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LMES - Nurburgring 1000 Kms - Saturday Qualifying Report
Minassian

Saturday Morning Notes

Following its engine problems yesterday, the A-Level Engineering team had taken the turbocharged Porsche 996 to a garage in Adenau to work on it overnight. They have beaten the clock and got the car back to the track in time for today's qualifying session, prior to which the ACO may also want to scrutineer the car again.

Wolfgang Kaufmann: “The team has worked overnight to rebuild the engine, it looks like it was a cracked cylinder liner. We’re also changing the car back to steel brakes from carbon for safety. We’ve never run the car over long distances with carbon and it would be wrong to test that in the race.

“I’ll start the qualifying session to check things out, then Eric will jump in to qualify. We’re aiming to get the car to the finish, after that we’ll be thinking about how well it finishes.”

The car took to the track with 30 minutes of the session remaining and was steadily getting up to speed.

Saturday Morning Comments

Adam Jones - #93 Cirtek Porsche: “The weather is a real lottery out there. A local driver told me yesterday that it would be dry for qualifying and look what happened. The car has been fantastic here, Monza was really, really frustrating losing time with the alternator problem cost us a podium. Here though we’re looking to win the race.”

Sam Hancock – Courage Competition C65 AER: “I’m loving this team and this car. After driving with Jean-Marc a couple of years ago and going well I got the Le Mans drive, an amazing thrill, we went very well there and they kept us together. The car is a joy to drive, massively quick and with an awful lot more still to come.

“As for Le Mans, Jean-Marc did a great job and I got a good long stint in, led the class and got into the overall top 6. I loved every single second of it and was totally gutted when I got a knock on the door of the cabin at 2am to tell me it was all over for us.

“Yves and his team have worked so hard and for so long to bring this project to fruition it would be a great reward if we can bring the car home. One thing’s for sure, if we do get to the end we’ll be well placed overall.”

Hancock and Gounon were also out on the Nordschleife yesterday: “We were out in a 1.6 engined Opel s***box and got out on track with Jean-Marc at the wheel a few cars behind Paul Belmondo in a BMW 6 Series. We passed them on the first straight and never saw them again. The place is just phenomenal. We both had a go and both definitely want to come back and do the 24 Hours here next year.”

The Palmyr Lucchini has gone back to the future with a 3.4 Alfa engine, in effect a bored out SR2 block (prepared by Elle G) the chosen powerplant for the weekend. It’s been a rushed week for the team after a planned LMP2 conversion by the factory seemed to take rather longer than planned, the team themselves completing the job.

Qualifying Report

For the second qualifying session the track was almost fully dry – except that hints of showers drifted across the track, during what has been a very changeable weekend. Times looked set to tumble and they did.

First to show pace was the Creation DBA, up to second overall with a 1:47.9.
Its close cousin the Team Jota Zytek was also an early improver, up to 6th overall before stopping out on track and being pushed behind the wall out on the circuit, a break in the wiring for the fuel lift pump apparently the cause.

Next up though was the Audi trio. The provisional polesitting #88 car the only one of the trio not to improve, Ara putting the Team Goh R8 ahead of the DBA with a 1:47.1 and then McNish in the refettled #8 Veloqx car clawing up the order 4th, 3rd, 2nd and then provisional pole, a 1:46.779. Jamie Davies was going for it, but “I was baulked on my best lap, and every other lap” summed up his frustration.

Sam Li was less frustrated: “It’s gone very much according to plan here so far. We haven’t concentrated on qualifying speed, because we knew the lighter car would be quicker. We’ve made sure that all four drivers like the cars, and we’re very pleased with the way that has worked out. Both cars are good race cars.”

So Minassian popped up, nine minutes to go in the session, to take pole by a tenth, a 1:46.681. The R8s stayed put, so pole would stay with the Dunlop shod DBA. When was the last time anything other than a Dyson MG Lola set pole ahead of an Audi R8?

Minassian: “For sure I could have gone quicker. I had to brake at the fast left hander, where we’re flat normally, to avoid a Porsche, and I had to overtake another one too. You had to take big risks with traffic.”

Fortunately almost no one ‘came a cropper.’

The RML MG Lola fell back down the order a little, Erdos struggling with traffic. John Nielsen improved time and position in the Lister despite feeling the car was down on power from yesterday. “Electrics” said Fiona Pearce. John loves the car, but we think we can fix the engine for the race, although there’s no time to change it if we had to.”

Just 8 out of the 41 cars failed to improve in the session with a big improvement from the Pescarolo, fifth on the grid now after its troubled run yesterday.

Gounon was mighty once more in the factory Courage, a 1:48.920 good enough for sixth overall on the grid. Yves Courage’s little car has raised the LMP2 bar. The ‘traditional’ LMP2s were way behind, the Renauer squad struggling with gearbox trouble and posting no improvement and the G Force Pilbeam suffering a spin and a grinding to a halt at the pitlane exit, but still improving on yesterday’s time. New boys Tracsport improved throughout the session, the Lola getting closer and closer to competitive pace but the percentage rule on qualification uses the fastest in the class as the yardstick - And Gounon was very, very quick indeed.

Tracsport and Renauer were listed as not qualified for the race, the Austrian team confused as to whether they would be able to start the race.

In GTS, Thomas Biagi and Mike Hezemans put in mighty efforts in the #61 and #62 Barron Connor Ferrari 575s to almost match Uwe Alzen’s polesetting effort from yesterday, but Alzen was busying himself too, improving the target by a second, GTS pole was safe. Second was the Larbre 550, Christophe Bouchut and Pedro Lamy getting down to business in the Prodrive built car. Bouchut was the quicker by just a hundredth. The 550 had missed out on dry qualifying yesterday when an electronic gremlin meant the car had no dashboard readout, the repair took seconds but the rain came at the same time – on a dry track today, order restored and the Vitaphone and Larbre teams look set for a ding dong battle in the race.

Mike Hezemans was busy elsewhere at the end of the session, but his father passed on the news that “we’ve drastically improved the 575s ourselves. At Sebring we were five to six seconds off the pace on a two minute lap, but here – look what Mike and Thomas (Biagi) have done: we’ve got the gap down to a second.

“The biggest problems we have are horsepower and downforce. The engine is missing maybe 20-25 bhp compared to a Prodrive engine and the aerodynamics are not as good. But we have been working on the car ourselves – we have a different wing here, and Moton dampers. Mike Gramke is working on the cars with me, and we are making very good progress. Ferrari promised to do a lot, but they haven’t produced yet – so we are doing it ourselves.”

On the subject of the practice / qualifying format here, Hezemans Snr. was very clear: “Deletraz has done six laps in two days. If you have three drivers, you can be completely in the ****. We must have more practice time – and then maybe a short 15 minute qualifying session, for prototypes and then for GTs.”

In GT it was a pole in their maiden GT race for Farnbacher Racing, their time from yesterday having been disallowed (reason as yet unknown), Mike Rockenfeller edging out Cirtek’s Sascha Maassen by just a three hundredths of a second. Freisinger meanwhile were having dramas, a blown engine will mean a busy afternoon for the #85 car’s pitcrew, before the 16.00 start.

Sascha Maassen meanwhile made contact with the rear of the GNM Saleen, Maassen feeling that the GNM car had slowed, perhaps with a missed gear, Gabbiani feeling as if the contact was avoidable. Initial worries that the shock of the impact might have damaged the engine of the S7R were happily unfounded, a kink in the exhaust the only physical effect.

Cirtek’s guys have been busy repairing the front and replacing a radiator, Rob Schirle also passing on the news that the team has a development Dunlop tyre fitted here, a tyre which none of the other Dunlop users have available. “Adam just did a 30 minute run to check them out: we tested them at Mallory Park before we left for Germany.” Has Cirtek got access to a development wet tyre? A wry smile was the answer. Second fastest in GT bodes well for later this afternoon and into the evening.

Robin Liddell never got a clear lap when the track was dry, so the JWR car starts seventh. “We could have done with more dry running, because everyone else has done more running with their cars than we have. My best lap was when it was damp. We’ve got a good race car though.”

So has Stephane Daoudi, third quickest in the JMB Ferrari. “It’s just Roman (Rusinov) and myself here. I think Jaime (Melo) has decided to concentrate on the FIA Championship. Roman is much closer to my times than he was at Monza. I will probably drive for about four hours. I did my best lap on my last lap. Before that, every time I went out, it started to rain a little.”

So there we are, practice and qualifying over: have we seen times that are representative of race form? Undoubtedly we have in GTS and LMP2, but in the other two classes, form is less clear cut. We’ll try and keep up with all the action as it happens, during what is expected to be another fascinating and entertaining LMES event.

 

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