The 71st Le Mans 24 Hours
Thursday Qualifying Roundup

Jamie Campbell Walter had high hopes of grabbing the Rookie of the Year award for the fastest newcomer’s time in qualifying. The Lister’s crash in qualifying yesterday clearly ended his hopes of that (and very sadly of Lister’s further participation in the meeting). The tub stood up very well to the impact, and is undamaged.

The rookie honour went to Tristan Gommendy, after a sparkling run in the #16 Racing for Holland Dome. Ex Ferrari F1 driver Mika Salo was of course amongst the significant rookies humbled by the Frenchman.

The #84 T2M Porsche, damaged after spinning on the oil from the detonated #75 Perspective Porsche’s engine, was spotted on a flatbed truck last night - heading for the same body shop that repaired the Seikel / Advan Porsche a few years ago. The main damage seemed to be restricted to the front right hand side, the T2M crew presumably grateful for the 24 hour respite offered by the rest day on Friday. Peter Seikel was very helpful in passing on the address of the respected and experienced body shop firm.

The list of cars and drivers entitled to take part in the morning warm-up tomorrow reveals that all 49 remaining cars will start with their nominated three driver line-ups, irrespective of each driver’s ability to meet the minimum time.

David Legangneux tells us that the Pescarolo Sport practised a rear drivetrain change yesterday, after the practice session, on the #17 Courage. The team removed the box and whole rear end and then refitted the same in around eight minutes. They are confident in race conditions of a full rear end change in around 12 minutes.

Madame Pescarolo explained that her husband’s mood during a race meeting can be revealed by observing his position in the pit garage. A bad day and he will be found at the rear of the garage. It is therefore perhaps significant that he spent the whole of both sessions on the pit wall. Confidence is high at Pescarolo Sport.

The big winners in LMP 900 qualifying yesterday were the Riley and Scott crew, up onto the fourth row after finding an amazing six seconds improvement on Wednesday’s qualifying time in the hands of Marc Goossens (Jim Matthews at the wheel below).

Bill Riley was understandably delighted: “We always knew we had that pace in the car but with the (minor) accident and the engine failure on Wednesday, we just couldn’t put it together. Marc finally got it all hooked up and we’re very pleased with where we are.”

Riley was confident though that with more luck in traffic the time could have been even better: “There was definitely another second there to be found if we’d been a little luckier.”

Row two of course will have the mercurial Jan Lammers as the potential cat amongst the Bentley and Audi pigeons.

In LMP 675 the Intersport MG Lola and the #32 Courage took big steps forward too.

GTS saw Darren Turner flying high in the #80 Veloqx Ferrari, just over a second shy of Enge’s Wednesday time.

There were big improvements too for the Graham Nash Saleen and for both Larbre and Scorp Vipers, all of these though, together with the Konrad Saleen will be hoping that their reliability can count over the pace of the Ferraris and Corvettes ahead.

The Pagani made huge strides in pace (up to a 4:04) but suffered further reliability woes. Long-term prognosis good, short-term it’s fingers crossed for Carsport America. Anthony Kumpen had a blow out at high speed last night, but the Pagani was undamaged.

GT saw even further progress for the storming Porsche trio of Alex Job, The Racers Group and Orbit. The eventual pole time in the class was set by Lucas Luhr with an incredible lap of 1:06.996 for AJR, more than three seconds faster than pole position in the class in 2002.

Alex Job himself attributed the increase in pace to: “Continual testing, continuous development, continuous evolution. The biggest percentage of improvement though is down to Michelin, the pace of change in tyre development has increased dramatically.”

Race engines going into all three of the fastest Porsches today.


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