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LMES – Monza – Saturday Afternoon Qualifying Report
Herbert Nips It – First Pole Since 1988!

Somehow, perhaps, just maybe, the Zytek team wasn’t that dispirited by not taking the pole here at Monza. If the track wasn’t supposed to favour the smaller car, how on earth did Stefan Johansson go so fast so soon, both yesterday afternoon in the wet, and this morning in first qualifying?

Andy Wallace had his first go at the start of the second qualifying session, but as he explored the braking points, he was delayed in the inevitable traffic. David Brabham went out at the end on the second set of tyres, but, “traffic again mate,” was the problem. This team had anyway been working on race set-up this afternoon (as the Audi teams inevitably were too), so Johnny Herbert nipped in and made it Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx fastest at Sebring, Paul Ricard, Le Mans Test Day and Monza. Johansson’s morning time left Zytek second fastest.

Would David Brabham care to comment on the time he might have set? “No.”

Two of the three Audis improved this afternoon (not Goh), and will start first, third and fifth – Creation in fourth, so both ‘Reynards’ split up the Audis. With Advan and Creation not going quicker in fifth and sixth, from seventh to twelfth all improved – typically by about half a second – although the order remained much the same: Rollcentre, Pescarolo, Nasamax, Belmondo, Jota, RML.

Jota showed the greatest improvement, but as Sam Hignett explained, “yesterday afternoon was the shakedown, this morning the first test session, now we can try and set a time.” He’d hoped to get into the top eight, but eleventh it was, despite finding over two seconds.

Tommy Erdos only ran one flying lap before “the engine lost a lot of power and they’re doing a precautionary engine change” (Mike Newton).

Werner Lupberger improved to a 1:42.078, “but the only clear lap I had was before the tyres were really warmed up.” It was that sort of session – with the exception of Johnny Herbert.

“This is my first pole-position since 1988 - I’d forgotten what it was like to be fastest - and I’ m delighted. I wasn’t too happy in the morning session but we sorted some things in between the two sessions and the changes worked very well. For me, the Audi is the best it’s been this year and that showed in my times.”

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Big improvements in GTS came from the Vitaphone Saleen and Mike Hezemans in the faster B-C Ferrari 575, but these two are still separated by a similar amount – well over a second.

The big improvement in LMP2 came from Jon Field, who brought the car’s best down by nearly four seconds. “It’s a good car now, but it’s going to be a great car – the engine is awesome, but maybe the tyres are designed for a heavier car.”

Bil Binnie is at Monza this week, Monaco (with his Maserati) next week. He’s the proud owner of a Ferrari 312PB too, chassis 880, “the Ickx car from 1972.” Lucky, lucky man.

In GT, Freisinger, JMB and Cirtek all found about a second, while the quick Seikel car didn’t improve. At this time of the day, it’s still a puzzle as to who is driving which of the Seikel Porsches, but we’ll sort that out tomorrow.

Let’s finish today’s text with some positive Taurus Diesel news. A water pipe melted on the exhaust yesterday, in the wet session, and with all the spray, no one saw the leaking fluid – and with the water gone, the gauge didn’t register the temperature rise. Half an hour after the car stopped, the engine temperature was apparently 180 degrees Centigrade, and it took an age to completely cool. All that heat was the cause of the seals leaking this morning, but this afternoon, Calum Lockie got in his first seven laps of the meeting, and urged on over the radio, was just about to set a representative time when an intercooler pipe popped off. “If we had more track time, we’d be down to something like a 1:48. It’s a shame that we’re doing our testing in public.”

The sister car set a qualifying time too, a 1:48.178 – but the gearbox broke again. It will start.

Raceday tomorrow – and it’s going to be a cracker.

 

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