Team Bentley sets pace at preliminary testing Le Mans, 4th May 2003 ....Team Bentley has successfully completed the first phase of its campaign to win Le Mans on the 80th anniversary of its first race in the 24-hour classic. After eight hours of...
Team Bentley sets pace at preliminary testing
Le Mans, 4th May 2003 ....Team Bentley has successfully completed the first phase of its campaign to win Le Mans on the 80th anniversary of its first race in the 24-hour classic. After eight hours of testing the number 7 Speed 8 Le Mans GT Prototype topped the time sheets with Tom Kristensen lapping in 3min 34.8sec, over 3.5sec ahead of the fastest of the hitherto unbeatable Audi R8s.
The number 8 car ended the day third fastest with a time of 3min 38.9 sec, Johnny Herbert's attempt to set a representative time for the car being thwarted by the perennial problem of slow traffic.
These excellent times were achieved despite a far from trouble-free run for the two Bentleys, with minor problems dogging the team throughout the day. Dindo Capello, in the No 7 Speed 8, was forced to pull over at the side of the Mulsanne straight after a rear suspension component failed, while No 8's most hair-raising incident was a puncture for Mark Blundell in the 5th gear corner at Indianapolis. Mark did brilliantly to save the car and get it to the pits in one piece.
"I am absolutely delighted to end up fastest by such a margin," commented Bentley's motorsport director, Brian Gush, "particularly as we have not had the easiest of days. We lost a lot of time making set-up changes for car 8, while car 7 was stranded for an hour before lunch. Under the circumstances I'd say we could hardly have hoped for more, save perhaps a traffic-free run for Johnny at the end of the day. Had he had a clear lap, I've no doubt we'd have been in the top two spots. As it is, car 8 is only half a second behind the fastest of the three Audis."
John Wickham, team director, commented: "It's very rewarding to come away from today with first and third places. It's given the team the boost they deserve after what turned out to be a very hard day's work. There is a lot more to think about and several issues to resolve before the race, but while we had numerous niggles we encountered no major problems. It just goes to show once more that this track continues to spring surprises even on the best-prepared teams."
Bentley Drivers' Quotes
Johnny Herbert: "The car has great potential and I'm delighted with the way the car is performing. The times we have recorded are extremely positive, but there was really too much traffic to run quickly. It's great working for Team Bentley and on the evidence gathered today I think we have good reason to be optimistic for the race itself."
Mark Blundell: "We've learned a great deal about the car today, and we have already made some productive changes. I'm really enjoying being part of such an historic team and look forward to seeing 80,000 British fans travelling to Le Mans to support us in June. I've got a great team with Johnny Herbert and David Brabham who are not only great guys but also very quick."
David Brabham: "The Bentleys have proven to be among the fastest cars here today, which given that we've really been working on the race set up rather than trying to break the lap record is very encouraging. When I was driving this morning, the track was incredibly dusty but it cleaned up a bit through the morning and the times soon started to come."
Tom Kristensen: "Of course it is the race that really matters, but today we proved beyond doubt that we have built and developed an extremely quick car. Anyone of three drivers in the No 7 car could have earned the fastest lap today and I'd like to thank the whole team for the great effort they have put in over the last months to get us to Le Mans in such great shape. And I have no doubt at all that there is still more to come."
Dindo Capello: "Despite our problems we've ended up having a great day. We've been at the top of the time sheets all day so we could not have had a better beginning to our campaign to win Le Mans. My confidence in the team and with the car could not be higher."
Guy Smith: "Despite some concerns, we have made solid progress today. We had some problems with vibrations but as Tom proved, there can be no doubting the outright pace of the car. Like my teammates I now look forward to the race in June with great anticipation. Clearly the car has the pace to excel in the race and it's up to us to make sure it does."