Le Mans 24 Hours
Wednesday Qualifying Report - Prototypes
30 minutes into a very hot first qualifying session, and the surprise
was Jan Lammers pulling off at the Esses on his out lap: a mechanic
was 'assisting', or in other words, calling instructions to the
Dutchman. The marshals assisted too.
was first of the non VAG cars in sixth after half an hour, with
a 3:46 from Marc Goossens, the #16 RfH Dome next up. Mark Blundell
set a 3:38.5 within 20 minutes of the track opening, in still hot
conditions. Race pace for the Bentleys? Lehto was the first R8 under
3:40, with a 3:39.8, quicker than Tom Kristensen's best in #7.
was the only 675 driver under 4:00, with a 3:51. The Bucknum Pilbeam
visited the gravel, but made its way back to the pits - where the
Lister had the engine cover off after a single lap of the circuit.
A cautious start
all round. Just after half an hour, the #15 RfH Dome got going again.
Bentley pace with a 3:37, for fastest time so far - less than 40
minutes into the session. With temperatures so high, now seems to
be the time to get drivers qualified, work on set-up if necessary
- and wait until 22.00 to go for a time...if that is the team's
preference, a first day grid time.
three Audis, and then.....#4 R&S, #12 Panoz, #16 Dome, #17 Courage,
#9 Dome, #26 DBA, #11 Panoz, #13 Courage, #27 MG-Lola (this group
in the range 3:46.6 to 3:53.2). The del Bello Reynard was another
eight seconds back.
Just past 50
minutes and Blundell (no, Herbert) set a 3:35.321 in the #8 Bentley:
so much for guessing that the Bentleys would wait before going faster.
#8's time was over three seconds faster than its best five weeks
ago. Lehto's best so far was within half a second of the Champion
car's best at the Test Day. Quick times already, with less than
an hour gone.
an impressive 3:40 before the hour was up, splitting the Audis -
fourth place for the #16. The Dome was seen by our spotter with
a slave battery plugged in, to get it fired up. Apparently a fuel
line popped off.
#8 Bentley 3:35.321
#7 Bentley 3:37.467
#6 Champion Audi 3:39.563
#15 Dome 3;40.792
#5 Goh Audi 3:41.653
#10 Audi Sport UK Audi 3:42.398
#11 Panoz 3:46.051
#4 R&S 3:46.688
#18 Pescarolo Courage 3:46.711
#17 Pescarolo Courage 3:47.349.
The Kondo Dome:
remember we told you about the revised block of the Mugen V8, the
one first tested on the airport on Monday morning? Ukyo Katayama
set a 3:41.871 just after the hour, to place sixth fastest. That's
three seconds quicker than at the Test Day.
He set a 3:38.923 at approx.75 minutes into the session, to vault
ahead of all three Audis. A determined lap from a man frustrated
at losing the first 45 minutes? Domes now third, sixth and 14th.
Bosch climbed into the #15 fir his first turn.
beat his Test Day best by a good margin, with a 3:45.243. Intersport
were next in 675 with a 3:53.
Bentley form with a 3:35.765 for #8 - so the Bentleys three seconds
faster than Lammers, then Champion, Goh, the Kondo Dome and the
Audi Sport UK Audi. Nielsen next, three more seconds behind.
The Lister was
down in 47th, with a 4:20. Twenty minutes left of the first two
hour session, and Andy Wallace headed out in the #15. Lammers to
go for it at 22.00?
in the Pilbeam, cured with a new oil radiator.
improvements for Champion, Goh and Kondo Dome with 15 minutes left.
Marc Goossens had a moment in the R&S, and there's slight damage
at the back (rear wing). The Intersport Lola has a blown engine,
so that's probably the end of the day for Intersport (no it wasn't
- engine changed in time for some laps at 23.45), while the NASAMAX
Reynard is in (sixth) gear selection bothers.
3:53 is fairly impressive, but the Norma has been less so, best
time a 4:08.
Last ten minutes...air
and track temperatures cooler....and the Lister sets a 3:45.379,
13th fastest, quicker than the R&S. That's more like it. Courage
#17, a 3:40.839 for Boullion, fifth fastest.
a 3:37, behind the two Bentleys. And that's about it for now...the
fun should start at 22.00..
The Lister suffered
from mysterious overheating: "We're bemused from Leatherhead,"
said Fiona Pearce. "It seems to have cured itself." Thicker
radiators will be fitted for tomorrow.
Andy Wallace: "We've
got a little bit more still to come, but it's going to be very hard
to close the gap to the Bentleys."
Kristensen and Lammers
lapped in close company from the off in session two, both on real
It was a 3:33.658
for ‘Special K’, Lammers next through on a 3:37.350
and then Brabham with a 3:35.222.
news for Dome though was a big improvement for Gommendy in the #16
RFH Dome, up to fifth, both RFH Domes in amongst the Audis.
banged in a 3:32.843 on his second flyer, widening the gap as Brabham
pitted for a change of tyres. The #7 Bentley was visibly quicker
than anything else through the Ford Chicanes: Kristensen exceeded
our predicted 3:33 - very, very impressive, confirmed by Guy Smith:
“Tom did a couple of fantastic laps to eclipse the ‘sister’
Bentley which had topped the time-sheets after two hours. Once we
had got provisional pole, I jumped in the car and concentrated on
getting a good race set-up."
was next in amongst the scrap, up to third with a 3:37.261 for Audi
Sport UK – 3rd to 5th covered by four tenths of a second after
12 minutes of the session.
20 minutes in
and the Dome falls another place down the timing sheets as Pirro
banged in a time just a tenth shy of his 2000, 2001 and 2002 team
mate. Biela though stretched the gap again to three tenths.
done yet though, out on the circuit and trying hard. His first quick
one is spoiled by traffic, but he clears it to start another...probably
his last effort...and it's slightly slower, as the light fades.
Biela went quicker again, by a couple of tenths, so Audi UK and
Champion on the second row, Lammers just ahead of Magnussen on the
third (Mags, third fastest Audi? - he locked up into the Ford Chicane
part two, the senior Audi men didn't), then Gommendy and Beretta
on the fourth, the Panoz outside 3:40, and two seconds down on the
much younger Dome design.
The Lister is
out on the circuit and lapping quickly – up to 12th slot after
20 minutes, and only dropping to 13th then 14th as the R&S makes
a modest improvement, and the Courage Judd gets into the 3:42s.
The Lister is doing everything right, apart from struggling along
In LMP 675 the
#31 Courage is improving steadily, up to 20th overall with a 3:55,
two seconds slower than Jon Field - the Intersport Lola not moving
during this session, but still second, to Nielsen of course, who
found a second during the 22.00 to 22.30 period.
The Goh Audi
(Marco Werner) has a trip into the gravel at 23.00 - and attempts
at quick prototype laps are a thing of the past...until tomorrow,
anyway. Or maybe we've already seen all the serious efforts at the
front of the grid.
And then the
Pilbeam's oil goes down - red flag at 23.15. The engine shut down
in response to the engine evacuating its fluids.
resumes at approx 23.35, but although the Intersport MG-Lola ventures
out, it stops suddenly out on the track. It'll come right for the
And the first
four hour qualifying period comes to a close, after an inconsequential
last hour. It's night laps anyway for the drivers, but the flow
has been lost after the red flag period. The only improvement was
the Nasamax Reynard, which Werner Lupberger took round in 4:01,
but the South African reckoned there's "another ten seconds
in the car. I was slowing down because of yellow flags."