Le Mans 24 Hours
Thursday Qualifying Report - GTS & GT
Two red flags
interrupted the early minutes of the session, the first for Jamie
Campbell-Walter’s accident and the next following an oil spillage
on the Mulsanne before the first chicane. The spillage was believed
to have originated with a self-destructing engine from the #75 Perspective
Before the red
flag could be deployed however the T2M Porsche, Berville at the
wheel and already propping up the timesheets in 50th place, spun
on the oil and hit the barrier causing damage to the front right
hand corner. The car stopped broadside across the circuit.
PK Sport too appeared
to have been a victim, ending up in the gravel at the first chicane,
Robin Liddell unable to hold the 911 after hitting an enormous oil
slick. The #78 car though returned to the pit garage for a clean-up
and a replacement rear wing.
One car that was able
to improve in the already disjointed session was the Spyker, almost
2 seconds faster than last night’s sessions with a 4:19
Rob Barff was
finally getting an opportunity to post some lap times in the #91
TVR, a 4:22 a big improvement for this car.
was pressing on in the #80 Ferrari 550, getting ever closer to the
times posted yesterday evening.
The #95 Risi
/ ACEMCO Ferrari has a gravelly moment at Post 131, the exit of
the Ford Chicane, Butch Leitzinger at the wheel. Slight damage to
the rear end.
A further improvement
for Barff in the #91 TVR a 4:20 pulling the car up another slot
on the timing sheets and to within a second of the time posted yesterday
Pedro Chaves makes a
big improvement in the Graham Nash Saleen with a 4:04 leapfrogging
the two Vipers for 7th in GTS he further improves soon afterwards
with a 4:03.
Ian Khan, the driver
aboard the #75 Perspective Porsche when the engine went bang explained
the incident :
“It was a fresh
race engine and going down Mulsanne it felt a little tight. I was
taking it very gently keeping the revs down and suddenly it went
boom’. I steered it towards an extinguisher post but the back
end had caught fire. The automatic extinguisher went off and there
was so much smoke in the car I couldn’t find the handle. The
marshal opened the door for me.” The Perspective Porsche is
just a little singed but with a fresh engine will be OK for the
race. All three drivers are qualified and Nigel Smith is thinking
of selecting a restaurant for this evening.
At 20:30 another
big improvement in GTS, this time for the #61 Pagani Zonda, Mike
Hezemans posting a 4:04 a full 15 seconds quicker than yesterday.
The Pagani ground
to a halt on the lead up to the first chicane with 30 minutes of
the session remaining, the engine apparently dead.
the #72 Luc Alphand Ferrari 550 leapfrogged over the #80 Veloqx
version as the clock ticked down, the blue and white car is now
third fastest in GTS.
The cooler evening
air is clearly helping the times to come down. Thomas Erdos making
another improvement in the Graham Nash Saleen, a 4:02 putting the
‘British’ Saleen very close behind the mark of Franz
Konrad’s ‘German’ version. With just moments to
go in the session Erdos took the Saleen honours with a 4:01.
In GT Yogo improved
in the dying minutes of the session in the Taisan 911, closing the
gap to the Risi Ferrari ahead.
Tim Sugden too
was improving towards the end, bringing more colour to the cheeks
of TVR fans with a very respectable 4:16, seventh in GT.
Right at the
end of the session Darren Turner makes a big improvement in the
#80 Veloqx Ferrari, a 3:55.406 pipping the #50 Corvette for second
The signs are
good for at least a fair number of the GTS and GT runners that the
cool start to the last session might well bring some final improvements.
The Top Five
#80 Ferrari – 3:55.406
#50 Corvette – 3:55.613
#72 Ferrari – 3:56.216
#53 Corvette – 3:58.941
The Top Five
#81 Porsche – 4:08.105
#87 Porsche - 4:09.857
#78 Porsche – 4:11.623
#94 Ferrari – 4:12.016
reports regarding an 'off' for the Corvette #53 last night have
now been confirmed. Ron Fellows hit a tyre barrier, the suggestion
being that his air was taken away from him by one of the Bentleys,
the sudden loss of downforce causing a big moment, which the Canadian
did very well to just about control.
10 PM and the
Green Flag waves for the final qualifying session for the 2003 Le
Mans 24 Hours.
News from PK
Sport is that they were without second gear for almost the whole
of the first session this evening . the crew changed the box between
sessions and the #78 car will be out again.
had a poor start to the session, straight into the gravel in the
started the session rapidly, drawing closer to the polesitting Veloqx
550 with a 3:54.725.
The #92 TVR
had a quick spin into the gravel at the Dunlop Esses, some rapid
work by the marshals though soon saw it back on track.
improved in the early moments too with a 4:03 in the #86 Larbre
Viper. Minutes later and Bouchut improves again into the 4:01s to
split the Saleens.
Lucas Luhr was
showing his mettle early on too, a fantastic 4:06.984 consolidating
pole position for Alex Job. Timo Bernhard in The Racers Group 911
was pushing on too, he improved to 4:07.028, three seconds quicker
than pole last year and just thousandths between them!
As the first
half hour of the final session passed Marc Lieb in the Orbit 911
was trying to join in the fun with a 4:08.913.
improvements in the first 30 minutes of the final session saw David
Terrien in the #70 JMB Ferrari and Michel Ferte in the #99 XL Racing
Ferrari 550 making progress.
after 40 minutes was the #83 Porsche of Tony Burgess a two second
improvement enough to lift the Seikel car four places up the order
to seventh in class.
At 45 minutes
the timing screens flash up with something of a surprise in ninth
position overall with a 3:39.408 – the #50 Corvette!! Shurely
Shome Mishtake!! Yes indeed, the ACO’s technical wizards soon
restored order, no improvement for #50 still third in class.
As the third
hour closed it looked as if the time for major improvements was
over and the teams were settling into race pace practice.