Porsche and G-Drive Racing Take Provisional Poles At Busy Le Mans Qualifying

The #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid with Neel Jani at the wheel took provisional pole with a 3:19.733 in a two-hour qualifying practice that took on extra significance because of the weather.

In a week that has seen torrential downpours at some stage every day and with more bad weather forecast, many teams were looking to put in a ‘banker lap’ in the first qualifying session on the basis that better opportunities may not be available.

The #1 Porsche was second quickest with a 3:20.203 lap time set by Timo Bernhard. The #6 Toyota Gazoo racing Toyota TS050 – Hybrid was third quickest with a 3:30.737 set by Stephane Sarazin. Although some of the Toyota drivers made it plain that they were using the session to establish a race balance and were not looking to make headlines, clearly the issue of the weather was on everyone’s mind.

In LMP2 the #26 G-Drive Racing Nissan-powered ORECA 05 set an early provisional class pole time of 3:36.605 with René Rast driving and that was never bettered throughout the rest of the session. Nelson Panciatici was second quickest in the #35 Baxi DC Racing Alpine A460 with a 3:37.225. Rounding out the top three in LMP2 was the second Alpine A460, this time the #36 Signatech Alpine where Nicolas Lapierre set a 3:37.225.

The #68 and #69 Ford Chip Ganassi Team USA Ford GTs were quickest in LMGTE Pro. Dirk Muller in #68 car set a 3:51.185 whilst Ryan Briscoe was less than half a second behind with a 3:51.497. The #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE in the hands of Gianmaria Bruni was third quickest with a 3:51.568.

In LM GTE Am Clearwater Racing with the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia took provisional class pole with Rob Bell driving with a 3:56.827. Pedro Lamy in the #98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage was second quickest with a 37.198. Closing out the top three in class was the #55 AF Corse Ferrari 458 Italia which set a 3:57.596 with Matt Griffin driving.

Although Thursday morning’s forecast was for light rain with the risk of thunderstorms, there were deluges in various areas close to the circuit so many teams must be looking nervously at the two two-hour qualifying sessions this evening, the first of which starts at 19:00.

Porsche Tops Timesheets At Le Mans Practise

As track action started in earnest, it was Porsche who took first blood after Neel Jani set the fastest time of the session in the last hour of the four-hour practise session on June 15 with a 3:22.011 in the #2 Porsche 919 Hybrid. .

Second quickest was the #1 Porsche 919 Hybrid with a 3:22.550 set by Mark Webber earlier in the afternoon.

Rounding out the top three in the LMP1 class was the #8 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 in which Lucas di Grassi set a 3:22.985 before the car was pushed back into the garage for some work on a damper.

In the LMP2 class last year’s class winners KCMG set the fastest time of the session with a 3:39.133 with Richard Bradley at the wheel. The #36 Signatech Alpine A460 was second quickest with a 3:39.721 set by Stephane Richelmi. Third quickest was the #23 Panis Barthez Compétition Ligier JS P2 when Paul-Loup Chatin set a 3:40.308.

Ferrari set the top two quickest times in LM GTE Pro when the #51 AF Corse Ferrari 488 GTE driven by Gianmaria Bruni set a 3:53.833. Second quickest with a 3:54.180 was the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE with Toni Vilander at the wheel. Third quickest, with a 3:55.436 was the first of the Ford GTs, the #68 car, with Sébastien Bourdais driving.

In LM GTE Am it was Clearwater Racing in the #61 Ferrari 458 Italia which set the pace when Robb Bell set a 3:57.543. The #62 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia was second quickest with a 3:59.103 with Townsend Bell at the wheel. Rounding out the top three in class was the #83 AF Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia when Emmanuel Collard set a 3:59.294 in his 22nd appearance at the French classic.

The first qualifying session starts at 22:00 local time and runs for two hours.

Notebook From Le Mans – Tuesday – June 14

The day dawned clear and bright after another night of torrential rain, at least where the www.EnduranceAndGT.co.uk team were camped.

The first port of call for the day was the circuit as Tuesday morning of race week is a good time to catch drivers walking between garage and hospitality units. With the disruption that scrutineering brings and teams having to transport cars to and from the Place de la République, Tuesday is a good opportunity to refocus with the car securely parked in the garage. With the first track running on Wednesday, teams are now focused on final preparations for the cars and drivers are now relaxing, exercising, eating and hydrating with the sole objective of being prepared for when track running starts on June 15.

By the main entrance to the paddock, photographers and autograph-hunters gathered and drivers and key team personnel seemed very happy to pose for pictures and sign programmes and photos.

Andy Priaulx (#67) In Conversation With Roberto Merhi (#44).
Andy Priaulx (#67) In Conversation With Roberto Merhi (#44). (Photo: Roger Jenkins)
Romain Dumas (#2) Talking To Fans. (Photo: Roger Jenkins)
Romain Dumas (#2) Talking To Fans. (Photo: Roger Jenkins)

Walking through the paddock village, final details were being added to hospitality units in readiness to receive guests on Wednesday.

The main objective for the day was to be at the main entrance to the pit lane at 17:00 when the driver signing session began. As a result, after spending the morning at the circuit, we went into the centre of Le Mans and took in the sights of the old Plantagenet part of the town before enjoying lunch at the Le Mans Légend Café.

By this stage the weather was looking threatening and as we walked back to the car, rain started falling.

Arriving at the circuit at around 16:00 we drove around the public rounds of the circuit: down the Mulsanne straight, past the first and second chicances, turning right at Mulsanne corner and then down to Indianapolis. As we drove down towards Mulsanne, we spotted Simon Dolan, driver of the #38 G-Drive Racing Gibson 015S out for an afternoon run. Bearing in mind the rain was falling heavily, we stopped to see if he wanted a lift back to his hotel but clearly his determination to finish his planned exercise routine overcame the desire to get out of the rain and he continued.

We drove along the new public roads through Indianapolis and Arnage and felt slightly wistful to see one of our favourite viewing spots changed so dramatically. It will be interesting to see how the new layout works for spectators.

There was a slight delay in opening the gates for the pit lane walkabout as heavy rain was falling again. Teams were working fast to get their drivers under cover in the garage entrances. However at 17:05 the gates were opened and the public flocked in their hundreds to see the cars and drivers.

Torrential rain then fell again ten minutes into the walkabout but that didn’t deter fans from forming long queues at the garages of the leading teams for signed driver cards and pictures.

#57 Ford GT Driver Line-Up - Marino Franchitti (L), Harry Tincknell (C) and Andy Priaulx (R)
#57 Ford GT Driver Line-Up – Marino Franchitti (L), Harry Tincknell (C) and Andy Priaulx (R) (Photo: Roger Jenkins)

Walking back along the pit lane I bumped into Shea Adam from the Mobil 1 Radio Le Mans team. After having chatted with Eve Hewitt and John Hindhaugh yesterday, it was great to say “hi” and wish Shea well for a great race.

Mark Webber Looking Relaxed At Driver Signing (Photo: Roger Jenkins)
Mark Webber Looking Relaxed At Driver Signing (Photo: Roger Jenkins)

The weather forecast for the rest of the week looks very mixed so the pattern of dry spells punctuated with heavy showers seems set to continue. This will make for challenging conditions as the social part of the week draws to a close and the serious business of qualifying and racing begins.

Practise starts for the 24 Hours of Le Mans at 16:00 on Wednesday June 15 and the first qualifying session, which runs for two hours, starts at 22:00. www.EnduranceAndGT.co.uk will be trackside for the whole day, providing reports and updates.

Notebook From Le Mans – Monday – June 13

The morning hours of Monday June 13 were spent at the Place de la Republique in the centre of Le Mans where the second day of scrutineering was taking place. If you can get down early in the week, scrutineering presents an excellent opportunity to meet drivers as they enter and exit the media area of the square. Also you can find almost unique opportunities for photos of the cars as they are unloaded and reloaded from their trailers and transporters.

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We then drove down to the circuit with the intention of saying hallo to our old friends at JotaSport/G-Drive Racing and were delighted to be able to visit their spacious garage and see the #26 and #38 cars close up. The team looks in fine shape and were practising their pit-stop and tyre changing skills during our visit. Continue reading Notebook From Le Mans – Monday – June 13

Formula Racing Confident For 24 Hours Of Le Mans

The #60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 Italia was presented for scrutineering at The Place de la Republique in the centre of Le Mans on June 13 and all three drivers were quietly confident going into the team’s first 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The team are conscious of the heritage of Danish drivers in the French classic.

“I think we’re all very proud of Tom Kristensen, also in Denmark,” said Johnny Laursen who has raced for the last three years with Formula Racing the European Le Mans Series. “Yes, for sure you want to win Le Mans many times but right now we’re in our first year (at Le Mans) and working on that. So first of all we’re working to win this year and after that we’re going to see.”

Christina Nielsen, who currently leads the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 which she shares with Allesandro Balzan is also aware of Denmark’s passion for endurance racing. Continue reading Formula Racing Confident For 24 Hours Of Le Mans

Team Parker Racing Take Pole For British GT At Silverstone

The Team Parker Racing driving duo of Rick Parfitt Jnr and Seb Morris took pole for the fifth round of the 2016 British GT Championship at Silverstone.

Hot on the team’s first victory at Oulton Park last time out, both Parfitt and Morris drove superbly in the #31 Team Parker Racing Bentley Continental GT3 to take pole by less than two tenths of a second from the #6 Barwell Motorsport Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Liam Griffin and Alexander Sims.

Parfitt Jnr had set a 2:02.754 in the first ten minute qualifying session, narrowly beating Griffin the #6 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 who set a 2:02.806. Will Moore in the #14 Optimum Motorsport Audi R8 LMS was third quickest with a 2:03.096. Continue reading Team Parker Racing Take Pole For British GT At Silverstone