Qualifying - June 14-15
Sticking To The Plan
With the slow,
hot and fairly routine surroundings of scrutineering out of the
way, the Wednesday and Thursday qualifying sessions were to prove
altogether different for the Chamberlain-Synergy LMP1 crew. However,
the team kept its laps to the minimum throughout most of the qualifying
periods, leaving the equipment fresh for the ‘jaunt’
at the weekend.
A year ago the
team suffered a major set-back during the opening, wet qualifying
session after Peter Owen hit the wall on the exit of the second
As the opening
session started for this year’s event, at 19.00 on Wednesday,
the heavens had just opened and a cautious and steady plan was taken
by Hugh Chamberlain to keep the Lola in the garage, at least until
the team could see what the weather was really going to do.
it turned out, it stayed wet. Very, very wet by the middle of the
session and with the night laps to get in, as well as what was hoped
to be a dry session on Thursday, Hugh Chamberlain decided that,
“We’ll do some light laps in the night session, get
the guys their laps in and then go to the bar! I really don’t
see any point in going out in these conditions.”
So, zero laps
on the board for the Lola after the first two hour and only nine
by the end of day one of track action at Le Mans 2006. But, the
team was in better shape than 12 months prior and the drivers were
all glad that Hugh had kept them on the leash, until getting out
at the end of the night session for those three laps each.
absolutely bloody dreadful,” said Peter Owen. “I mean,
really, really bad. I wouldn’t want to go out in it again.”
frightening in places,” exclaimed Gareth Evans. “Hugh
made the right decisions keeping us out of that in the opening session.
We weren’t going to achieve anything, so it was definitely
the right call.”
So, a cautious
and low-key start for the team. For some of the other teams, a ‘Chamberlain-type’
approach would have paid dividends: there was considerable damage
to some of the other cars, including an LMP1 rivals, one of the
was an altogether different prospect, though.
was walking around the garage with a bandage on his right hand.
How did he do that then? He managed to cut himself, twice, while
practising driver changes on Wednesday.
realised that I’d done it at first and by the time I had,
I’d done it again!” he said. “It’s fine
and won’t interfere with driving though.”
He also told
us, with his tongue firmly in cheek, that he and Peter Owen had
managed to upset Bob Berridge already this week.
at the signature cards we’ve had done and when he realised
he wasn’t driving the car in the pictures, he decided he didn’t
We quite liked
that!” he joked. So here's Bob at the wheel.
a hot, dry track greeted the teams as the pit-lane opened at 7pm:
Bob Berridge was third in line and immediately took the number 19
car up to a provisional P5 behind the Audis and Pescarolos.
P5 became P7
within a few minutes, as Jamie Campbell-Walter went faster in the
Creation Hybrid and the (repaired) number 13 Courage vaulted ahead
of the Lola.
With 25 minutes
of the session gone it was Gareth Evans’ turn to take to the
wheel and get acclimatized to the heat and dry track. Peter Owen
was then installed in the car with an hour of the session remaining
on the clock.
Both Owen and
Evans complained that the engine was feeling flat, with Gareth even
struggling to pass supposedly slower cars during his stint.
The fault was
found and cured easily, the wrong engine map being switched on as
they swapped drivers.
engine was flat when I went out,” said Gareth Evans. “In
fourth gear I put my foot flat down and it just wouldn’t pull.
The engine guys went the wrong way with the engine map. It’s
sorted now and we should be quite a bit faster, but it was a struggle
to begin with, I was finding it hard to pass the LMP2 cars initially.”
“They went the wrong direction on switching it over and turned
it back the other way, but we should gain quite a bit of time now,”
added Hugh Chamberlain.
weren’t great when I got in the car and with the problem with
the map I was struggling,” said Peter Owen. “Although,
I shouldn’t complain too much as I was only a second off our
aimed target, so it’s not all bad!”
was made for all of the drivers to have a short stint in the final
night-time session, for one last turn behind the wheel in the dark
before getting into the race.
was able to have one good crack at a better time in the cooler temperatures
and turned in a 3m40.467s, to break into the top ten that the team
was hoping for back at scrutineering two days earlier.
caught in traffic at the Porsche Curves and lost about three seconds
on my fastest lap,” admitted Berridge. “But that’s
how it goes. It’s part of being here. It’s where we
want to be so that’s ok,” he added.
With the engine
on full song, Bob chased an Audi all the way down Mulsanne, and
the R10 didn't get away from him.
by the end of the night they would have to settle for 11th on the
grid, as the Zytek and Swiss Spirit Courage put in late laps to
demote them just outside the desired starting slot.
Owen was over the moon with his stint in the French darkness, ending
up faster than he had during the daylight session.
about four seconds!” he smiled. “The other two went
slower than they did before. So I’m understandably happy about
LMP1 won’t be starting from its hoped for top ten starting
position on Saturday afternoon. But, so far the team has had the
trouble free run it was looking for and with the experience of Hugh
Chamberlain guiding them through, they’ve kept the mileage
down too, working to a steady and methodical plan.
The free day
on Friday – with just the drivers parade to do – will
give the drivers time to relax before heading into what might be,
if the plan keeps going, a great result by Sunday afternoon.