It rained.... a lot!!
Only a handful of drivers improved their times during qualifying 2, whereas qualifying 3 was red flagged 18 minutes into the session due to the monsoon like conditions that fell upon the La Sarthe region.
Whilst some teams, you won’t be surprised to know Audi were one of them, practised driver changes, and the Corvettes focused on front end changes, some teams decided a bit of down time was in order and played up to the cameras. The red flagged lasted 57 minutes leaving a 45 minute window til midnight for those teams whose drivers still needed to get their qualifying laps in.
#2 Porsche of Dumas, Jani and Lieb took the German marques second Le Mans 24 Heures pole in a row, which they secured during Wednesday’s qualifying session, making a total of 18 pole positions. There were no further changes in the LMP1 field.
Picture Credit Porsche
The #4 Bykolles Racing Team rebuilt the car and managed to run a total of 14 laps.
There was some slight movement at the bottom of the LMP2 field, with the SO24! overtaking Krohn Racing to move themselves up one place.
LMGTE Pro remained as per Wednesday’s qualifying times with no improvements, just some fancy on track dance moves from the likes of the 82 Risi Competizione.
LMGTE Am however did have a change of position in the top three. The #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing driven by, surprise surprise, Patrick Long moved from 8th to 3rd to push the AF Corse team down to 4th and 5th.
So there you have it, as I said, not many improvements and thankfully a fairly incident free session…oh, did I mention the Course Car driven by Yannick Dalmas…that man is a pure drifter at heart!
Enjoy the race people!
It may have remained ‘chilly but dry’ throughout qualifying one but the yellows and slow zones certainly disrupted the session with many a driver taking to the gravel!
And they came, two by two by two!
Neel Jani gave #2 Porsche the provisional pole early on in the session with a 3:19.733, with Timo Bernhard just under half a second behind in the sister car. It seemed a trouble free run from the Porsche Team last night with Jani commenting ‘There’s more in the car yet’!
Not words that Audi would want to hear after both cars suffered mechanical issues leaving the #8 5th and #7 6th respectively. Audi however did comment that they were just focusing on getting the mandatory driver laps in for their guys as tonight’s qualifying sessions are expected to be…wait for it…wet!
With a time of 3:20.737 was the #6 Toyota in 4th, whilst the #5 Toyota followed in 5th after a very bizarre brief stop down the Mulsanne Straight for Buemi.
The beautiful looking Rebellion Racing cars seemed to have an unaffected session with Dominik Kraihamer in the #13 coming in 7th and the #12 finishing in 8th.
Sadly the ByKolles team were absent from qualifying due to an oil leak in the previous session which caused a quite spectacular fire, quickly put out by the marshals, but resulting in damage significant enough for them to miss the session – we should see them out this evening. At 11am this morning word from the team was ‘Pierre is ok and we are just finishing car assembly currently’.
Picture credit Porsche Motorsport
With a 23 car class entry there was much going on for most of the session, and if we were to report on every team we would still be here whilst this evenings session are taking place!
René Rast gave the #26 G-Drive Racing a very respectable time of 3:36.605, just over half a second ahead of the Baxi DC Racing Alpine of Nelson Panciatici with Nicholas Lapierre rounding up the top three in his Signatech Alpine.
There was beachings, spinnings, and unfortunately heavy impacts, especially for the #33 Eurasia Motorsport Oreca of Junjin Pu (aka Kevin) who was seen being assisted by a marshal suffering a slight limp. Having lost the car at the Esses he suffered front and rear damage and ended up drifting slowly backwards across the track narrowly missing oncoming cars. Word from the garage is Kevin is ok and they are working hard on the car to be out for tonight’s second qualifying session.
Unfortunately the LMP2 field were found guilty of a few penalties from the previous session which were handed down during Qualifying, resulting in a couple of 10 minute stop and holds for #41 Greaves Motorsport and #48 Murphy Prototypes for not respecting the red flag in free practice!
Not much else to say really…
The Ford / Ferrari battle has begun and boy are we in for a treat! As agreed by the other manufactures in the class, the four car entry of the Chip Ganassi Team (whether it be US or UK) dominated the session, with them taking four of the top five places (we won’t mention ‘sandbagging’!).
The qualifying session was brought to a halt 30 minutes in after Giancarlo Fisichella’s #82 Risi Competizione’s Ferrari buried itself deep in the new gravel trap up at the Porsche Curves after an unaided spin, fortunately avoiding contact with the barrier.
The works Porsche outfit could only manage an 8th and 10th in class, with reigning Le Mans Champion Nick Tandy saying he was hoping it was going to be a race based on reliability!
Aston Martin Racing: ‘With rain forecast tomorrow it’s unlikely we’ll improve on P9 and 11’.
Surprisingly Corvette Racing brought up the rear of the class lying 13th and 14th. Ricky, the elder of the two Taylor brothers, had an off at Mulsanne Corner with the car ‘nudging’ the tyres. Oli Gavin in the #64 set a 3:55.848…comment from the team ‘This is a smart, clever team!’, let’s see what happens this evening shall we.
Picture credit Ford Performance
A fairly pain free session was had by the Am class. Rob Bell put the #61 Clearwater Racing Ferrari 458 Italia onto provisional pole with a 3:56.827. 0.371 seconds behind was the #98 Aston of ex-F1 racer Pedro Lamy with another Ferrari 458 Italia, the #55 AF Corse of Matt Griffin sandwiching the Aston in 3rd.
Full Qualifying Times to be found HERE.