72nd Le Mans 24 Hours - Wednesday Qualifying - Session 2 Report (22.00-00.00)

The four Audis, Lammers' Dome and the Dallara were the first group out. Herbert pitted immediately, was pushed into his pit, but emerged two minutes later. Meanwhile Kristensen, McNish and Lammers all improved immediately the session began, for second, third and fourth, but Bourdais in the (previously hobbled) 17 Pescarolo Courage then went fourth fastest.

Fun and games began straight away in GTS too, with Ollie Gavin setting a 3:52.158 in the 64 Corvette. At 22.15, Johnny Herbert is on a quick lap, and we await with interest a time popping up against the 88 Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx R8.... but he aborted that lap, leaving McNish to set a 3:34.683 for fastest time at 22.20.

Barbosa has been in the Rollcentre Dallara, and set seventh best time: the car was popoising badly, especially approaching Indianapolis, in the first session, but the Portuguese is under 3:40.

At this point (22.20) it is Audis 1-4, Judd-powered cars in 5-8 (Pescarolo, RfH, Dallara, Pescarolo) and the Zytek in ninth.

Gounon has set a 3:42.592 in the factory Courage AER, five and a half seconds quicker than the RML Lola B160 (LMP1 car). Gounon is 15 (fifteen, one-five) seconds faster than anyone else in the class... with Epsilon second fastest.

Approaching 22.30, it's almost dark here, and the suspicion is that we have seen the best times of the evening already.

As Bourdais jnr. was flying along in the Pescarolo, his father was out setting the Panoz GTP's first lap of the day.

"It's absolutely perfect, exactly on plan, everything is wonderful," says Mike Pickup, PK team owner, his car eleventh fastest after two hours of track time. The car slipped to fifteenth by 22.30, but the Bergmeister time (4:09) remains the quickest in GT.

Kaneishi pits the 15 RfH Dome with a massive flat spot on the right front tyre, which is changed.

Mike Hezemans gets a Barron-Connor 575 down to 4:00.714, best time so far for one of these 2004 cars here, but well over seven seconds slower than Oliver Gavin. The battle of the 550s meanwhile is now headed by the 66 car, Enge bettering Bouchut's earlier time in the Larbre run Ferrari.

Tim Sugden is having fun in the Perspective Porsche, climbing up the GT order and trading lap times with a most unlikely adversary, the LMP1 Lola Caterpillar. The Perspective car is now fifth in class, 33rd overall with the Lola just behind.

Michael Caine continues to impress in the 89 TVR, 4:16 the best time so far for the car, now seventh in class.

Someone in the timing booth clearly isn't paying attention as the message that Bike no 78 is in the gravel at post 42 flashes up - The 'bike' is actually Paul Daniels in the PK Sport Porsche and Post 42 is the first Mulsanne chicane. Daniels escapes the gravel's clutches pretty quickly.

Ah, duff message on the screen: Daniels didn't go off at all.

Two of the cars which hit trouble in session one are now setting times, the Panoz popping up with a 4:06 in the hands of Bourdais the Elder, and Rick Sutherland making steady progress in the LMP2 Intersport Lola. Sutherland gets the car down to a 4:19 and then Clint Field set about the task, an almost immediate 4:14 for the youngster is followed by a 4:12 and then a 4:08.

Graham Dale-Jones IES Engines: "We're very happy. We haven't had a single problem with the engine (of the Epsilon Courage) and all we've had to do is change the battery. This is the 'bitsa' engine: I brought the race engine out with me, and we've got about 460 hp."

Are you impressed with the speed of the factory (AER engined) car? "Yes, but their speed is about right with 500 hp. We've got 44mm restrictors but the cams are set up for 41mm, so we're not making full use of the larger (LMP2) restrictors. And Gounon's pretty good too isn't he!"

Andy Wallace ( No. 22 Zytek): "We started out with too much rake on the car which was causing porpoising. We raised the front end but initially we were too high and weren't getting enough downforce. Now we're taking the whole car down stage by stage and we're beginning to find the speed."

The car's best lap time so far is a 3:41, but the team is expecting cooler temperatures and faster times tomorrow evening.

23.15: Justin Wilson is out in the 16 Dome, about to set this car's second flying lap time, after having the clutch changed, an operation that didn't begin until the car returned to the pits (obviously!) soon after 21.00. Wilson laps quickly if not spectacularly before handing the car over to Ralph Firman for the final ten minutes of the session. His run was interrupted however with a lighting failure.

The last of the really troubled cars, the Belmondo Courage (with the team's principal at the wheel) leaves the pits for the first time in the session at 23:25.

Jaime Melo splits the Porsches at the head of the GT class field in the JMB Ferrari 360 almost at the same moment as Sascha Maassen puts the GT polesitting Petersen 911 into the gravel at the Dunlop Curve.

Kevin McGarritty has been circulating more and more quickly with the NASAMAX and as the clock ticks by 23:45 he improves the car's first session time, but it remains in 14th position.

The 61 Barron Connor Ferrari 575, Danny Sullivan at the wheel, has pulled off the circuit at the Dunlop Curves with a minor fire. The engine failed.

The 77 Choroq and 83 Seikel Porsches have improved in the closing minutes of the session, up to sixth and seventh in the session.

At the very end of the session John Field has improved the time and position of the Intersport LMP1 Lola Judd, up to 17th overall in 3:52.862.

His son Clint, after a trying first session, and a plucky run in session two explained: "The throttle problem in the first session was a coil and spark plug which had failed. They were replaced and the engine was fine."

Just before midnight the car had a puncture and lost some or all of its second tail of the day: There's only one left.

Ray Mallock (at 23:30) "We've done all we wanted to do today so we've started to take this engine out, in readiness to install the race engine for tomorrow. We won't do much running on Thursday."

At 23:15, the gorgeous red and white Lister was undergoing an engine change.

Overall, too hot while the sun was up for the really quick times that we had hoped for. Cooler tomorrow evening?

“We tried to have a go at the start of the second session which is why we were lined up with all the fast cars, but we had a gearbox connection problem and had to pit and sort it out, by which time we came back out into traffic and couldn’t match the time. Anyway, there is plenty of work to be done to sort the cars for the race and it is good to have both cars at the front. We’ll see what happens tomorrow - maybe we’ll have another go at it then!”

Can you puzzle out who that was (the clues are above - with thanks to Radio Le Mans)?

Sascha Maassen summed up a relatively uneventful evening of qualifying: "We had the fastest time (in the Petersen / White Lightning Porsche) so that is good, but the track is not quite there. I know that the track will be better tomorrow and there will be faster times.”

Let's hope so. We'd love to see Audis in the 3:32s, and Corvettes in the 3:48s - with rivals close behind.

 

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