LMES - Spa-Francorchamps - Saturday Afternoon Report
When we caught up with Allan McNish yesterday, he suggested
that he could improve on his Friday 2:06.2 “by a tenth or
two” in qualifying. Meanwhile this morning, Nic Minassian
quietly predicted (to the team) that he could “get into the
2:05s,” in the Creation DBA.
Both men were
absolutely spot on with their times in qualifying this afternoon
– helped by the fact that of course (bearing in mind the times)
the session was dry. The rain that was forecast for this afternoon
seems very late in coming, as the whole afternoon’s track
action was run in bright sunshine. Minassian will start from the
pole, with the three Audis next – and then the Tommy Erdos-driven
RML Lola in a terrific fifth.
It was a fragmented,
but very interesting, session. With so many cars on the track, a
red flag seemed inevitable – but we had two of them.
McNish was down
into the 2:06.1s straight away, a couple of seconds faster than
Minassian’s best – with Roman Dumas setting a very impressive
2:10 in the Nasamax – with more to come. Jamie Davies then
joined the Scot in the 2:06s, just a three tenths off the best so
then set a 2:06.2, and that would have been an interesting enough
session, but there was more to come. Other impressive early performances
came from Joao Barbosa in the Dallara (2:07.781), six tenths quicker
than the Pescarolo car, and a second faster than Ara in the Goh
Audi. The Nasamax was next…. interesting. Then Romain Dumas
set a 2:09.942, and on that lap he passed Seiji Ara at La Source…
even more interesting. The hybrid eco-fuelled car is suddenly almost
on ‘2003 spec.’ pace.
Then we had
the first red flag, for debris on the track at Blanchimont. At this
point, Uwe Alzen was down to a very impressive 2:18.6 in the Vitaphone
Saleen, while Patrick Long was fastest in GT with a 2.27.5. Paul
Belmondo’s 2:14 was five seconds faster than Alexander Frei’s
best in the factory C65, with the new Lucchini third quickest.
after the stoppage, the green flags flew, and before the next red
flag, both McNish and Davies improved, to 2:06.002 and 2:06.139.
These two Veloqx cars look very well matched for a re-run of Monza
and the Nurburgring.
McNish was held
up though, but at least that meant his predicted time was right:
“I had another crack to improve my time after the second red
flag but was inadvertently held up. It would have been nice to be
on pole but in reality we have a very good car for the race. Everything
has gone well for us so far but it only counts in the race.”
So was Jamie
Davies (held up): “On my ultimate fastest lap, just before
the second red flag interruption, I was held up badly and lost time.
But we should be in good shape for the race, which is what matters.”
The T2M Porsche
was then seen marooned in the gravel, the WR was stopped at the
side of the track, and the Cirtek Ferrari spun at Les Combes. Cue
red flag number two.
Off we went
for the third time – which was disrupting the session horribly
for some, who had just warmed their tyres nicely when they had to
a little quicker (but was still third), while Ara set a 2:08.1,
two seconds off the pace – and then handed over to Capello.
Sam Hignett got into the Jota Zytek – on the softer of this
car’s two sets of Dunlops remember – but wherever we
saw him on the track, he seemed to find dreadful traffic.
then found a clear lap, and a very high 2:05 (2:05.964) was pole
for the DBA Zytek, his second of the year.
car was fantastic, the team rebuilt her completely after Silverstone
to concentrate on reliability. We’re a little team but we’re
fighting with the big boys. We have had a good healthy fight with
the Audis and have been competitive with them all year. It’s
great to get down into the 2:05s and be on top again.”
JC-W then set
2:08s very impressively, in traffic, while the Goh Audi (Capello)
then found some real form with a 2:06.881, for fourth fastest –
so it was Audis 2-3-4. Then Erdos set his 2:07.351, to pip both
the Rollcentre Dallara and the Pescarolo – in which Ayari
also got into the 2:07s. Another interesting Rollcentre / Pescarolo
battle to come tomorrow? Hignett found enough room to go eighth
fastest, putting the Nasamax ninth and the Lister tenth. Only the
Panoz of the LMPs wasn’t among this elite ten.
was sure he could have set a 2:07 in the Lister (he was particularly
affected by the red flags – but the team stuck to its plan,
to allow Marc Goossens to complete the session, and the Belgian
found that “it’s a car with a strong potential but different
from the other prototypes I have driven in the past. I’ll
also have to adapt to Justin’s set-up because he’s the
team’s regular. He has another approach to driving such a
car and that makes it not always easy“), while Romain Dumas
reckoned he could have set a 2:08 in the Nasamax.
could be so much better but there was too much traffic,” said
the Frenchman. “On my best lap the WR hit me on the straight
before Blanchimont, and the damage to the bodywork unbalanced the
car. (But) it’s the first time we have had the car as good
Add 50 kilos
to the Audis and smaller restrictors, then see where the Nasamax
is next year…..
saw Jonathan Cochet take the pole in the factory Courage, 2.3 seconds
faster than the owner’s time in the #26 C65. Wim Eychmans
will drive this car throughout 2005: “I’m very happy
to drive a prototype again. The deal here was a last minute one,
but the team seems ok; they have the same professional level as
Courage but less experience in prototypes of course. But don’t
forget that Belmondo was a regular competitor in FIA GT for many
years. Our aim is to win the LMP2 class and to finish in a good
overall position too.“
The third of
the ‘elite’ cars in LMP2 was the new Lucchini, only
a second slower than the Belmondo Courage. The older Palmyr Lucchini
did well to lap in 2:19, with the Tracsport Lola next on 2:24. Bruneau’s
Pilbeam needed a new engine after qualifying, while the WR also
seems to have failed to qualify all of its drivers – but both
should start the race with a full complement available.
GT turned out
to be as close as expected, although it was no surprise to see Ortelli
fastest in the Freisinger 911, four tenths faster than Kirkaldy
in the Cirtek Ferrari and Lieb in the Sebah Porsche. These two pipped
Warren Hughes in the #41 RSR TVR in the dying moments. Hughes was
very disappointed to find that the gap between his fourth place
and second was so tight – 31 thousandths: “We’re
learning more all the time and surprising ourselves with what we
find. Fourth was a great result today, second would have been unbelievable.”
The Sebah squad
were very happy with third fastest, and Marc Lieb was suitably impressed
with speed of this heavily developed 2000 chassis. Xavier Pompidou
all but matched Lieb's times, and this pair are going to be very
serious Freisinger rivals tomorrow.
The JMB Ferrari
pushed the Jones / Maassen Porsche down to sixth. Bert Longin feels
“at home in this car. If for one or another reason the 575
project doesn’t continue next year, I would immediately opt
for this car. It has more potential than the Porsche 996.“
Tim Sugden was
a frustrated twelfth fastest in GT. He, Ian Khan and Michel Heydens
are not racing the ‘EMKA’ Porsche – because this
famous car is still fitted with a magnesium gearbox casing, which
is outlawed under ACO rules. “We had a lot of understeer yesterday
and a very long sixth gear," explained Sugden. "When the
mechanics took the gearbox out they found real problems, and had
to source another ‘box, but this one is fairly tired. We were
late out for that session, sorting out a damper problem. In fairness,
the JvG mechanics only picked the car up on Tuesday.”
was equally frustrated, with an Autorlando Porsche that seemed to
root its front tyres after a couple of laps. Liz Halliday found
that the car had “heavy understeer after a couple of laps,
plus snap oversteer.”
It was better
news for the Racesports TVR, although the drivers all suffered because
of the red flags and “neither of us got a good run,”
chorused Steve Hyde and Adam Sharpe. “The car can do a 2:32
round here, but our 2:35 in qualifying should be our race pace.”
problem seems fixed on this car, Dennis Leech providing a lengthy
explanation of the cause – basically the fluid had been boiling,
and once that happened, it became compressible, causing the steering
to tighten. A cooler has cooled it down.
GTS? The Hezemans
/ Deletraz 575 should be fixed for tomorrow, so only five cars were
out this afternoon. Pedro Lamy was a second or so slower than Uwe
Alzen, while Patrice Goueslard qualified the other Larbre 550, so
we didn’t have any heroics from Tomas Enge. Both Larbre cars
had their plans upset by the red flags. David Leslie qualified the
Nash Saleen with a 2:22 – and that is about that for practice
and qualifying from Spa.
to rain tomorrow, so perhaps much of the above won’t be terribly
relevant! But will the weather predictions be as accurate as those
of McNish and Minassian? Perhaps they will - at 18.30, it was raining....