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LMES - Spa-Francorchamps - Friday Morning Report
Wonderful Weather To Start It Off

The drivers’ briefing this morning meant no drivers available initially, but we then caught up with Werner Lupberger and KWM’s Kieron Salter in the Nasamax pit, shortly before the first session began.

“We’ve got a new rear wing fitted here,” said Kieron Salter. “It’s mounted high up, as it was at Monza, but since then we’ve been running the wing lower. But we had to add some more downforce, that’s what we’ve been so short of.”

The rear underbody has also been extended, together with the LMP1 ‘boxes’ behind the rear wheels. Werner Lupberger was destined to be first out this morning, the team only expecting to have two of the drivers get some time in before lunch, as the session is just 45 minutes long.

“No, we haven’t tested the car like this, we haven’t had the time,” commented John McNeil. Kieron Salter will be heavily involved, as the team works to balance out the higher rear downforce with more at the front of the Nasamax DM139.

RSR Racing’s Lawrence Tomlinson was the unwitting victim of an over zealous Belgian traffic cop yesterday evening: the world’s most prolific TVR T400R owner was pulled over after the patrolman spotted him on the autoroute from the airport, talking on a hand-held mobile phone. It was some time before Tomlinson could effectively get across the message that while he was indeed talking on the phone, the steering wheel was in the full control of Nigel Greensall, sitting on the other side of the right hand drive car.

A 45 minute session and a long lap, and everyone seemed to struggle to complete many tours of Spa. “Three laps each,” or “I only got a couple of laps in at the end,” were typical remarks.

Allan McNish was first out in the #8 Audi Sport UK / Team Veloqx R8, but two flying laps and he was back in to hand over to Pierre Kaffer. 2:08.053 and then 2:07.233 were the times of the Scot’s two laps, and that was him fastest in the ‘whole’ session. The young German then had his first experience of an Audi at Spa, setting a personal best of 2:08.296.

Nic Minassian was second fastest in the Creation DBA, half a second slower than the Audi. Nic Minassian was very happy with the car, but “we haven’t really tried yet.” The DBA has a fresh engine in for this meeting and “it feels very sharp.”

Sam Hignett was fourth in the Jota Zytek, but amazed that what he felt wasn’t a particularly good lap was a 2:08.6, fourth fastest – six tenths slower than the Goh Audi. Hignett is expecting the best times to be very much quicker than this first session set, by the time we get to qualifying tomorrow.

So two Audis and two ‘Zyteks’ in the top four – and fifth was Justin Keen in the Lister.

“I’m very happy indeed with that run, ahead of one Audi and just a tenth off the second. “We’ve learnt a lot about the car from Silverstone and had a very productive test at Snetterton, where we saw some real improvements. I’m not sure how we are shaping up on straight line speed, I didn’t really go up against anyone else to judge our car against them, but handling wise the car showed really well. “I was on for a 2:08.8 but made a mistake, I’m pretty sure 2:08.5 is where we can be.”

Marc Goossens had his first experience of the Lister right at the end of the session.

The Pescarolo was sixth, ahead of a #88 Audi with some sort of handling issue, which we haven’t explored yet.

The Rollcentre Dallara only completed out-and-in laps for virtually the whole session, M. Short at the wheel: “It’s porpoising badly. It’s only doing it at two places, but they’re quite important places – approaching Les Combes and through Blanchimont. Not happy.” Short set one timed lap at the end.

The Nasamax was next, the team pleased to find that they are now generating some understeer on the car.

LMP2 saw the Belmondo Courage fastest – but the works car didn’t set a representative time. The new Lucchini was sixth fastest in class, and going through new car niggles (the gear cut stopped working, they’re short of straightline speed and they can’t generate enough heat in the brakes) - and the gear ratios need changing. The drivers haven’t pushed hard yet.

GTS was Bouchut’s Larbre Ferrari just a tenth quicker than the Vitaphone Saleen – with the other 550 third, the Barron Connor 575s fourth and fifth, and looking “bouncy” under braking at the new Bust Stop.

GT was Freisinger from JMB and Sebah – the Cirtek Porsche had a misfire and didn’t set a time.

Hugh Hayden was full of praise for his new driver Marc Lieb. “It’s a team effort and Marc is supporting us in every way possible. Xavier is the continuity in this project though, and he was slightly quicker than Marc this morning.”

“Since Silverstone, we’ve made a modest step forward, and we’ve been testing that this morning – but I don’t want to say what we’ve changed!”

Hayden’s target is second place for his team in the GT Teams’ Championship: “We’re one point behind JMB but six ahead of Freisinger, so we’re looking for at least a fourth place finish – but a lot can happen in these races.”

Fourth quickest in GT was the #41 RSR TVR.

Jonny Kane – “We’re very pleasantly surprised with where we are compared to the other front-running GT cars. We’ve still got a few things to get sorted out but there’s definitely room for improvement. The only thing really wrong with the car is that it isn’t a prototype!”

Warren Hughes – “It’s going well so far but the handling is a bit wishy washy and powerboaty.”

The Hughes / Kane / Tomlinson #41 is the car that raced at Silverstone.

Piers Masarati (Autorlando Porsche) – “I had a water pipe break after just four laps so Liz (Halliday) hasn’t had a run so far. We’re running well behind now.”

Rob Wilson (Cirtek Ferrari): “I lost the right front wheel at the top of the hill on my out lap, we think the nut sheered and it’s wrecked the front splitter. The team will repair it tonight but we went through that session with awful understeer and without the splitter we’ll have the same again in the second session.”

Andrew Kirkaldy had just two laps in the Cirtek 360, and pointed out that Maurizio Fabris, who was down to race this entry at the Spa 24 Hours, still hasn’t lapped the circuit in the 360 – yet.

The Racesports TVR at least gave its three drivers three laps each, but all three found an intermittent power steering problem – “But a different power steering problem from the one the car had at Thruxton two weeks ago,” explained John Hartshorne.

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