|Le Mans Qualifying|
|Let`s Go Again|
|Ascari may have started the meeting as the unofficial 'Spirit of Le Mans', but they've certainly been joined by MG. Ascari blew an engine last night on the #20 car, while MG were having troubles in the run up to the event, and resorted to testing at the airfield on Tuesday evening. A fresh engine has obviously gone in the Ascari, while Chamberlain Motorsports spent today installing fresh units in both of the EX 257s. Race units? We'll see, with the prospect of one of the cars going for a 3:38 later this evening.......|
Anthony Reid provided some amusing moments last night, in setting the 3:44 then the 3:42. The first quick lap brought the clear description from the Scot (over the radio), "That was a crap lap." The reply? "Yes, but Anthony, you've just set a 3:44, faster than all the Chryslers." That was seventh fastest at the time.
He was soon down to a 3:42, but some confusion over the fuel rig meant that Reid ran out of fuel along Mulsanne after the break. "Anthony, can you hear the fuel pumps ticking?" "I can here a slow ticking sound......but....I've stopped that, it was the indicators." A crew was sent out to find him, but after a reasonable wait, the Scot asked, "Have they stopped off for a Chinese?" His #34 will be in race trim this evening, with the drivers not due out (for their Night Qualifying) until after 22.00. The other car won't be in race trim...
Two minutes to 19.00, and they're just about ready to go again. There's a huge queue at the end of the pit lane, maybe because the weather is cool and overcast, after a bright, sunny day. Perfect conditions for a quick one now? The Audis are both at or near the front. Both Corvettes are out, so Corvette Racing did as they promised, and rebuilt #63 successfully.
Conditions do seem to be good, but there are very few movers in the opening half hour. Claudia Hurtgen found some time, but only a second, in the Roock KnightHawk Lola - then covered the track in gravel at one of the chicanes. Jamie Davies found a few fractions in his Panoz, but 3:51 is still the car's current limit. Didier de Radigues has found three seconds in the faster Barbour Reynard, moving up to a 3:46, but still nearly four seconds slower than the class 'leading' MG.
The Pilbeam was way off the pace yesterday (4:14), but Martin O'Connell has set a 4:00, despite an apparent problem with lifting on the quicker parts of the track.
In GT, Michel Neugarten has had an off in the Perspective Porsche at the first chicane (the car may not get out again today), while the Taisan Porsche has improved by over three seconds to go fourth in class. At the opposite end of the 'Le Mans Plan', Saleen have the race engine in the current GTS 'pole' car, so they will definitely not be looking to improve on that 3:54.190 by Oliver Gavin. With Terry Borcheller's best a 3:59, and Franz himself with a 4:00, speed is no problem at all for this car. "We just might be at the right place at the right time," concluded Steve Saleen.
Toni Seiler has found a couple of seconds in the other black Saleen, which is down to 4:01, close to the lead car. Johnny Mowlem has been demoted in the RML Saleen, but he has gone quicker than last night.
Is Stefan Johansson going to go for a time later this evening? The Gulf Audi has been in the pits this evening, having a new steering rack fitted.
Best Bentley lap this evening is a 3:39, best Joest Audi lap a 3:38. Are these fairly clear indications of race pace? Surely we can expect this year's R8 to lap quicker than that in the race?
The Taisan Porsche is now fastest Porsche in GT, fractions behind the Callaway, fractions ahead of the Fabio Babini Seikel Porsche. With the Larbre Porsche, this group are five seconds quicker than the rest of the GT runners. PK Sport / Ricardo have their race engine in, so they've got no interest at all in improving on Stephen Day's 4:18.625.
70 minutes into the session, is Jan Lammers about to go for it, as he planned to after yesterday's excellent, Champion-slowed effort? Laurent Aiello is down to a 3:36 in #2 Audi, the best time of the evening so far. Is this race pace for the Audis? It ought to be, based on their speed last year.
LAMMMERS, LAMMMERS, what a star the man is. 3:34.838 leaves the faster Dome still fourth, but he's very close to the Champion Audi - just half a second slower. Lammmers stays in, has a fresh set of tyres fitted, and goes out again.
GT pole changes - the Taisan Porsche was fractions slower than the Callaway, but after nearly 90 minutes, Patrice Goueslard gets down to 4:12.930 in the Larbre Porsche. Romain Dumas escapes from the 4:18 bracket in the Freisinger Porsche, which 'popped' an engine last night, but had a new one fitted before the end of Wednesday's action. It's found some form this evening, down to 4:15.201.
Emmanuele Collard is only the second of the top prototypes to improve this evening, a 3:38.438 in the #5 Cadillac. The Northstars do look very solid bets to get home on Sunday - and at a good race pace.
The last 20 minutes or so look as though they could be very interesting. Jan Lammers aborts another thrash (below) at getting among the first three Audis, while Martin Brundle has to abort what looked like a real Qualifying effort after meeting the #33 MG at Indianapolis.
The Callaway takes back the GT pole (4:10.169, on its race engine), Jan Magnussen shaves all of five seconds off the lead Panoz' best, up to 19th overall, and Christophe Bouchut is at it again in the Larbre Viper, a high 3:56 to sit in third in GTS.
Johansson said he'd have a go and he does. A 3:35.985, to go fifth fastest overall. Did we say that Saleen #60 was getting ready for the race? No way. Despite a few isolated drops of rain, Oliver Gavin sets a 3:52.849 in the #60 Saleen. That is an outrageous time for a GTS car, and logically way, way out of reach of anyone in a Corvette or Viper.
Brundle is having another go - no he's held up again. They're not waiting for 22.00 (except #33 MG?) tonight. Collard has split the Bentleys with a 3:37 - was that in the script? Who was it (elsewhere) who said that the Cadillacs were rubbish? Oh no, this is a different beast this year.
Graf and Magnussen find time in the Panoz LMP07s, to end the session 21st and 19th. That's better - but one of them goes through some gravel at the end of the session. Lammers has a third go, but it's a 3:35.686.
And that's it, until the last two hour session - in an hour's time.
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