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Rob Barff’s Le Mans Diary
Day Four – Thursday Qualifying

After the problems with our car on Wednesday it was critically important for to get decent track time in the final two qualifying sessions on Thursday.

The TVR certainly had the ability to improve but I still had to qualify in the car. Each driver must complete three laps in both a daylight and night time session and so far I hadn’t managed it in either one!

Overnight the boys replaced the engine and clutch in both of the TVRs and by the time we got to 7 pm and the start of the first session I was really up for it.

After so many problems it was a real relief to get out there and do what I do best.

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It was easy to bring down the time from yesterday: I finally managed a lap of the circuit (8.48 miles long!) in 4:20.288, that’s an average speed of almost 190 km/h or almost 120 mph in old money. That looks fast, and it is, but the top prototypes here are lapping at an average of about 145, so in the quicker parts of the circuit the closing speeds are enormous. We’ll start towards the back of the grid with the #92 car two rows in front of us. No matter, I like a challenge.

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I set the time on race tyres and with a race set up: we’d hoped and expected to be much quicker on the stickier qualifying Dunlops but I was baulked twice and just couldn’t get a clean lap in with them. Despite that I got good time in the car, eight full flying laps and that was the most important thing of all.

The session went well all round and for the final, night time qualifying period I just did what I had to do, three laps to qualify and back in to hand the car over to Richard Hay to let him do the same.

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We spent most of the session adjusting the set-up of the car. That’s one of the key things about endurance racing, you have to have a set-up that works for all the drivers in the car over long stints and often in changing conditions. Again the problems yesterday had cost us time and opportunity to experiment and unfortunately for the early part of the session, we ended up with a set-up that didn’t really suit any of us.

The good news is that the changes we made worked much better for me and for both of the Richards (Stanton and Hay). What we now have is a car that is very raceable. We have, in effect, adopted the set up from the #92 car. Tim Sugden has been doing the majority of the qualifying runs in that car and has found three seconds over our time in #91. I’m very confident that once we get settled in we’ll find the missing pace.

It’s a rest day here on Friday but there is the Drivers Parade in the City Centre to look forward to this evening. Martin Short has told me that we’ve got a real experience to look forward to there, with thousands of Brits now arriving for the race. If I know TVR fans as well as I think I do I guess we’ll come across a few! Some of the TVR drivers are planning a trip this evening to the campsites so I’d guess with over a thousand TVR Car Club members travelling over for the race we’ll come across a few more there too!

So all in all a good day, I’m more relaxed, the team is ready and Saturday’s 4pm race start is galloping towards us. After a bad Wednesday, my usual chirpy demeanour is back! At least that’s what the lads on the pit crew tell me.

 

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