RISI COMPETIZIONE HAPPY WITH PROVISIONAL QUALIFYING The first four hours of running for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans took place under warm conditions and clear skies and, despite several red flag interruptions, the team pronounced itself...
RISI COMPETIZIONE HAPPY WITH PROVISIONAL QUALIFYING
The first four hours of running for this weekend's 24 Hours of Le Mans took place under warm conditions and clear skies and, despite several red flag interruptions, the team pronounced itself satisfied that the majority of its planned provisional qualifying program had been completed within the two 2-hour sessions.
At 7:00pm Mika Salo started the day for the #82 car and worked on finding a well balanced car before handing over to Gimmi Bruni. The Finn had been deeply saddened to hear earlier today the news of the death of Ove Andersson, his former boss of the Toyota F1 team, but was professional to the core in the car. Bruni, who is making his debut in the Le Mans classic, profited from a clearer track and continued to make progress in the set up with various changes to areas such as springs, camber and wing settings.
Jaime Melo was behind the wheel of the Rosso red Ferrari when the green flag dropped again at 10:00 pm and was soon up to his usual quick pace. Further changes were made to the car and the Brazilian was soon able to post a best time of 4:01.598 which placed him fourth in the GT2 class. Salo and Bruni then ran their mandatory night laps before the proceedings were brought to a premature close due to the frighteningly severe accident which befell the LMP2 Kruse Schiller Lola Mazda. Fortunately no one was injured but the session ended under a red flag.
Melo said afterwards, "By the end the car was much better. The last run we improved a little bit more. We had too much high speed mid to exit under steer but, by the finish, it was okay. I don't know if this is enough for us to challenge the Porsches in qualifying as they are fast here, but the track is quite dirty and tricky so you don't want to take too much risk. Tomorrow, if it is not wet, we will see if we can take it one step more. The first quick lap I did on my soft Michelin tires I got traffic, and the second I got the Peugeot and Audi and it was very dirty in the last two chicanes. We could have been a bit closer for sure, although I'm not sure we could have beaten the Porsches."
The Krohn Racing drivers were not to have quite such a smooth run in their first four hours, although progress was made in set up and re-familiarisation with the track. Nic Jonsson and Tracy Krohn ran for the majority of the first two hours, and it was Jonsson's time of 4:07.978 set in the opening quarter of the first session which set their mark. Former Le Mans winner Eric van de Poele took to the wheel for the first time in the closing minutes of the early evening session.
A wheel off the track through the Ford chicane resulted in a slight brush with the wall, just before the checkered flag fell, but the Risi Competizione team was efficiently and quickly able to complete repairs to the right rear suspension and bodywork so that the car was able to rejoin proceedings once the second session was underway. Tracy Krohn completed his night laps before handing over to his Swedish team mate and consequently van de Poele whose time behind the wheel was curtailed by the LMP2 accident. They will both do more night running during Thursday's four hours of track time.
Tracy Krohn, who is delighted to be back at Le Mans once more, said at the end of the day: "We have made progress. We are not far off now, and after a few more laps we will be in race trim. We are nearly there now. I had no thoughts about what happened here at the test and, in fact, I noticed a change to the track since the test -- the area where I went off is more defined now."
Practice and qualifying for the 24 Hours of Le Mans will conclude on Thursday, June 12, with two timed sessions from 7-9:00 pm and 10:00 pm to midnight. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will start at 3:00 pm local time (8:00 am CT) on Saturday, June 14 and finish at 3:00 pm (8:00 am CT) on Sunday, June 15. SPEED will televise the start of the race live on June 14 from 8:30 am EDT to 12 pm EDT, and the finish from 9 pm EDT on June 14 to 9:30 am EDT on June 15.