72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Thursday Qualifying - Session 1 Report (19.00-21.00)
Brabham & Gavin.. No McNish & Gavin.. No, Herbert & Gavin.. Maassen In GT

Here's a typical Thursday plan (BAM!). Marc Lieb is in the car as the session starts, Leo Hindery will take over mid-session, then Mike Rockenfeller will be in the Porsche RSR either side of the break, "to go for a time".

Within the first 20 minutes there have been some significant improvements. Both of the Lola B160s have improved since yesterday's best efforts, Jon Field in the Intersport car, Tommy Erdos in the RML one.

Field has set a 3:50.5, three seconds quicker than yesterday: he's aiming for a 3:39. Erdos has set a 3:45, also three seconds quicker (with the race engine fitted), but the RML Lola is still 13th fastest.

Another Lola improvement, from Didier Andre in the no. 4 Taurus Lola-Judd, a five second improvement, up to 17th from 19th.

In GTS, the Corvettes have been split by both Care Racing Ferraris, Enge and Rydell posting 3:54.2 and 3:54.3 respectively. Gavin's best yesterday was a 3:52.1. Enge goes faster again, a 3:53.7 - on race tyres, we believe.

LMP2 has seen the Belmondo Courage set a time at last, Gosselin a 4:06 - then soon afterwards a 4:02.

In GT, the Morgan with Neil Cunningham at the wheel is suddenly into the 4:24s, six seconds faster than yesterday after a host of problems, which included a wheel bearing, brakes, suspension, running out of fuel and poor visibility of cars about to pass the Aero 8.

Also significant improvements from Hugenholtz in the Cirtek Ferrari and the Luc Alphand Porsche.

At the other end of the field, Tom Coronel has set a 3:40 in the (clutch-bothered yesterday) no.16 Dome (eighth overall), at last eclipsng the lap he set over 24 hours ago.

And that's the first half an hour gone.

Intersport is now changing the rear springs on Jon Field's car, and we're looking forward to a banzai effort from this man later this evening.

The Dome Mugen has slipped into the 3:39s, eighth fastest for Katoh, while Michael Caine in the 89 Chamberlain-Synergy TVR goes quicker than yesterday with a 4:15.

Johnny Herbert sets the best time of the session at 19.37, a 3:36.787. Qualifiers will appear at 20.45?

Jon Field and his replacement rear springs all go quicker again, with a 3:48.670. Oh dear, he then puts it off into the gravel, at the Dunlop Chicane.


Gosselin improves again in the Paul Belmondo Courage with a 4:02 and then a 4:00.3, second in class is now within his sights.

In GTS Rydell chips away at his best time improving by a further few tenths but still third in class.

The LMP1 Del Bello Reynard improves to a 3:58 - Nobody seems to notice or care.

Fiona Miller of Prodrive reports that both of their Ferrari 550s are on race tyres and in fact Enge's tyres have done most of a stint already. So where has the time come from? The track is reported to be much cleaner and faster than yesterday following the rain and it is much cooler. Set-up work has also improved the balance of the cars.

The Lola Caterpillar has ground to a halt at post 123 (The Porsche Curves) with Phil Andrews at the wheel, it seems with a drivetrain problem and the Judd powered Turus car is now reported slow out on course too.

Andy Wallace reports huge satisfaction with the performance of the Zytek but frustration at every lap being baulked by traffic.

At thetop of the hour John Field has had another moment at the Dunlop Curves, the gravel there seems to have a magnetic attraction for the No 27 car.


The 66 Prodrive Ferrari has had its rear end rearranged after an impact with the wall at the Porsche Curves. The rear wing is missing and the right hand rear wheel and suspension look rather unlike their factory settings. Tomas Enge is looking ruefully on as the marshals load the car onto the recovery truck.

Katoh has put the Dome Mugen into fifth spot, best of the rest behind the Audis. Yokahama qualifiers seem to have made an early appearance and a 3:36.736 is the result.

In GT Ortelli has finally fulfilled some of the promise of the 85 Freisinger car. he puts the car up to second in class with a 4:10. At the other end of the class timing sheet Gareth Evans has stopped in the 96 TVR at the end of Indianapolis.


Rydell grabs provisional GTS pole with a 3:51.755 (0.4 seconds quicker than the 64 Corvette).

Clint Field is pressing on in the LMP2 Intersport Lola, now up to fourth in class with a 4:05.

Michael Caine improves again in the 89 TVR, a 4:14.8.

The Morgan is back in the garage, up on the axle stands.

Session times are beginning to edge down. Capello snips a tenth of the best time from the third placed Team Goh car and Brabham seems to be on a flier in the Zytek. Now Katoh is setting fast sector times too.

20:25: John Nielsen, Jan Lammers and Tom Coronel all make comments to us that they will have a go at a quick time before 21.00. But Brabham is the first to go for it....

Brabham and the Zytek top the timing charts over the two days, with a 3:33.923. "That was slightly quicker than I thought," Brabs tells Radio Le Mans. "I'm quite happy to say that's it, and let's concentrate on race set-up. I'm sure the Audis will go a bit quicker."


Chris Dyson is enjoying every moment of this. "Jan has such a following here. When he bolts on a set of tyres, everyone gets behind him and it lifts everyone too. He's a folk hero. We'll be good for the race. 'Tomo set a 3:42 and I would have had a 3:42 if it wasn't for traffic in the Porsche Curves, which cost me two seconds."

Gavin Pickering has qualified the Epsilon Courage IES, and Renaud Derlot shouldn't have too much trouble doing so. "We're still using the 'bitza' engine," says Graham-Dale-Jones. "The (Willman) race engine will go in tomorrow. We've recently cast another five, slightly modified blocks, and we're moving away from the JPX version."

Are you enjoying this? "I always enjoy being here, but it's a mix of worrying and enjoying."

The Belmondo C65 has just gone second fastest in class, quicker than Gunnar Jeannette's best in the Epsilon version - but that doesn't seem very relevant. Gavin Pickering is very happy with the "linear power curve" from the IES engine.

20.40. Lammers and Katoh are both out there and going for it, the latter for the second time setting the best time on the second sector of the lap - the Dome's hunting ground of the Mulsanne. But the Yokohama shod Dome can't seem to maintain such form on the last third of the lap, but is fastest Dome (and fastest non-Audi / Zytek).

Herbert improves with a 3:34.081, 158 thousandths slower than Brabham, faster than McNish and back to second, fastest Audi.

The 86 Freisinger and Burgess Seikel Porsches have both spun at the Dunlop Chicane, the latter having just set the sixth quickest time in GT.

With Audis second to fifth, Bourdais goees sixth, a 3:36.525. McNish is on a flier.... and sets a 3:34.064, 17 thousandths faster than Herbert. Still well matched these two, eh? But Brabham is still on the pole, at a circuit that probably doesn't favour it as much as most (just like Monza, sort of).

15 minutes left of this session. Martyn Pass passes on the news that the Audi UK Veloqx cars will not try again... they've relinquished the chance to go for pole (see below).

As predicted by John Nielsen, the Lister has improved, by three seconds to a 3:46.475. The Panoz, having unpacked its new parts, is down to a 3:57.8, nearly ten seconds quicker than yesterday.

Gavin - GTS pole... a 3:49.750. Not quite the 3:48 he predicted, but still the fastest ever lap by a GTS car here, beating Max Papis's best on April 25.

A significant change of plan with the 88 and 8 Audis: Johnny Herbert and Allan Mcnish are going out for one more crack at it. They'll only get one lap in before 21.00.

McGarrity a 3:44.379 in the Nasamax, five seconds quicker than yesterday. Not the 3:39 that John McNeil wanted, but close.

McNish, pole a 3:33.233, despite some fairly serious understeer. Herbert, with a different tail section (different gurney on the rear wing), is a tenth up on McNish after half the lap.

Herbert - pole, 3:33.024, pole position, front row for the Veloqx cars. Unless the opposition can go quicker at 22.00.

GT: Massen takes pole with a 4:07.394, Rockenfeller responds with a 4:09.2.

GTS: O'Connell improves to a 3:52, third quickest, behind the sister car - and Rickard Rydell's 3:51.755, two seconds faster than the (stationary) Enge car in fourth.

Lammers improves to a 3;36.847, a tenth slower than the Advan Dome, eighth quickest for the Dutchman. He's been struggling to find a clear lap. Maybe a 3:34 is possible?

Herbert 3:33.024
McNish 3:33.233
Brabham 3:33.923
Goh Audi (marginal improvement) 3:35.075
Champion Audi (no improvement) 3:35.892
Bourdais 3:36.525
Katoh 3:36.736
Lammers 3:36.847

The rest outside 3:40, apart from Barbosa's 3:39 last night.

Herbert (to Radio Le Mans): "I haven't had a pole here. At the moment it seems that it wasn't a bad choice (to try something else on the car - the different gurney)."

A much more interesting session than yesterday....

Good news for TVR watchers - Larger than life Hugh Chamberlain may have met his match in Michael Caine "I got on the radio to the driver in mid-session and told him to push harder. The response I got was that I got told to "Piss Off, this is a good lap" He was right too, the 89 car went a second faster than before."

The news would get better still right at the end of the session, Chris Stockton making a further improvement, the 89 car now seventh in the class with a 4:13.8, very creditable.

Hugh Chamberlain reports the problem which stopped the 96 car as being "probably a minor electrical problem." This seems however to have been the usual Chamberlain shorthand for major engine difficulties.

The BAM! Porsche has something amiss at the right front, and Rockenfeller had an LMP1 weave in front of him as it warmed its tyres, and then another cut in front of him as it pitted - both on the German's best lap, the low 4:09. He's going to have another go. Will the top prototypes?


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