LMES – Silverstone – Friday First Qualifying Report
No, He Can’t Have Gone That Quickly

This series does throw up some remarkable performances: whether it be Johansson, Brabham then Wallace at Monza (in the factory Zytek) or Minsassian at the Nurburgring (in the Creation DBA) or, today, Robbie Kerr – the factory Zytek again, in qualifying.

The session got underway on schedule at 13.05, under still overcast skies, but it only lasted a lap before the AutoPalace Ferrari was stuck out on the track with a wheel off. It was unceremoniously dumped in parc ferme. That incident could have had a dramatic effect on the times, because after a ten minute delay, some cars were ‘right on it’ straight away – but many weren’t… as reports came in that it was definitely raining out at Stowe. Sam Hignett was conclusively fastest (1:36.4) as the rain came down round the back, and second was Justin Keen in the Lister. “RAIN, RAIN, F*****G RAIN” bellowed Laurence Pearce – at the skies. “We’ll be on the front row.”

Unfortunately for him, it stopped just like that, and after a pause – only a brief one – the times fell again. Unfortunately for Jonny Kane in the Chamberlain-Synergy TVR, he’d taken the precipitation as a signal to really go for a time before it became too wet, and he lost it – at Becketts. “Driver error,” he admitted. The purple car may not make second qualifying.

The rain didn’t really help Sam Hignett. On Michelins for this race, Hignett was at the head of the queue for the start of the session and the re-start, and “as instructed, I went for it on the out lap.” By the time he’d done two of those and a fast lap, “the tyres were going off at Becketts on my next lap – and I had a big oversteer slide.”

So a 1:36.452 was as fast as the #6 Zytek was going to go in this 45 minute period – initially fastest, eventually fourth fastest. “We tried some new bits yesterday, but we didn’t have the other parts we needed to make them really work,” (half) explained Hignett. “So we’re back to standard spec. today. I think I can do a 1:35.8, but no way could I match the factory car.”

That was a reference to Robbie Kerr’s first flying lap in the black Zytek. Good laps from Erdos and Barbosa had take these two onto the (temporary) front row, but Kerr’s lap made it all Zytek – for now.

“Do your talking on the track,” said this most polite of pole sitters – because no one is even dreaming that they could match this in the second session later today. Kerr did it on his first lap, and the second would have been quicker – but two fast segments were followed by a slow one, stuck in traffic. Was the 1:34 a clear lap? “No, not completely. I passed one car into Stowe and another out of Club. There are still a couple of things we can try in second qualifying, so we can go quicker.”

Trevor Foster: “A 1:33 is possible, if he can find another clear lap.” With Chris Dyson in the 1:37 / 38s on worn tyres, this pairing does look very strong for the race.

And then there were the Audis – in second (1.7 seconds away from pole), fifth and sixth. Allan McNish just wasn’t happy with his car, making adjustments throughout the session – until Pierre Kaffer got in for one lap at the end. Johnny Herbert felt that “there’s nothing wrong with our car, it felt all right” – but it just wasn’t quick enough (second fastest).

At last, after all these years, the R8 has (more than) met its match – except at Le Mans.

The Goh R8 even explored a gravel trap (at Abbey) but was extracted and carried on.

Only Johnny Herbert split the ‘three Zyteks’, Minassian eventually beating the Jota car by 40 thousandths. Barbosa’s 1:37.777 was very impressive, only six tenths slower than Capello’s best and half a second faster than Erdos in the RML Lola. The Brazilian was pleased with progress, admitting that although this Lola’s AER engine is a stage two unit, it doesn’t use the latest engine mapping that Dyson uses.

Justin Keen stayed in the Lister throughout, but didn’t improve, while Rob Barff described the Lister LMP chassis as “very good – really, really good.” The team didn’t wait for those plug leads to arrive, choosing instead to convert the electronics back to Le Mans spec., and the misfire disappeared.

The Nasamax was into the 1:41s for the first time – and it occurs to this brain that if you ignore the minutes, the times here seem curiously similar to those recorded at Le Mans: pole in the 32s in June, to Nasamax just outside a 3:42.

3:32 to 3:42 compared with 1:34 to 1:41 here.

The two Courages here are very well matched, 1:41.9 for the red car against a 1:42.1 for the blue one – then a big gap to the more conventional cars, led by K2 with a very impressive 1:45.722, nearly four seconds up on yesterday’s time. Ben Devlin was very pleased with that time, and couldn't see any value in going quicker later in the day. The Palmyr Lucchini was an impressive fourth, but two seconds slower. The WR, the Tracsport Lola, the Bruneau Pilbeam and the G-Force Pilbeam completed the P2 runners under 1:50, just Randaccio’s car outside this barrier.

Larbre pipped the Vitaphone Saleen by two tenths, the modified, #61 Barron Connor Ferrari was in a competitive third, but a second or so slower. The #62 B-C Ferrari and the Nash Saleen were both in the 1:50 bracket – and we haven’t found out why the A-Level Porsche didn’t set a time. Ah, the engine (no turbo) let go in a big way at Abbey. Eric van de Poele will hate endurance races even more now.

And so to GT – where Sascha Maassen set the provisional pole, 1.2 seconds quicker than anyone else. How’s that then?

“I understand that Freisinger, Jordan, Farnbacher and JMB have the same options as us with Dunlop tyres,” explains Rob Schirle, but just smirked conspiratorially regarding any advantage that his Cirtek car has. He did admit that he is “just working on a mechanical advantage,” and that for Spa he expects to have “a lightweight wiring loom and a new development for the engine. It’s very nice to keep pushing on with developments.”

Next week, Cirtek will be completing a two day tyre test at Snetterton, working on new Dunlop constructions and compounds for Spa.

So we’re still not sure how Maassen managed to lap over a second quicker than anyone else. Stephane Daoudi was suitably impressed, but his new Dunlops were wasted by the red flag early on in the session. “I think I could do a 1:53 something, but not a 52.7.” The Frenchman had a wake up call this morning when one of the 575s chopped him going into Copse. “I spun through 360 degrees four times, just missing the wall each time, and I finished up by just gently bumping into the barrier.” A lucky (and skilful) escape.

Freisinger, JWR and Sebah were next up, Xavier Pompidou performing miracles in Sebah's 2000 911.

Finally for now, the Cirtek Ferrari is running well – with Rory Passey on the driving team this week. Rob Schirle tested it at Mallory at one pm on Thursday, and pronounced it “good as new, but we had to adjust the king pin angles and cambers to get the handling right – because the chassis is twisted.” Cirtek mechanics will ship it to Italy next week, to swap over the components into a new chassis.


              Contents Copyright © dailysportscar.com. All Rights Reserved.