72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Thursday Qualifying - Session 2 Report (22.00-00.00)
ENGE'D!

dsc's Paul Slinger caught up with three significant fellows before the fourth and final session. They ain't finished yet...

Henri Pescarolo: “We did try with qualifiers once in the session but the car was worse than yesterday and Bourdais came across traffic again. We will try once more with qualifiers at the start of the next session and I think the Veloqx cars are maybe too quick but I think we will be able to beat the other two Audis and the Zytek if we get a good run.”

Tom Kristensen: “Dindo did the time on soft race rubber and it was slightly quicker because it was cooler today and the set-up is very good. Now I will try with qualifiers once, and then we will work on finishing the race set-up.”

Joao Barbosa: “The car felt very good, we just wanted to check the car was working as it should. I will have one go on qualifiers at the start of the next session. If anyone at the front gets a good clear lap they can move up, so we must try to do the same. It will be difficult but hopefully we can move up to at least where we were yesterday (seventh).”

The Ortelli / Dumas / Kelleners Porsche isanother GT going for it, we're told via Dunlop, while the 16 RfH Dome has an engine problem, and is done for the day.

First action, eight minutes into the session, a 3:34.038 for the five times winner Tom Kristensen, still fourth, but Herbert is in the 3:32s for the first time this week, a 3:32.838. Simultaneously, the Choroq Porsche - the Goh car - drags gravel onto the track. Herbert seals the pole.

Bourdais has lapped faster than the Champion Audi, fifth fastest, 3:34.2. Katoh and Lammers have both improved, but are still in the 3:36s.

The McNish Audi is not on track, it's having its engine changed. It may venture out for some installation laps towards the end of the session.

Gounon has gone even quicker in the factory Courage C65, a car-engine combination that ran for the first time yesterday (although the Belmondo car is the same). J-M's time is a 3:41.664, faster than eight LMP1 cars.

The Lister has improved to a 3:43.760, past the Nasamax to 14th.

GT: 2nd in class is the JMB Ferrari, a 4:08.541 by Jaime Melo. Stockton is going faster still in the 89 TVR, still seventh quickest.

Johnny O'Connell makes it a C5-R 1-2 in GTS, a 3:51.378, four tenths faster than the fastest 550 Ferrari.

At 22.20, that looks as though we've seen all the fast laps, and the grid is set. Errr, don't think so...

Oh, Gounon again, a 3:41.127. Gounon again, shaving one thousandth of a second off that time on his next lap.

There are improvements in time but not position for both Clint Field's No 32 Lola and Mike Rockenfeller in the BAM! Porsche.

Either side of 23.00, three improvements - to prove the above comment (about no improvements) wrong. Clint Field found a second, but stayed in the same position (28th), Kevin McGarrity found two seconds but stayed 14th, which is where the Nasamax has been almsot since 19.00 on Wednesday, while the Belmondo Courge is having a much better day all round, improving to a 3:51, 21st overall.

As we reach 23.30, we're really winding down here.

But now Tomas Enge is circulating again in the refettled 66 Prodrive Ferrari, the aftermath of Enge's accident in the Porsche Curves in the earlier session. McNish is out at 23.35, with the re-engined Audi.

Gavin Pickering, on the Courage C65, compared to the WR he drove here last year: "I'd estimate it has twice as much downforce as the WR had. Indianapolis is just a dab on the brakes, partly because we've got a top speed of (only) about 285 kph. It's much more stable than the WR."

So the 2004 regs LMP2 C65, "which is a much larger car than the WR", has considerably more downforce - which makes for a very quick motor car with the AER engine in it (Gounon / Belmondo), while it's a very useable machine with the IES V6 in it.

Ian Donaldson is very happy with the Racer's Group Porsche, the car being "absolutely magic". The only significant problem has been with the r/front corner early yesterday evening, easily fixed. "All three of us are very consistent, whereas a good number of the other GT cars have a quick driver, ad one or two slower drivers. We'll see how it pans out after a few hours. "Maldives" sponsorship on the car is connected to car owner Lars Nielsen, who owns a hotel and an airline there.

"The complete professionalism of the team is what atrracted us to The Racer's Group. Lars did a deal with Kevin (to run his car), and we did a sub-deal with Lars."

23.50. Tomas Enge makes up for his misdemeanour with pole position in GTS, a 3:49.438. That is a remarkable performance from the Czech.... three-tenths faster than the 64 Corvette.

Clint Field sets a 4:01.679, in the baby Intersport car, but is still 28th. Marco Werner goees faster for Champion, but is still sixth (3:35.429) - then faster again, 3:34.927... still sixth.

A frustrated Mike Rockenfeller, who felt that he'd set a great lap in the BAM! RSR: "We are third on the (GT) grid; obviously, I'm not happy. It felt like it was a good car for pole. I had traffic in the chicane, [costing] maybe three or four tenths, but I still thought it was a good lap. I don't know why, I have to look at the data and maybe I'll see where I lost the time. The guys did a great job and the car felt good, but I don't know why it was so slow."

Last word to Tomas Enge: "I shunted the car quite badly, but they fixed the car in two hours - so well that it was perfect. This is the best team I have ever worked with. They like me, maybe they love me, and I love them."

Remember what George Howard-Chappell said about finding a Le Mans set-up this year?

Final, final word for tonight: Tomas Enge and Johnny Herbert gave each other a hug of congratulation, while the ACO said "Non" to the BAM! team's t-shirt launching fun.

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