|Polesitter Sebastien Bourdais leads the Oreca Peugeot entry|
With rain expected Thursday, Team Peugeot Totalâs strategy was to chase after a time right from the off. And so they did. Peugeot led the opening session of qualifying on Wednesday night at France's Circuit de la Sarthe for this weekend's 24 Hours of LeMans on the immense 8.47-mile circuit.
At the head of the grid, the three factory Peugeot 908 HDi FAP diesel prototypes were fastest led by Sebastien Bourdaisâ lap of 3:19.711. He is driving with Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud, who drives with Brabham in the Highcroft LMP entry in the American Le Mans Series. Bourdais was just 0.606 seconds clear of the second-place Peugeot of Alexander Wurz, Marc Gene and Anthony Davidson. The trio won the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
|Polesitter Sebastien Bourdais (above) in the No. 3 has the trailing Audi sucking up his fumes|
The quickest of the new Audi R15 Plus diesels was the car of Mike Rockenfeller and former Series LMP2 champions Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Their car was 3.867 seconds behind Bourdais.
Peugeot's four 908 HDi FAP LMP1 prototypes filled the first two rows on the provisional grid. Stephane Sarrazin, who is bidding for a fourth consecutive pole position at Le Mans, ended up third in the final factory Peugeot, while the semi-factory car run by the French ORECA team was fourth fastest in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre.
Bourdais' provisional pole time was more than two seconds faster than last year's pole time, despite a reduction in engine air-restrictor size and less turbo boost for this season. Much of the increase in speed can be attributed to the resurfacing of the Porsche Curves.
SĂŠbastien Bourdais: âIt is only provisional pole. However we are expecting difficult conditions tomorrow so it is good to have it in the bag. If it is dry tomorrow we will have to have another go. It is a good feeling to finish the session in the lead, especially âat homeâ in Le Mans. The overall result shows that the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP is still competitive. Now we have to put it all together in the race.â
Timo Bernhard was best of the Audis in fifth place with a lap of 3m 23.578s. The latest version of the German manufacturer's R15, known as the R15 Plus, failed to prove a match for its French rival in the battle of the turbodiesel prototypes.
The fastest gasoline-powered LMP1 prototype was the Aston Martin Racing Lola coupe driven by Stefan Mucke. The German's best of 3m 26.680s was less than a tenth of a second quicker than teammate Darren Turner.
|Risi Ferrari - GT2 pole winner|
Risi Competizioneâs quest for a third straight victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans is off to a good - albeit early - start. Gianmaria Bruni set the provisional pole position time for GT2 with a lap of 3:59.361 in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will share with Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer.
Bruniâs time was 30th quickest overall in the 56-car field. Risi is on a remarkable run in the worldâs greatest motor race having won GT2 in 2008 and 2009. Bruni was part of the 2008 squad with Melo and Mika Salo. Given the moderate chance of rain for Thursdayâs two qualifying sessions, the times Wednesday may well set the grid for this weekendâs race.
Entries from the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrÂ˘n were 1-2-3 in the class. Bruniâs Ferrari was a scant 0.864 seconds ahead of Corvette Racingâs Jan Magnussen and the Corvette C6.R he will drive with Antonio Garcia and Johnny OâConnell. The gap must seem smaller than that considering the Le Mans circuit is an 8.4-mile lap.
The Corvette C6.Rs were first and third in the opening four-hour free practice session. After a two-hour break, the first of three qualifying sessions for Saturday's 24 Hours of Le Mans ran from 10 p.m. to midnight. Jan Magnussen qualified the No. 63 Compuware Corvette C6.R second on the provisional GT2 grid at 4:00.097, and Oliver Gavin was third at 4:01.012 in the No. 64 Corvette C6.R.
"I'm very happy with where we are," Magnussen said. "There's more qualifying tomorrow, and maybe we'll have another go at it. It's fun chasing a lap time, it's good for team morale, but it's not what we're really here to do. It should be said that we don't have a qualifying setup -- this is the car that we're going to race with. So far, so good, no major issues."
Gavin settled for third after his qualifying run was stymied by traffic and a red flag. "Every time we got even close to going quickly, it seemed there was a car in the way," he said. "On my best lap with the first set of tires it was looking like a good lap until a GT1 car that was just cruising through the Ford chicanes got in my way. We put on another set of tires, I had traffic every lap, and then the red flag flew. You can't just keep going around trying to set a good time -- you've got to focus on the program. It's frustrating, but we still have tomorrow and hopefully the weather will be OK. I think we'll get another shot tomorrow."
|Highcroft Acura - 2nd in LMP2 qualifying|
Highcroft Racingâs HPD ARX-01c sat second in LMP2 after a lap of 3:37.202 for the car of David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner. The entry, leading the American Le Mans Seriesâ LMP championship after two victories in three rounds, was only 1.034 seconds off the pace of Strakka Racingâs HPD prototype.
This is the first entry at Le Mans for the Highcroft team owned by Duncan Dayton.
After being 10th and 12th in practice, Rebellion Racing had a disappointing qualifying. The #12 Lola (Jani/Andretti/Prost) missed qualifying while the team examined the extent of some cracks in the front suspension mounts, while the sister car (#13 of Belicchi/Boullion/Smith) could only manage 20th best some 24 seconds per lap slower than the leading Peugeots. At that pace why bother showing up at all. And with rain expected Thursday, they will remain buried deep in the field.
The final qualifying sessions are set for 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. Eastern) on Thursday.
||ORECA Peugeot 908
||Kolles Audi R10
||Kolles Audi R10
||Strakka HPD ARX 01
||RML Lola HPD
||Racing Box Lola
||Matech Ford GT
||Race Perf Radical
||Marc VDS Ford GT
||AF Corse Ferrari
||AF Corse Ferrari
||Krohn/Jonsson/van de Poele
||JMW Aston Martin
||Fl Lizard Porsche
||Matech Ford GT