preliminary practice session at Le Mans in May and five seconds faster than Wednesday night.
The Australian will share the car with regular Danish team-mate, Jan Magnussen and American Bryan Herta. The #12 all-American car of Bill Auberlen, David Donohue and Gunnar Jeannette also improved four seconds from Wednesday night. They will start from position 17 on the grid.
While the team was pleased with the improved pace, the evening was not without problems with the #11 car suffering a fire towards the end of the evening. The car punctured an oil filter after on-track debris punched a hole in the floor. Car #12 also had problems with debris, suffering a cut tire with 30 minutes remaining.
The team will now begin final race preparations for the race which kicks off at 4.00pm on Saturday.
"The car is certainly a lot better today and I am a lot happier with our performance. We went back to our standard set-up and all three of us are now very comfortable in the car and we should be quite strong in race conditions.
"My qualifying lap was pretty strong, but I caught some traffic on my last attempt and had to back out of the lap which was unlucky because I was about 6/10ths of a second faster at that stage. "We are feeling much more confident for the race and our tire selection from Michelin gives us a really strong package. The team has done a great job in turning things around after Wednesday.
"Full marks to the team because Wednesday night was a pretty tough time for everybody and we managed to turn things around and find a big chunk of time.
"The car is now much more predictable to drive and you can really attack with confidence. As a race package, I think we are in pretty good shape although we would have liked to be able to do a few more laps at the end of the night.
"Le Mans hasn't been kind to us in the past couple of years, but hopefully things will change this year. It is certainly going to be tough, but we will be giving it everything. These guys are extremely determined and have worked incredibly hard.
"The car has been dramatically improved since last night and it was a little disappointing to suffer the fire that put an end to our session. Flames were coming out the side of the car as I came down the pit straight and I drove it up to the marshals post to put out the fire.
"The guys have really done a brilliant job to keep the car in the race. Six of them still haven't been back to the hotel yet.
"However, everybody remains really confident for the race on Saturday. I am really looking forward to it. The whole experience so far has been a real blast and I can not wait for the parade through the streets tomorrow and seeing the crowd reaction on Saturday."
"We certainly improved a great deal on the stop-watch but haven't moved up on the grid which is a little disappointing. We are starting to head in the right direction in regards to the set-up as the other car and I think we still have some more speed to come.
"The balance in the car is now quite good and I will be very interested to see how it feels in the warm-up on Saturday morning.
"This race is always very tough but we have a bunch of guys who work incredibly hard and I feel we can have a really good run in the race."
"Unfortunately I had a lot of traffic tonight and didn't quite get a clear lap, but the car is certainly dramatically improved form last night.
"I ran over some debris when somebody blew a motor over on the approach to Mulsanne Corner and suffered a puncture. I was able to get the car home intact without doing any damage.
"I think the car is a very good racecar now and you can really charge into things with confidence. I am really looking forward to the race and if we have a trouble free run I think we can have a strong result because with our crew we have the best bunch of guys in the business."
"I got a lot of laps in at night which was good because it has really helped the transition in stepping up to the prototype class. The car has been getting better and better every time I go out which is a good sign and I am starting to feel quite comfortable in the car.
"It was bad luck for David to run over some debris which pulled our session up a little short but I think the three of us should have a strong combination for the 24 Hours.
"This is the toughest race in the world, but we are a pretty tough and determined group of people. Keeping the car on track and running strong is the secret to success and our guys will move mountains to keep us running strong."
1. - Capello/Herbert/Pescatori, Audi R8 - 3:29.905
2. - Biela/Kristensen/Pirro, Audi R8 - 3:30.219
3. - Krum/Peter/Werner, Audi R8 - 3:30.801
4. - Sarrazin/Montagny/Minassian, Dallara - 3:31.828
5. - Lammers/Hillebrand/Coronel, Dome - 3:32.734
9. - Brabham/Magnussen/Herta, Panoz Motor Sports - 3:34.824
17. - Auberlen/Donohue/Jeannette, Panoz Motor Sports - 3:39.069
GTS - Enge/Rydell/Menu, Ferrari - 3:54.091
GT - Buckler/Luhr/Bernhard, Porsche - 4:10.803