The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Thursday Qualifying Report - 900 & 675

The third qualifying session of the weekend began with some worrying scenes: Jamie Campbell-Walter hit the barrier - heading backwards, side-on we believe - on his first flying lap in the Lister Storm LMP. The session was immediately red-flagged, and medical staff took extreme care to remove the Scot from the Lister.

The removal of the driver took a good ten minutes. JC-W was carefully placed into an ambulance, and we'll bring news of his well-being as soon as we can.

The accident happened at the end of the new section of track after the Dunlop Bridge, at the entrance to the Esses.

At 19.25, the cars went out again, to resume the third session. Then oil went down, and at least a couple of the GT Porsches had wild moments as a result - along the first part of the Mulsanne, towards or at the First Chicane. The Perspective Porsche may have been the cause of the oil going down, after an engine failure. The NASAMAX Reynard couldn't turn in to the First Chicane, and weaved through the tyres, placed along the Mulsanne itself.

Michael Cotton has returned from the Lister pit to report that JC-W may have a broken ankle. We'll have to wait and hope that his injuries are no worse than that.

The cars leave the pits for the third time at 19.50. There's a lot of cement dust down into that First Chicane, but it's mostly off the racing line. The #7 Bentley set a 3:37, so the oil doesn't seem to be a factor - and the NASAMAX Reynard is the first prototype to improve its time, by six-tenths - and then by another second or so on Dumas' next lap. The #7 Bentley set a 3:35.907, just to assure us that it is the quickest thing in the place. Bentley and Audi Sport UK Audi were the only other two cars under 3:40, just into the second hour.

At 20.30, JJ Lehto set a 3:36.857, the first car into the 3:36s, other than a Bentley. And it's still hot at Le Mans,

Andy Wallace was out for two single flying laps, before and after the Perspective oil went down. "It's very difficult into the First Chicane: the oil is on the left, just where you'd choose to be to brake. To keep off it, I stayed in the middle, on the crown of the road, but the car bottoms there. My better lap was a 3:41, which was OK in the conditions."

RfH has one set of qualifiers left, and we believe that Jan Lammers will aim to join JJ Lehto in the 3:36s, just after 22.00.

Good news: JC-W hasn't broken his ankle, but the car is thought to be out of the race.

The NASAMAX Reynard is into the 3:57s, and safely inside the qualification cut-off. The new WR isn't. The #12 Panoz stopped on the track, with 20 minutes left - at Indianapolis. Scott Maxwell had a moment.

Rick Sutherland skated off at the First Chicane, the Perspective oil still finding victims - this time the Intersport MG-Lola. The older WR, the 675 #24, stopped just before the remains of the hump on Mulsanne, and was pushed behind the barrier.

Lammers set a 3:41, after a quick first sector time.

Action really started at 20.55, Magnussen taking 'fastest Audi honours' with a 3:36.418, Herbert then improving on #8 Bentley's best with a 35.126, an improvement of one tenth.

Philippe Alliot went quicker than yesterday in the #31 Courage, and the NASAMAX Reynard set a 3:56. Duncan Dayton got Intersport moving with a 3:47, while Gounon and Goossens both improved, in #13 Courage and #4 R&S respectively - tenth and twelfth.

22.00 - 00.00

The ten o'clock blast - and Jan Lammers goes third fastest, ahead of all three Audis! A 3:36.156.

Tom Kristensen was ahead of Lammers on the track, just like last night, and set a 3:33. The Dome seemed to match the Bentley round the bulk of the lap, losing out through the Porsche Curves (presumably) and the Ford Chicanes.

Herbert set a very low 3:35 on his second flying lap, a slight improvement. Gounon leaps up to eighth with a 3:40.400, but Tristan Gommendy sets a 3:38.058 to place seventh, behind the three Audis. It's an Audi sandwich.

Intersport's MG-Lola went faster again, a 3:46.404. Still second in 675, two seconds slower than Nielsen's best.

Lammers is going to have another go, with his last set of Michelin qualifiers. Meanwhile, the #24 WR LMP-01 has stopped out on the circuit, and the bodywork was taken off the car for attention to something.

Goossens shows some real Riley & Scott form...a 3:37.476, seventh quickest, demoting Gommendy's Dome. Did you think the R&S was capable of such a time? Magnussen had a go at getting third place from Lammers, but ended up four tenths slower than Lammers, one and a half tenths slower than his best time before the break.

At 22.40, in darkness, Frank Biela steals Lammers' third place with a 3:35.745 - so the Audi UK R8 is fastest Audi once again. That surely has to be the end of it?

1. #7 Bentley - Kristensen - 3:32.843
2. #8 Bentley - Herbert - 3:35.098
3. #10 Audi - Biela - 3:35.745
4. #15 Dome - Lammers - 3:36.156
5. #5 Audi - Magnussen - 3:36.418
6. #6 Audi - Lehto - 3:36.857
7. #4 R&S - Goossens - 3:37.476
8. #16 Dome - Gommendy - 38.058
9. #13 Courage - Gounon - 3:40.400
10. #11 Panoz - Beretta - 3:40.766.

Running out of steam and news here: John Nielsen was very late out this evening, RN Motorsports having been attending to a throttle linkage problem after an engine change this today. Big John all but matched his 3:44.333 from yesterday.

The NASAMAX Reynard set its best time just before the end of the third hour, Romain Dumas a 3:54.320, 21st on the grid.

The Bucknum Pilbeam had a fresh engine fitted, but didn't get out until the mid-point of today's action. Brian Willman may be too far off the minimum qualification time. We'll sort out other drivers in danger tomorrow.

The RN Motorsports DBA has been setting 3:45 night laps as the fourth two hour session comes to a close. Combined times are posted, which is effectively the grid, with the exception of the Lister.

JC-W explained that he hit the barrier at 146 mph, at 14g. He's rather bruised, but basically OK. "The side impact protection in the Lister is so good, that my neck is fine. We didn't have enough spares to repair the car - but we'll be back. I was heading for a 3:41....."

Good night from Le Mans.

 

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