1000 Km – Saturday Report
At Least One Surprise
This has been a wonderfully
entertaining day – and a very relaxing one too, at least by
(June) Le Mans standards. Not quite so many cars to cover, more
bodies to gather the news – and just a very pleasant atmosphere.
The cars were pretty
exciting out on the track too – partly because it’s
pleasant to see them on a different circuit, partly because it gets
pretty crowded out there, and partly because the cold weather makes
the cars dance about rather more than usual.
We posted a brief item
regarding the opening session: prior to that we discovered three
English teams which were all happy in their own way: Fred Goddard
Racing, PK Sport and the Morgan Motor Company. PK was set to challenge
the fastest in its class, while the other two were looking at securing
very good finishes tomorrow. So how did it work out for these three
– and the rest?
Jon Field: “That
was great in the free practice, second fastest overall. But my best
lap in the morning qualifying was my out lap: the car was going
away from me straight away. We’ve got some handling issues,
but the guys are working on it. I want to be second on the grid.
We can’t match the Audi, but I think we can be second.”
That spot in
first qualifying was occupied by Jan Lammers – less than four
tenths slower than the provisional pole sitter. You don’t
need to be told who that was do you? Lammers (mainly) and Wallace
(below) were out there for 21 laps (throwing Dunlop qualifiers at
the S101), while the Goh Audi needed just nine to set a 1:27.775.
Then there was a big gap to Sebastien Bourdais in the Pescarolo
Courage, just under 1:30 – and then the RML MG-Lola AER at
just over three tenths faster than Jon Field.
John Judd Jnr.
is very excited about the KV675 engine in the Intersport Lola B160:
“We want to beat Dyson Racing, we want to have the fastest
car in the 675 class. It’s still early days, and I know Jon
had a handling problem of some sort this morning, but the engine
installation has gone amazingly smoothly. My father had to take
out some different air filters to PLM, and that cured a problem
we had earlier in the week – one we knew we’d have,
but only after the car was flown out. Then we had the split water
pipe in the race, but that’s it.”
seemed to occupy the Intersport R&S for most of morning qualifying,
and a 1:34 wasn’t where he wanted to be. “Don’t
talk about 1:32s Clint,” said John Graham, “when I’ve
only had one lap in the car today.”
lost a wheel this morning, and thereby lost 25 minutes of track
time, but Clint was amusing himself at lunchtime looking at a video
of the 12 laps he completed. “You’ve gotta see this.
It’s a good spin, watch this.”
And round he
went at the last left hander, and it was indeed a pretty impressive
spin. The lost wheel and the spin saw this car just ahead of the
GTS Ferraris after the first 45 minute (originally 30) qualifying
dominated GTS, but with the Saleen not too far back (about a second
and a half) in third and Larbre’s Viper outclassed in fourth.
The Saleen (Kaufmann) found time in the afternoon, but the Ferraris
didn’t seem worried about more running (after almost a week
of it). Peter Kox set the class pole, ahead of Darren Turner. Kox
was entirely happy, Turner less so: “I didn’t manage
to get a clear lap, and seemed to have traffic the whole time. The
potential was there, but I was unlucky.”
was very happy with the Konrad Saleen: "The car is superb.
I first drove this car this morning, but the Ferraris have been
here since Monday, and who knows what tyres they are using now.
An improvement is definitely possible" (he adds that they are
using the FIA gearbox here.)
adds that he is "not quite happy with the balance, the front
tyres are up to temperature more quickly than the rear ones."
after the morning qualifying session ended up Cirtek Ferrari (Montermini),
PK Sport Porsche (Liddell), Seikel Porsche (Mowlem), Freisinger
Porsche (Ortelli), Sebah Porsche (Collard - right) and Scuderia
Ecosse Ferrari (Franchitti).
come back to the GT qualifying encounter later.
gave up some surprises, none more pleasurable than seeing the Lister
Storm third fastest.
P1 for us, the best we could hope for,” said JC-W. “If
only it had the power….Jan Lammers followed me out of the
last corner, pulled out, drove past me and pulled back in, in front
of me. Easy as that. If only we had the power. But the car is the
best we’ve ever had it….although there’s a long
way to go. The race set up isn’t what we want, so we’ve
got a bit to do there.
quick too." (below)
At the top of the 675
times, fifth overall, was the RML MG-Lola AER, so no joy for Jon
Field – but plenty for Tommy Erdos and co.
Erdos: “We have
done more than we hoped for and we’re very happy!”
Chris Goodwin: “We’re
very, very pleased considering the limited amount of running we’ve
had. To out-qualify teams that have been doing well all season is
“Our aim is to finish in the top two in class. Anything beyond
that will be a bonus!”
Courage ‘languished’ in sixth, and Mme. Bourdais expressed
her surprise that Sebastien had been beaten by the Lister. That
left Jon Field in seventh, ahead of the Panoz GTP and the 675 Courage
(third in class, the last of the top cars in this class –
and with an engine now badged as a Mader, as Mecachrome has taken
over JPX…we think!
“I’m very happy in the USA, and I should have left F3000
earlier to concentrate on endurance racing. This year was one of
the best, if not the best, in my racing career. Panoz is a fantastic
team to drive for and I hope to continue next year. I also love
living and working in the States as the atmosphere is much better
than in Belgium. The press is positive in the States: in Belgium
you always get critics. We have at this moment the top two in female
tennis and the only thing some Belgian journalists do, is criticize
them. It’s so sad… I had the same experience during
my F3 and F3000 years.
“But on the other
hand, I still hope to do the LMES in 2004 and to race again at Spa.
To race the GTP is funny, the car still carries some dust and hasn’t
been developed but it’s still competitive. We need some time
to do some adjustments on the set-up but I’m confident for
So the two we
haven’t mentioned from the top seven are the pole-sitting
Audi and the fourth placed Taurus Lola. Justin Keen had a point
to prove, and was third fastest for some of the session, beaten
only by the Lister towards the end of the afternoon period. Ian
Dawson was nevertheless “delighted” – proving
beyond any doubt that his team should have been here in June. Justin
Keen was trying very hard.
Tom Kristensen? One of
our spies (in another car) saw TK in the gravel somewhere this morning,
but he was of course full of praise for the R8, still the class
of a (non-Bentley) European field.
“The R8 is the
best sportscar, and it adapts very well to a slower circuit. We’re
running more downforce and softer suspension than we normally use
at Le Mans, but the good thing is that we are taking the Dunlop
Chicane faster than we ever have before.”
And if it rains, Tom?
“At Spa we had the same soft suspension, and the car was fine
in the wet.”
is up to us to respect the drivers who don’t have much experience,
and to be careful until they have gained experience. It is a narrow
and tight circuit here.”
The Audi didn't
use qualifying tyres.
Weather may become a
topic of conversation here: what should be an accurate forecast
from the airport suggests drizzly rain on Sunday morning, then drying
out. Some teams here have never run their cars in the wet, ever!
Those who know how good the Dunlop wets are could well be praying
Robin Liddell (after the first session): "We are now second
in GT and best Porsche, so I am happy for the team and for Pirelli.
We need to work on the setup some more so unless we end up in last
place we will probably use the whole second session for that. Jean-Phillipe
(Belloc) is a nice guy, I drove with him at the Road Atlanta ALMS
race but he was a last minute replacement there; now I can get to
know him better. I was a tenth quicker on qualifiers, but the car
was understeering too much to make really good use of them.”
to what? The pole sitter in GT, the Cirtek Motorsport Ferrari 360,
although the team members were all dressed in black and yellow Baron
/ Engelhorn Racing clothing.
Karl Baron (co-owner
BE Racing): "The way it is going now is not what we have expected
but what we have been hoping for. Our car is the latest F360 competition
chassis; it first ran at Fiorano last Monday, and our goal here
is to secure a Le Mans entry for 2004. The car we will be using
at Bathurst, and which is also our own car, has nothing to do with
the one here, it is on a different technical level, still with an
F1 gearchange. After Bathurst, we might take it to Daytona - we
will see. We will also stay in the Ferrari Challenge, with the same
drivers as this year. We are cooperating with Cirtek for this race;
and we will see whether this cooperation will continue."
Philipp Peter (joining
Andrea Montermini and Klaus Engelhorn this weekend): "We are
half a second ahead of the second placed car, and we could have
gone quicker still. We have one slight problem with fuel pickup
when we are running under the pitlane speed limiter, but other than
this we have not had any difficulties. I did not expect things to
be going this well but we obviously have always wanted to be on
the podium and get an entry for Le Mans. I have never driven on
the Bugatti circuit before but all in all I think it is quite good,
if a little narrow in some places. It is all right for the GTs and
also perhaps for the GTS cars, but it must be really difficult for
the prototypes. Also, a lot of gravel is constantly dragged onto
the racing line.
“I was Klaus Engelhorn's
instructor at the Andrea de Adamich racing school; he took part
in a course for Ferrari owners there. When I learned of his ambition
to do more racing I recommended the Ferrari Challenge for him; and
he has since improved with every step up he has made. He is eager
to improve, and doesn't take anything for granted. From the driver's
perspective, one of the differences between driving the F575 and
the F360 - if they can be compared - is that half an hour in the
575 is as exhausting as an hour in the 360. The 575 is obviously
more powerful, and also heavier; so it is more of a physical effort.
Also, it the F360 you don't have the engine in front of you, and
radiating heat in you face."
complete the story of this new car – the pole sitter after
all. Rob Schirle: “Thanks to the drivers, the team and the
tyres, and working hard all week, we’ve got a really good
set up. It’s the latest evolution of the 360, Philipp and
Andrea are clearly going very well, but Klaus is in the 1:43s, and
this is only his second year of racing.”
talking to Johannes Gauglica before the afternoon 45 minutes, split
the first two before the end of qualifying – with the Dunlop-shod
Freisinger Porsche: "We started late, the car was used for
a motorshow, to celebrate our FIA (N-GT) win, then it had to be
modified to ACO specification. Others have been here since Monday
or Tuesday. We are working to find a race setup, and will put some
softer tyres on for the second session. I have not driven much because
Vassiliev needs some time to get used to the car; but I am happy
Johnny Mowlem went faster
in the afternoon too, but third became fourth with Ortelli’s
Further down the order,
Michael Caine got the #46 TVR hustling along very quickly in the
afternoon, ending up seventh, while Fanny Duchateau brought the
other car up to 12th.
got here on Wednesday and immediately found the good rhythm in the
car. It’s a great experience to race here at Le Mans even
if it’s the little track. The car feels great and on some
points one could compare it to the Vertigo I drove at Spa. It’s
somewhat more balanced than the Belgian car but the feeling is similar.
Racing in endurance suits me very well, I won the European and Belgian
Fun Cup this year (Beetle type cars) and already did the 24 hours
of Spa and Zolder. Le Mans is a dream but one to accomplish. I hope
to continue this project next year, the LMES is an interesting series,
with mixed fields, nice tracks… but nothing is sure yet.”
Fanny had hoped to set
a 1:44, but a 1:45.363 was impressive first time out in a T400R.
Amanda Stretton had had an interesting first qualifying session.:
“Liz Halliday spent the first half hour bedding in brakes
and then I went out. On my first lap I was hit by the Audi and on
my second I was pushed into the gravel. The track is like the bottom
of a fish tank with all the gravel and slime – it’s
almost dangerous. There’s one racing line and outside of that
there’s gravel everywhere!”
also went out this afternoon, but by then there were gearchange
gremlins which didn’t allow her to shine as brightly as she’d
Marino Franchitti: “It
(the first session) was shite! We had a few electrical niggles at
the start and by the time we got going the slower drivers were out
on the track. I kept getting baulked by them and only got one clear
lap – it’s trust-fund racing! I reckon we can go an
extra half second faster in the second session, but we’ve
got to hit that (faster driver) window!”
Chris Niarcos: “Tim
(Mullen) got into the 1:41s this afternoon, but three laps after
I got in the double yellows came out when a car beached itself on
the kerbs and I’d only managed a 1:45 by then. After that
I decided to stay out and just dial myself in. I’ve only done
30 laps in total so I’m happy with my pace! The car still
has the F1 shift and not a sequential shift and that is costing
us a tenth with every change, and there are 19 shifts per lap. When
you take that into account, we’d be right at the front!”
And finally, Morgan and
T2M news, Morgan first.
Neil Cunningham: “We
had a problem at scrutineering with a slight leak in the airbox.
There’s virtually no effect but we had a recurrence at the
end of the first qualifying session and the time was thrown out.
Other than that the balance has been affected by our having to come
down a size in wheels yesterday (also at scrutineering), but we’re
where we want to be in the 1:43/44 bracket. That’ll be our
The Morgan’s screen
was blasted by a large chunk of ‘gravel’ this morning,
and ended up in the bin, but despite the slight decrease in wheel
size at the back, Morgan was on a roll: “With every change
we get quicker, having started out at 1:49, we’ve brought
the time down with every change we’ve made.”
And last of
all, Wim Coekelbergs (T2M): “I never drove a Porsche before
Spa this year and over there I almost only drove under yellow…
So this is a great experience to do. I might put up a team with
Phil Bastiaans and Wim Daems to do this series, FIA-GT or Belcar.
I drove Clios till now but I this is a dream to do. I learned a
lot from Wim Daems and it’s paying off; I’m not slower
than Paul (Daniels) or Georges (Forgeois) even if they have lots
Satuday, as the sun goes down at approaching 18.00. We’re
told that the race will end at 18.00 tomorrow, even if the 1000
km haven’t been completed.