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




During the day the PK Sport mechanics and engineers carried out a near-total rebuild of the #76 Porsche. This included engine, gearbox, suspension and a generous list of ancillary components, with Mike Pickup confirming that "everything" was new. Even before the session began the plan was to allow David Warnock plenty of further time to establish a closer understanding of the Porsche, while simultaneously completing the process of finalising the race set-up and allowing Mike Youles and Stephen Day some additional laps.

So it was David Warnock who was first to head out in the PK Porsche at the start of the Thursday session.





He satisfied his own personal agenda pretty promptly by knocking a full three seconds of his Wednesday best. On only his first flying lap he posted a time of 4:27.275. A brief visit to the pitlane, and then he was out again. His second flyer netted a best of 4:25.280. He completed a total of seven laps, including in and out, before returning to the garage and handing over to Stephen Day.

Stephen Day ran a succession of warm-up laps, driving out of the pitlane, completing a lap, and returning to the garage without setting a time. His only concern arose as the result of an incident with Aiello in the #2 Audi. The outright polesetter had visibly expressed his impatience at being unable to get past the slower GT car at the precise moment that he came upon the Porsche, but as Stephen pointed out, what is a driver supposed to do? He can hardly be expected to drive off the road when he's already committed to a corner. On this occasion Aiello had arrived on the scene just as Stephen was heading into the turn, and had to wait for the 911 to emerge on the other side before powering away. "There's nothing you can do in a situation like that," explained Stephen. "You feel bad about it, but they just have to wait. I know what it's like - I've been on the other end of the situation myself."

Resting in the team motorhome after the session was over David Warnock was able to consider his prospects for the race. After his experiences on Wednesday he was feeling both pleased and relieved with the progress he'd made. "I was finding chunks everywhere," he said. "It's not just a case of familiarisation with the car, but with the track as well. At this rate though I'll be down to a 3:32 by the end of the race!" It was stretching a point, but at least there was one. Given that he only completed a couple of flying laps yet knocked several seconds off his best with each pass, the trend was clearly there. "I feel so much more comfortable in the car today," he continued, "and that's a lot more than I hoped for." In truth, he'd been feeling very un-comfortable, mainly because he was unsure about the percentage cut-off requirement for individual qualification.

The requirements for car and driver here at Le Mans are extraordinarily complicated and can confuse even the most academically minded. In essence, the best times for the top three fastest manufacturers are added together and an average is contrived. As things stand tonight that would be the leading Audi, the fastest Dome, and the Chrysler prototype. This time is then recalculated to arrive at a 125% figure, or about 4:28.092 on tonight's performances. All the other cars must achieve a time within this figure. That assures the qualification of the car. Each driver within the car must then complete at least three laps in both daylight and darkness, with the fastest lap falling within a time calculated as being 110% of the best achieved by the polesetter in that driver's class. Still with us? Pole time for GT, where PK competes, was 4:10.168 set by the Calloway, converting to an individual driver requirement of around 4:35.184.

At one point David was concerned that the 125% figure (or 4:28.092) was the universal cut-off, and had to be taken to the ACO organisers' office to be reassured that there was a different calculation for drivers. In the end, his great strides on Thursday night meant that the exercise was somewhat academic, but his earlier worries are easy to understand.

When it came to thoughts about the race David Warnock was clearly feeling a lot more confident. "The race pace will be somewhere in the early twenties," he said. "I think I should be able to do that standing on my head - although I'd rather not have to go quite that far!"


After the break the fourth and final qualification period began with Mike Youles (left) the only PK driver scheduled to take part. Indeed, the other two were back in civvies and relaxing in the motorhome by the time Youlsey took to the track. He set a very respectable time of 4:23.422 on his one and only flyer, and with that done Mike Pickup, owner and manager of PK, decided that enough had been done.



The car was tucked away for the night with almost half the session still remaining. Last job was a little paper work - his favourite topic - for the ACO.





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