72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Wednesday Qualifying - Session 1
The Nasamax was sitting
at the top of the pit lane for at least 20 minutes, prior to the
start of the first two hour session: this was sending out a message
of intent from the green team from Sittingbourne, and Werner Lupberger
The weather remains absolutely
perfect – although still too warm at 19.00 for fast times,
and they never come early on anyway: the track needs cleaning up,
for instance. We’re trying to be patient, until the first
batch of fast times, either side of the 21.00-22.00 break.
Fast times after
ten minutes came from Lupberger (3:52) and then the two Audi Sport
UK Team Veloqx Audis (3:42/43 – Kaffer and Smith) –
and then the two RfH cars, Coronel and Lammers also setting 3:42/43.
Quick(ish) times so soon into the session, but they were just feeling
each other out, with drivers getting some of their qualifying laps
in. Lupberger pitted for a gear ratio change, the Nasamax already
6 kph faster on the straights than at the Test Day.
The GT Class
was slower to settle in to fast times, no one so far getting under
4:20 – and no one in GTS setting a representative lap, yet.
JJ Lehto was
the first into the 3:40s, while Chris Dyson (above) went second
fastest after 25 minutes with a low 3:42 – that is, if you
disbelieve an amazing 3:29 (no typo. – that’s what the
screen says) for Vassiliev in the ‘slower’ of the two
Yukos Freisinger Porsches.
The two Corvettes were
already into the 3:58s, as quick as the Fellows car managed by the
end of qualifying last year. The two Care Racing 550s were a tad
And that’s the
first half hour gone, with only the Panoz not having gone out, and
the 16 RfH Dome stuck out on the track. We’ve been here before
with a black and white Dome.
Now Ara gets
down to business in the Team Goh Audi - he pops up in second slot
in the 3:41s before topping the timing charts next time around with
a 3:39. Pierre Kaffer joins in with a 3:42.444, good enough for
third fastest at the moment. Not for long though, Guy Smith in the
88 makes it an all Audi top four with a 3:39.802, just a tenth off
In GTS it had
been remarkably close between the Corvettes and the two Prodrive
550s - all four posting times in the 3:58s. Olivier Beretta however
had other ideas and a 3:56.686 showed he meant business. Peter Kox
had similar intent towards the top of the first hour, a 3:57 splitting
Katoh then put
in credible lap times in the Dome Mugen. The top seven at the hour
mark is Audi 1-4 (JJ Lehto popping up with a 3:39.091 to head the
timing charts by half a second) and Dome 5-7. Eighth is now the
18 Pescarolo with Soheil Ayari at the wheel with the Andy Wallace
pedalled Zytek in ninth and Tommy Erdos in the RML MG Lola rounding
out the top 10.
LMP2 is headed
by J-M Gounon in the factory Courage C65, the newly re-engined car
currently nine seconds quicker than its nearest class rival - but
this class hasn't got going yet.
GT was beginning
to liven up too, Daoudi in the JMB Ferrari posting a 4:12, well
up at the moment on the BAM and Petersen Porsches.
observation: attached to the Goh Audi are Jo Hausner and Ralf Juttner,
which could be an indication of the value placed upon a sixth win
for Tom Kristensen. Dave Benbow is engineering this car now (he
engineered the Jaguar that won in 1990), while Brian Willis, who
was engineering the Goh R8 at Monza, is now with the team's sister
car, the Chroq Porsche.
As the second
hour got under way, the 575 Ferraris were ten seconds off the class-leading
rivals. The 16 RfH car is still stuck out on the track, and we're
in the process of finding out why. It's still sixth quickest though,
after one timed lap.
GT is JMB, BAM!,
Petersen, Perspective and then the 89 TVR, the last with a 4:18.5.
The Morgan and the other TVR are lapping in the 4:31s.
After 70 minutes,
the Zytek gets a move on, Andrew Wallace setting a 3:44. Not a significant
time yet, but eighth quickest, behind four R8s and three S101s:
Wallace then went seventh, ahead of the Advan Dome.
Our man in the
know tells us that Dave Smith of Caterpillar has commeneted that
the Taurus diesel has a 'frothing' problem when refuelling, and
that the ACO has not allowed an anti-frothing agent to be used (which
could conceivably give a performance advantage). The diesel-powered
car may not be able to fill its tank. Currently the 10 Lola-Caterpillar
has set a best time of 4:21.
The 17 Pescarolo
is in trouble at 47th fastest, a best time of 7 minutes odd.
Alex Caffi has
been in trouble with the 83 Seikel Porsche, the wrong final drive
having been fitted, apparently, the car unable to break 250 kph
on the straights. It's having the correct final drive fitted (below),
and hasn't set a timed lap yet.
80 minutes into
the session, Jamie Davies and Jan Lammers are the first into the
3:38s. Faster and faster they go.
Caffi goes third fastest in GT on his first flying lap with the
correct final drive in the faster Seikel Porsche. The Racer's Group
Porsche ended up 41st overall.
is bck to the pits, but alas the Dome isn't. The clutch was slipping
so badly that he couldn't complete a second flying lap.
The Panoz has
been delayed by late arrival of parts from the US, and it's still
being put together. That's a shame. Gunnar Jeannette reports that
the (ALMS) Panoz Esperante GT has masses of potential.
(96 TVR): "We had a slight vibration at the front, and the
transponder wasn't working, but Lawrence (Tomlinson) is out there
now, and lapping well."
The Morgan had
a wheel bearing failure after two laps.
briefly had no information on the dash read-out, but Martin Short
was pleasantly surprised with a 3:46, which he thought was going
to be quite a bit slower than that.
Do we believe
this time? Ollie Gavin, having predicted a high 3:48, has set a
3:46.001 in the 64 Corvette.
to have been a glitch, the time is corrected to a 3:55, still super
quck but not supernaturally quick, as the timing had suggested.
He improves again with a 3:54 just as the session ends.
Barbosa is now
in the Rollcentre Dallara and sets an almost immediate 3:44 and
then a 3:41 to drag the Dallara up to seventh, just as Brabham sets
the Zytek's best mark to edge out the Dallara's time: ahead of both
of these is Ayari in the 18 Pescarolo with a 3:40.4, but now the
Audi big guns are turning up the wick...
a 3:37 to go fastest so far with McNish finding a 3:38.2 to go second.
As the flag flies for the end of the session though, Johnny Herbert
destroys the previous best with a 3:34.907: timing is everything
it seems. It's still remarkably warm out there.
"We are focusing on a race car that will suit all three of
us: if we can go this well on race tyres then it is looking good
for later when we put some qualifiers on."
is just a fantastic experience, we are working especially on the
reliability rather than outright speed but I am happy with everything
about the situation - we are young but we are working hard."
very encouraged by the car’s progress since the test day.
RfH and Dunlop have really done their homework - on race pace we
should be up there with anyone. The objective was to go out there
and put a good time on the board to make everyone chase. Lammers
is great at doing that and that’s what he did."
One of the Prodrive
Ferraris has apparently had a close, intimate moment with the barrier
after the Dunlop Chicane. It was the 66 car, with minor left side
scraping - and there's now a slick of something unpleasanr behind
the armco there, because that is where Robin Thompson was standing!
nothing in the world like turning it on and going out there in the
first night practice at Le Mans. The car is running superbly, just
loose as a goose in the rear end, which we'll fix pretty quickly.
The weather is perfect, there are fans everywhere -- which is surprising
for Wednesday night but a real compliment to Le Mans -- and it's
just nice to be back."
It is indeed.
The Belmondo Courage hasn't set a time, suffering an injection problem
(?). The question was, 'I'm trying to discover the problem with
the car'. "So are we!"
One of the UK
Audis launched itself over the kerbs at the first chicane on Mulsanne
(above), while Emanuele Pirro was spotted locking up big time at
Arnage. Ah, it was Pierre Kaffer, who took off, nose-dived into
the gravel, and returned with damage to the pits. It can't have
been too serious though, because the car was lapping quickly again
soon after. Both UK R8s had bodywork come loose, but as the hour
long interval slips past, both cars are lined up at the head of
the pit lane... ready to go for pole?
"Our biggest problem has been the engine, although we lost
the rear deck too, with Bill Binnie in the car. The engine is fine,
it's the throttle position sensor."
This is father
Jon, in the Intersport LMP1 car.
The lead Freisinger
911 RSR has been in electrical trouble, and hasn't set a decent
in GT):"We are just working on the set-up to get it a good,
basic set-up. In the next hour, the next session, we will put on
some qualifiers and try to put a good time there and then go back
to finding the setup. The setup is not as good as in pre-test. We
have a little more understeer."