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