LE MANS
PK Sport At Le Mans
Ricardo Vehicle Engineering
14/06/2001
 
Wednesday
Qualifying
 



The PK Porsche #76 was among the first cars to head out onto the Sarthe circuit at the start of Wednesday's first qualifying session. Mike Youles was given the honour of taking out the resplendent yellow and blue 911 GT3-RS, but only completed a handful of laps before returning to the pitlane and handing over to Stephen Day. The intention was for all the drivers to complete their required allocation of laps as early as possible, with David Warnock being the last to satisfy his daylight requirement.








At the conclusion of the first period the team stood sixth in GT with a time of 4:22.176, set by Mike Youles.

During the first twenty minutes of the evening's second period Stephen Day was given the chance to improve on Mike Youles' earlier time. The team fitted a set of qualifying tyres - the only ones they'd yet used - and Stephen was sent out with instructions to do his best.

"It was the first time in my life I've ever had qualifiers," said Day afterwards, "and I'm quite pleased, but not sure I made the most of them. I felt I was on a really good lap, and then missed the turn-in point to the start of the Ford chicanes." He scrabbled around a bit, recovered, and then crossed the line to set his best time of 4:18.625. At the time it was enough to move the car up to fifth in class, although it was subsequently bettered and PK ended the day sixth, but it could easily have been more. "I lost a few tenths," admitted Day, suggesting that fifth might have been retained. "I set that time at the start of the second session," concluded Day. "All the quickest times (in GT) came at the end of the first. Perhaps they knew something we didn't."

All three drivers completed their mandatory three laps in the dark, and team owner Mike Pickup declared himself satisfied with the way things had gone. "Tonight we've been making sure we've got a good car for the race and preparing some tyres," he said. "We've achieved everything we set out to do, and all that's left to do tomorrow is to complete the set-up so that the car's in full race trim. We don't intend to do much on the track."

Mike Youles suggested that there might be "some small adjustments we can do to make the car more driver-friendly," but otherwise seemed satisfied with the way the evening had gone. "At least we sorted the lights out so we can see where we were going," he said with a grin, "but they're still not perfect." They now point somewhere in the general direction of forwards.

The lights were not responsible for Youles's spin at Arnage. "It was my last lap," he said, "and totally driver-induced. I'd moved aside at Indianapolis to allow a prototype through, but he hesitated and I was way off line but committed as I came into Arnage. The frustrating thing is, the data suggests that would have been my best lap - probably a 4:19, which would have been really good for the dark. That would have made me much happier," he added.



What turned out to be the highlight of his evening, however, was one of those strange quirks of fate that arise from time to time. It is more than ten years since Mike Youles last raced here in the 24 Hours, winning his class in a C2 Spice. On that occasion he co-drove with the Olindo Iacobelli. Today a voice from above - the hospitality suite above the PK garage that is - came back to remind Youles of that successful 1990 race. Jacobelli and Youles renewed their friendship over a chat between sessions, when it transpired that the Italian's daughter now goes to a school in England less than a mile away from Mike Youles' home.

Although Youles has a successful record here at Le Mans, this will be Stephen Day's first venture in the French classic. "It's actually the first time I've ever even been here," he admits. "It probably wasn't a good idea, but I promised myself that I wouldn't come to Le Mans unless I was racing." He has, however, contested and finished three Spa 24 Hour races, last year with Mardi Gras. 2001 has been a relatively quiet season so far for the talented Day, who contested the 2000 British GT Championship in a Viper. His only previous race this year was at Silverstone in March, when he deputised for Tim Sugden aboard the TSR Porsche GT3 in the Privilege Insurance British GT Championship.

Having a far better season is David Warnock, who currently leads that same British championship. His normal mode of transport is the Jaguar-engined Lister Storm, but the call to drive a Porsche with PK still appealed. "I had a call from Mike Youles about a month ago," explained Warnock. " "You know why I'm ringing, don't you?" he said. "No idea," I replied. "Well, it's been noticeable how well you've been improving recently, and there's a seat available for Le Mans. Are you interested?" You can imagine my reply!"

Warnock had been talking to a number of other people about possible drives at Le Mans but nothing had come of them, so needed no second invitation and promptly struck the deal with Mike Pickup. "This will be my third Le Mans," added Warnock. "We tried to pre-qualify with the Marcos in 1997, but missed the cut by a few fractions of a second. Then I finished with Roock in '98. We were classified, but I'm looking to improve on that this time."

Asked how he would feel if Lister had gained an entry, he was forthright. "I would have liked to have been here with Lister, of course. I know the Storm backwards, and would have enough confidence to go 100%. As it is, I've never driven a GT3 Porsche before, and it's very different. I simply don't know the characteristics yet, or where the limits are. I find the braking especially difficult. The Lister stops just like that," he says, holding out a rock steady and very firm hand. "The Porsche can be less predictable, but I'll get there."

His best today was actually a low 4:30 and he appeared less than satisfied with the time. "I only completed about five laps in the first session, but it was enough to confirm that driving a GT3 Porsche on the limit is very hard work. These guys," he says, pointing on the monitor to some of the names heading the GT timesheet, "do this week after week, so I suppose I should be quite pleased to be as close as I am." As a previous class winner of the Daytona 24 Hours there's no denying Warnock's experience. He also has two British GT titles to his credit, so there's a good chance he will come to terms with the Porsche in time for Saturday's race.

With an all-UK line-up PK Sport's Porsche has been gaining generous support from the increasing number of enthusiastic British racegoers who arrive here by the hour. After last year, when there was no British interest to speak of, 2001 is offering a surplus of riches, with one of the best listings of British drivers and teams in several years.




Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours
Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours

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