|Le Mans Qualifying|
|It was a very late effort from the TMS crew last night, so forgive us for not hammering into it today. We'll be here until 02.30 on Friday morning....|
Here's the most telling official comment from yesterday's action. Reinhold Joest (Team Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "We are even faster than in the pre-test despite the grip level being quite low today (Wednesday). I think it could even be possible to go under 3m 32s on Thursday. The little
problems we had today do not make us nervous. We will sort them out by Saturday."
And he surely will. "We had a steering problem in the first part of qualifying but this was solved for the second," explained Laurent Aiello (#2). For Frank Biela in #1, it was "a full fuel load and used tyres during the night, (and) the car oversteered." This car also had a minor electrical problem.
For Olivier Beretta, it was an amazing 'comeback', after almost no driving here last month. "I am very happy when you consider that we did not run very much in the pre-race trials," said Berettta. "I have never driven a prototype around here before, so I had no reference points on the track for braking which made it very difficult." Fifth so far shows the massive potential of the Chrysler LMP.
The #63 Corvette story. “Unfortunately, it never rains but it pours,” Corvette Program Manager Doug Fehan explained. “We had a really hot set-up on the #63 car, one that Ron Fellows really liked and we were ready for some good laps. The night was perfect with cool air. For some unexplained reason, the brake on the right rear locked up as he came through the (second) chicane and it swapped ends on him. He ended up in the tire wall with some pretty extensive damage. We will have to get the car at the end of this session and take a look at the damage. If it is just parts, we have plenty of time to fix it, but it hurt us to lose so much time in this session tonight.”
So the 'hot' Corvette will be ready for this evening's action. There's a feeling here that the plan for this car is to push the Saleen(s) until they break.........
Kieron Salter at Reynard is not surprised by the stunning MG pace of last night - see below - ("it’s a proper 675"). Reynard are currently creating a 675 monocoque and various bodywork options are being tested in the wind tunnel. Peter Radcliffe asked if it would look similar to the current car; "It will be a modern car, no not like this, this is a pretty car." The implication is that it will have similar "styling " to MG / Chrysler. The new car will be ready for testing in November with a Judd V8. The car initially will also take the ROC VW and Nicholson McLaren V8, but it will take other options. He feels that only a four cylinder has significant fuel consumption advantages over the LMP900 cars but the power is less.
Jim Jones (left) builds the engines for the Callaway. Like many teams, they will put in the race engine today - but they believe that with this engine they will improve on their existing time. "The priority of the race engine was longevity but it delivers its power in a different range which will probably be better for this track." They have a good top speed advantage over the Porsches, according to the data (191 MPH) and if they can get a tow can keep up with the GTS cars on the straight. With a good start and a tow they could establish a substantial gap to the Porsche hoards on the first lap. There is probably another 30% to come in development of the car in chassis, brakes and engine power.
Both Saleen / Konrad S7Rs are having race engines fitted today.
Racing for Holland's fuel problem last night (loss of fuel pressure) appeared to be related to the lift pump, (pumps fuel from the main tank to a collector tank) and this was being changed this morning. As explained late last night, expect a quick time from Jan Lammers tonight.
Bentley - Race engines going in today, Martin Brundle's puncture was a delay they could have done without and probably cost him a chance of (thinking about) going for pole.
Panoz - The good news was "we did not pop an engine" but power is poor AND at one stage Jan Magnussen apparently said on the radio that he was having problems passing a Saleen. This race realistically has to be seen as a public test session and if either or both cars finish, it will be a major credit to the team who have worked very hard trying to test and race a new car. The manufacturers who are succeeding have had the benefit of being able to choose which races they run with a new prototype.
MG. There's no hiding here behind PR statements. And why should they? Anthony Reid's 3:42 WAS the Wednesday story here - but there may be more to come. But what do you do? Build on the impressive pace already shown and go and try to find more time, or settle for nearly getting down to 3:40, and set the cars up for the race? Frank Dernie is keen to have a go. "You may see one car go for a quick lap at about 22.00 tonight. I'm sure the car can do a 3:38....and in truth, I'd like to get among the Bentleys." But perhaps te race plan will be seen as more important, and perhaps neither car will go for it. Is Mark Blundell the chosen one, if that balls-out lap is attempted? We'll see.
There are engine issues for the race, but it's the first year of this project. Let's leave the Thursday afternoon news here. And hope that MG do try to get well under 3:40. "We've had a glimpse of what the car is capable of...." concluded Warren Hughes.
Official website of the Le Mans 24 Hours
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