Le Mans Test Day – Sunday Report 4
The Conclusion

A red flag after 5pm, just when some teams were getting ready to go out for a quick one, left the chargers lined up in the pit lane, raring to go.

The Pagani had dumped oil at the Porsche Curves and poor Frank Biela was first on the scene: he left the Audi Sport UK car in rather a state. "I was at the last 'left' of the Porsche Curves, shifted down to fourth, but before turning in I lost the car. Once I touched the grass, I was heading for the wall. When I got out of the car I saw a flag."

The chassis is heading back to Germany tonight, the right rear having taken the force of the impact.

The air temperature has cooled noticeably, and we’re expecting Jan Lammers to go for a real time, for the Intersport Lola to go for a proper time, for the Bentleys and Audis to go faster – perhaps just about everyone.

Intersport did a great job to be ready to go just as the lunch break began, but their programme for much of the afternoon was to get ten laps in for Jon Field and Rick Sutherland. “I just couldn’t go for it,” said the latter. Jon Field had to do his ten with some kind of turbo-shifter problem, but Duncan Dayton and the team boss were hoping to both have a chance at fast laps in the closing moments. The morning engine failure was suspected to be related to fuel…

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Nathan Kinch completed his ten laps, no trouble at all. “Laurence explained that if I went off, I wouldn’t come back for the race. I didn’t go off!” The good news from the black team is that the LMP has run faultlessly all day.

Similarly at PK Sport with their #78 911. “I would have liked this morning’s front end and this afternoon’s rear,” said Piers Masarati, while David Warnock was just a touch disappointed with his times, but enjoyed himself nonetheless. “I passed a lot of people out there this afternoon, that was fun. Maybe there were a lot of people going slowly?” The front end was just “pointy”. Warnock then settled right in late on and was very pleased with his times: "Quicker than last year with rubber that had already done 16 laps!" Robin Liddell seemed very keen to improve on a 4:16 in the closing half hour - which he did fractionally. He was happy too, using race tyres all day. The Scot was sure that a 4:11 was on with qualifiers, which he'll have next month. And a little more power too: today's engine was a conservative one.

GNM Saleen problems were a “gasket or a liner on #64, we’re not sure yet,” said Graham Nash and a slight lack of straightline speed with the Erdos / Newton / Pickering car, so a 4:03 was a god time from the Brazilian. Mike Newton looked as though he was going to get some more seat time right at the end. Which he did, but was less happy with the H pattern gearbox currently in this car, preferring the FIA GT car with its sequential.

Less than ten minutes to go and we’re waiting for any improvements…as the Nasamax Reynard returns to the track, fully repaired.

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That’s more like it: five minutes left, Bentley #7 – Tom Kristensen - sets a 3:34.820. JC-W had already popped in a 3:48.983. No Jon Field blitz by the look of things, as Duncan Dayton pits with moments left (a 3:58). Field does go out, but not for a flying lap. Lammers was going to go for what turned out to be second fastest, but met traffic and then broke a driveshaft. Gommendy gained five seconds to end up eighth fastest - very impressive.

50 seconds left and #8 Bentley starts its last flying lap….this could be fun. It’s Herbert and it’s a….3:39, which is a touch disappointing. Traffic.

So the Bentley of Tom Kristensen takes the ‘pole’ (for want of a better word), a whopping four seconds quicker than anyone else. "I have no doubt there is more to come," said TK. Not uneventful in other ways though for Team Bentley. The 'puncture' on Mulsanne was actually a rear suspension component failure, for Dindo Capello. This afternoon, Mark Blundell had a puncture in the fifth gear right hander at Indianapolis. he kept it out of the barriers.

Prodrive were fastest in GTS with their afternoon improvement in the #88 car with the fresh engine (Enge, a 3:57.180), 1.7 seconds quicker than the #50 Corvette with its fresh engine.

The Nielsen / Dumfries / Shimoda DBA remained fastest by a mile in 675 with its morning 3:47, while in GT, the Petersen / Job car wasn't at the top of the list, because Jorg Bergmeister set a 4:08 on qualifying tyres for The Racers Group, Marc Lieb getting into the 4:13s but not the 12s or 11s - but not having a run on qualifying tyres. The Risi Ferraris were fourth and sixth, sandwiching the PK Sport Porsche.

The Final List:
It reads as it read at the start of the day: that is, the first, invited 50 are back for the race in June. There was no question of anyone being dropped for a poor performance today.

And finally....why are the GTs matching 2002 pace, while the other classess aren't? The answer, we understand, is that the Ferraris have improved dramatically on last year's performance here, while the Porsche engine hasn't really been handicapped by slightly smaller restrictors, because the induction system itself is the limiting factor. This year's cars might even have more torque than a year ago.

 

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