Le Mans 24 Hours
Wednesday Qualifying Report - GTS & GT
In warm and sticky conditions
the field took to the track for the first of the evening’s
two, two hour qualifying sessions.
The #83 Seikel Porsche,
Andrew Bagnall at the wheel sets the first marker with a 4:31, only
to be immediately pipped by the PK Porsche with a 4:29 at the 11
In GTS it was Frederic
Dor's Ferrari first to show pace with the blue and white #72 posting
a 4:02 (Policand).
Racers Group Porsche posted a 4:16 at the 12 minute mark as a GTS
battle began to develop, both Veloqx Prodrive ferraris and both
Corvettes circulating in close formation.
At the half hour mark
it was a Ferrari 1,2,3 with Jerome Policand in the Luc Alphand version
splitting the Prodrive cars, Peter Kox in provisional pole with
a 4:01 and Kelvin Burt in #80 in third with a 4:03
No sign at all of the
Zonda on track in the first 30 minutes
The GT battle was looking
like a Porsche benefit in the early stages, Marc Lieb putting the
Orbit car into provisional pole with a 4:14. Terry Borcheller in
the #94 Risi ferrari put a cat amongst the Porsche pigeons at 20
minutes with a 4:17, good enough for third slot at 30 minutes. Fourth
at that stage was – the Spyker! Norman Simon posting a respectable
TVR fans will be pleased
to hear that both cars were lapping safely and quickly a 4:27 for
Richard Stanton and a 4:29 for Tim Sugden putting the cars in 38th
and 39th positions.
At 30 minutes the Perspective
Racing Porsche had still not appeared on track.
At 40 minutes Kevin Buckler
is spotted in the gravel at the entrance to the Porsche Curves.
Sascha Maassen grabs
the advantage in GT at 40 minutes with a 4:13.299 in the Alex Job
/ Petersen Porsche.
GTS was still a Ferrari
1,2,3 at 45 minutes, with the Corvettes in 4th and 5th slots, Christophe
Bouchut in 6th for Larbre until Franz Konrad grabbed the slot in
the #66 Saleen, painted in the same colours as John Hindhaugh’s
At 45 minutes both TVRs
have improved into the 4:23s. Much better than at the Test Day (better
50 minutes and the Veloqx
cars were 1,2 in GTS, Anthony Davidson pipping Policand by a few
hundredths and trailing Enge by much the same marin. That was the
spark that the Czech seemed to need. He blitzed around in the #88
car in a 3:57 a full 4 seconds faster than the #80 car. The prodrive
Ferraris are rocket ships.
In GT Maassen was looking
keen to consolidate his advantage with a 4:12.789 for Alex Job.
As the hour
approached the Corvette’s pace started to kick in, Ron Fellows
getting quicker in #53 but being bettered Andy Pilgrim, just five
thousandths shy of Policand’s time in the Alphand 550. Things
were hotting up on the track as it cooled down for everybody watching
- abd those in some very hot cockpits.
Hour two saw
things calming down for some:
however in the #92 TVR had the hammer down posting a very respectable
All 50 cars
were by now circulating. The Pagani was delayed a brake balance
problem and Perspective with some late work on the front splitter.
to make good his escape posting a 4:11.5, almost 3 seconds up on
Marc Lieb’s time in the Orbit car.
There were extraordinary
scenes at the first chicane when a marshal ventured out onto the
racing line to assess (using a Riverdance-like shuffling movement)
whether a journey across the gravel and a spin from a Ferrari 360
had been caused by oil – it hadn’t!
90 minutes into
the session and Fellows put the #53 'Vette amongst the 550s, second
in class with a 4:01.175. He was soon joined in the top three by
Ollie Gavin in #50. With 20 minutes of the session to go there was
just 0.6 seconds covering second through to fifth positions in GTS.
The second (#91)
TVR went missing out on the circuit at around 80 minutes.
put the PK Porsche up to fourth in class before being pipped by
Jorg Bergmeister in the #81 Racers Group Porsche. Bergmeister clearly
had found his rhythm and soon grabbed second in class from Orbit.
Liddell would improve his time further (a 4:14.460) still fourth
from the #92 TVR came from Michael Caine, a 4:20.277 good enough
for seventh in GT with 15 minutes of the session left.
Peter Kox was
reported to be in the gravel out on the circuit as the clock ticked
down. It rejoined after a short delay.
took a Corvette (#53) under 4 minutes for the first time with less
than ten minutes of the session remaining. Ollie Gavin though gave
the Prodrive squad the shock of their lives with five minutes of
the session left blitzing the Enge mark with a 3:55.613. That will
be a huge mountain to climbe in the second session for the GTS opposition.
was ensuring that any challenger had to try very, very hard to grab
provisional GT pole from him, a 4:10.650 was three seconds quicker
than second placed Bergmeister, another mountainous task awaits
the GT contenders in session two.
Caine in the
#92 TVR popped up at the chequered flag with a 4:19.378, good enough
for ninth in class at the end of the first qualifying session.
Top three in
GTS....Gavin 3:55.613, Enge 3:57.544 (on race tyres), O'Connell
Top three in
GT....Maassen 4:10.650, Bernhard 4:13.519, Lieb 4:14.280 (PK fourth).
#91 TVR has
returned to the pits under its own power.
There's more to come. That was our first run on those tyres. I can
brake later into the second Mulsanne Chicane and into Indianapolis,
but overall we've had a game plan and stuck to it. Johnny (O'Connell)
hit traffic on his best lap."
drivers are feeling confident, especially based on pace over a longer
run (compared to the 550s). Perhaps Veloqx-Prodrive are holding
something back though...for 22.00?
"We lost some time in that session with the trip into the gravel,
and Sascha spent almost the whole session in the AJR car. I only
had two laps, but I believe we can close the gap."
The drama for
the #91 TVR in the first session was a slow puncture. Richard Hay
took the sensible option and pulled off the circuit just after Tetre
Rouge. Rob Barff was due in the car next but will now start the
In GTS a blistering
start to the session from Enge saw him grab provisional GTS pole
with a 3:53.615 in the #88 Ferrari 550. No one will beat that, surely?
"Not a very stylish lap," said the Czech.
In GT it was
an early 4:08 for Maassen. Robin Liddell was next to show with a
4:11.623 taking PK Sport up to second in class after 15 minutes.
20 minutes into
the session and the second, #80 Prodrive Ferrari grabbed third in
GTS with a 3:56.848.
The cooler evening
air clearly suits the Porsche runners as the times continue to tumble.
was next up, grabbing provisional pole with a 4:08.105 for The Racers
Group. Marc Lieb in the Orbit Porsche improved too, up to third
with a 4:10.292, Liddell fourth, Risi's Michelin-shod Ferrari fifth,
the Taisan Porsche sixth, JMB seventh and Risi's Yokohama car eighth.
Johnny Mowlem then had his helmet stolen!
Marc Lieb wasn't
particularly happy with provisional third in GT: "I had a big
problem with my qualifying set - I couldn't get the tires warmed
up correctly, so I locked up the brakes in the first chicane,"
Lieb said. "I lost a lot of time, so I'm really disappointed
with the time I did. But the car is fantastic, the crew did a fantastic
job, so it's just upto me to get it [the class pole position] tomorrow."
Rob Barff, in
the #91 TVR at last, sadly appeared in the pitlane with the engine
dead, the car is pushed back to its pit stall.
to the challenge from Bernhard, breaking into the 4:07s (4:07.996)
after 30 minutes of the session. That's quicker than Bergmeister
managed at the Test Day.
was on the move after 35 minutes, slicing half a second out of Oliver
After 45 minutes
with darkness having fallen completely, most of the leading runners
reverted to simulations for race pace.
There was a
fright for David Warnock in the PK Sport Porsche, sideswiped by
a prototype in the Dunlop Chicane, the impact damaged a track rod,
a 20 minute fix for Mike Pickup’s crew.
explained that the #50 Corvette has a minor gearbox glitch which
has taken the edge off the pole battle in GTS.
The Zonda crew
is in learning mode, David Hart retired for his evening meal with
the riposte, “This is what happens when you don’t test."
is in the garage with several oil leaks.
One car which
was showing improved pace as the hour mark approached was the Luc
Alphand Ferrari, Jerome Policand drawing to within six tenths of
a second of the #80 Veloqx Prodrive 550.
Whilst GTS looked
like going Ferrari’s way, in GT it was a Porsche 1,2,3,4 at
the hour mark. The #94 Risi 360 was the highest placed of the three
Modenas. The Spyker has a misfire, which appears one and a half
laps into a spell of track action...
Red flag at
23.15 - the Pilbeam has spread its oil rather liberally.