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1 Eric Curran 314
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2 Christian Fittipaldi 311
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3 Ricky Taylor 309
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Three Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs on top at Le Mans

Peugeot catches Audi asleep
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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Clearly Peugeot has caught Audi with their pants down this year
The 2008 Le Mans 24 Hours kicked off this evening with the first of the week's two qualifying sessions, and the three Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs were immediately on the pace to collect the top three places on the provisional grid. Stéphane Sarrazin was the fastest man on the track today, posting a blistering 3m 18.513s for Team Peugeot Total with the N°8 car. That's almost four seconds quicker than his best effort during the preliminary practice day earlier in the month (3m 22.222s), as well as a stunning improvement of 7.831s over his pole-winning time for Peugeot in 2007.

Team Peugeot Total made its intentions clear from the outset this evening when Pedro Lamy bettered last year's pole time with the N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP just two laps into the session, and the French squad's three cars soon emerged at the top of the timesheets.

The star of the first two hours – before darkness fell over the French circuit – was Stéphane Sarrazin who followed up an early 3m 20.099s with a 3m 18.513s with just over half an hour remaining before the break. That's the fastest anybody has been round the French track since 1989. Back then, though, the celebrated Hunaudières Straight had not yet been divided into three sections by the addition of two chicanes! The three 908 HDi FAPs were also all faster than the Peugeot 905's best lap at Le Mans in the hands of Philippe Alliot in 1992 (3m 21.20s).

"My car is incredibly competitive and I was fortunate to find a lap that was relatively free of traffic," reported Sarrazin after setting his fastest lap at an average speed of 247.160kph on medium compound Michelin tires. "I had a bit of understeer early on but we soon succeeded in curing that, and I think we were especially quick through the faster portions"

Twenty minutes later, fellow Frenchman Franck Montagny (N°9 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP) eased into second place with a 3m 20.203s before shaving a further 1½ seconds off that score next time round (3m 18.682s) to close to within 0.169s of Sarrazin's time. "My Peugeot 908 HDi FAP is just fantastic, and so easy to drive" enthused Montagny. "I hit traffic during my first flying lap on fresh tires and I asked the team to find me a clearer slot before going out again. Even then, my run wasn't totally free of traffic – Le Mans rarely is – but it came together nicely."

The Team Peugeot Total mechanics had been forced to build a brand new Peugeot 908 HDi FAP for Marc Gené/Nicolas Minassian/Jacques Villeneuve after the original N°7 car was destroyed in a spectacular crash at the Courbe Corvette with Gené at the wheel during the preliminary test-day earlier in the month. Minassian rewarded their work with the evening's third best time (3m 20.451s), less than two seconds behind the two sister cars.

American Le Mans Series drivers held three of the four provisional pole positions at the 24 Hours of Le Mans after Wednesday’s four hours of practice and qualifying. The final grid positions will be set after Thursday’s running but talk of rain and deteriorating conditions may prove that Wednesday was the best choice to post fast laps.

Jörg Bergmeister  in the Lizard Porsche led the GT2 category
In GT2, Jörg Bergmeister set the provisional pole time and a class record for Flying Lizard Motorsports and Porsche. The German factory driver turned a lap of 4:00.106 (126.974 mph) in the Lizards’ Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the opening minutes of the day’s second two-hour sessions. Bergmeister, seeking his first Le Mans victory, is driving with Americans Johannes van Overbeek and Seth Neiman.

Bergmeister, seeking his second Le Mans victory, also leads the American Le Mans Series GT2 championship with Wolf Henzler with the Lizards leading the team standings.

Coincidentally, Bergmeister was just 0.687 seconds ahead of America Porsche factory driver Patrick Long in the 2007 race-winning IMSA Performance Porsche. Long was Bergmeister’s teammate in the 2004 victory with Sascha Maassen. Long is driving a Porsche RS Spyder in LMP2 for Penske Racing in the States.

Jaime Melo was fourth in class for Risi Competizione at 4:01.598 (126.189 mph) in the Ferrari F430 GT he will share with Mika Salo and Gianmaria Bruni. The second Risi Ferrari - driven by Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Eric van de Poele - was 11th in class at 4:07.978 (122.943 mph).

Corvette led the GT1 category in qualifying, but can they beat Aston Martin in race trim?
Corvette Racing’s two factory Corvette C6.Rs were 1-2 in GT1. Three-time class winner Jan Magnussen was quickest at 3:49.406 (132.896 mph), good enough for a 1.36-seconds gap to Oliver Gavin in the sister car.

Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell have won three times in the American Le Mans Series including a victory at Sebring with Ron Fellows. The trio are reuniting for Le Mans.

Gavin and Olivier Beretta, who won three straight class titles at Le Mans and are the reigning GT1 champions in the American Le Mans Series, are driving with Max Papis.

In LMP2, Porsche works driver Maassen was fastest in the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder at 3:33.441 (142.836 mph), the fastest lap ever recorded for a P2 car. Maassen, Long’s teammate at Penske, was 0.637 seconds ahead of Jos Verstappen in the Porsche for Van Merksteijn Motorsport. Maassen’s time was 13th overall.

QUOTES

MARC GENE (N°7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "I didn't have any problems getting back in the rhythm, although I wasn't perhaps as fast as usual through the Courbe Corvette. My back is still hurting a bit and I think that's something I'm going to have to live with all weekend. I have to say that the mechanics did a fantastic job to build such a nicely balanced car capable of securing a top-three position on the provisional grid in such a short time."

Michel BARGE (Director, Peugeot Sport): "It's been a very positive evening for Team Peugeot Total and the outstanding work that everyone in the team has put in since the checkered flag came down on last year's race has been rewarded with the top three times. Stéphane (Sarrazin) was in top form, and Nicolas (Minassian) and Franck (Montagny) both put in outstanding performances, too. The crash involving the N°7 car during the preliminary test-day gave us the added challenge of having to build a new car in just one week, but the mechanics and technicians did a remarkable job and we gave the car its shakedown run here on the airfield next to the circuit only yesterday evening. It was important to post some quick times tonight because the weather could be unsettled for tomorrow's session. Once that had been done, we were able to concentrate on our program."

Nicolas MINASSIAN (N°7 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "We essentially focused on fine-tuning our race set-up without worrying too much about setting a quick qualifying time. The most important thing was to make sure we have a nicely balanced car that suits the styles of Marc, Jacques and myself."

Pedro LAMY (N°8 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP): "It was a good evening for us. Following the results of the preliminary test day, we were confident we could post a quick qualifying lap, so the main thing now is to concentrate on the race. There is no doubt that we have progressed on all fronts since last year, from the aerodynamic package to the engine and the chassis."

Wednesday qualifying times

Pos # Class Drivers Team Car Time Gap To 1st
1. 8 LM P1 P.Lamy, S.Sarrazin, A.Wurz Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 3:18.513
2. 9 LM P1 F.Montagny, R.Zonta, C.Klein Peugeot Sport Total Peugeot 908 3:18.682 0.169 0.169
3. 7 LM P1 M.Gene, N.Minassian, J.Villeneuve Team Peugeot Total Peugeot 908 3:20.451 1.769 1.938
4. 2 LM P1 R.Capello, A.McNish, T.Kristensen Audi Sport North America Audi R10 3:24.105 3.654 5.592
5. 3 LM P1 L.Luhr, A.Premat, M.Rockenfeller Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R10 3:24.287 0.182 5.774
6. 1 LM P1 F.Biela, E.Pirro, M.Werner Audi Sport North America Audi R10 3:27.580 3.293 9.067
7. 16 LM P1 J.C.Boullion, E.Collard, R.Dumas Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd 3:28.533 0.953 10.020
8. 11 LM P1 D.Ito, Y.Tachikawa, T.Kataoka Dome Racing Team Dome S102 Judd 3:29.352 0.819 10.839
9. 5 LM P1 S.Ayari, L.Duval, L.Groppi Team Oreca Matmut Courage-Oreca LC70 Judd 3:30.490 1.138 11.977
10. 17 LM P1 H.Primat, C.Tinseau, B.Treluyer Pescarolo Sport Pescarolo Judd 3:30.618 0.128 12.105
11. 6 LM P1 S.Pagenaud, O.Panis, M.Fassler Team Oreca Matmut Courage-Oreca LC70 Judd 3:31.243 0.625 12.730
12. 12 LM P1 G.Pickett, K.Graf, J.Lammers Charouz Racing System Lola Judd 3:31.910 0.667 13.397
13. 31 LM P2 J.Nielsen, C.Elgaard, S.Maassen Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder 3:33.441 1.531 14.928
14. 34 LM P2 P.van Merksteijn, J.Verstappen, J.Bleeke Van Merksteijn Motorsport Porsche RS Spyder 3:34.078 0.637 15.565
15. 10 LM P1 S.Mucke, J.Charouz, T.Enge Charouz Racing System Lola B08-80 Aston Martin 3:34.211 0.133 15.698
16. 32 LM P2 J.Barazi, M.Vergers, S.Moseley Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S/2 3:35.344 1.133 16.831
17. 33 LM P2 X.Pompidou, A.Belicchi, S.Zacchia SpeedY Racing Team Sebah Lola B08-80Judd 3:35.401 0.057 16.888
18. 18 LM P1 V.Ickx, S.Gregoire, J.Barbosa Rollcentre Racing Pescarolo Judd 3:35.450 0.049 16.937
19. 14 LM P1 S.Hall, J.Mowlem, M.Goossens Creation Autosportif Creation CA07 AIM 3:35.994 0.544 17.481
20. 24 LM P1 Y.Terada, K.Takahashi, H.Katoh Terramos Courage Mugen 3:37.560 1.566 19.047
21. 19 LM P1 G.Evans, B.Berridge, A.Stretton Chamberlain-Synergy Motorspr Lola B06-10 AER 3:38.024 0.464 19.511
22. 20 LM P1 A.Burgueno, M.A.De Castro, A.Valles Epsilon Euskadi Epsilon Euskadi EE01 Judd 3:39.158 1.134 20.645
23. 45 LM P2 W.Hughes, J.Kane, J.Foster Embassy Racing Embassy WF01 Zytek 3:39.926 0.768 21.413
24. 40 LM P2 M.Amaral, O.Pla, G.Smith Quifel-ASM Team Lola B05-40 AER 3:41.193 1.267 22.680
25. 21 LM P1 J.-M.Gounon, S.Nakano, S.Johansson Epsilon Euskadi Epsilon Euskadi EE01 Judd 3:41.526 0.333 23.013
26. 35 LM P2 P.Ragues, M.Lahaye, C.Cheng Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd 3:42.545 1.019 24.032
27. 25 LM P2 T.Erdos, M.Newton, A.Wallace RML Lola B05-40 MG 3:44.188 1.643 25.675
28. 4 LM P1 M.Faggionato, J.Nicolet, R.Hein Saulnier Racing Pescarolo Judd 3:46.666 2.478 28.153
29. 41 LM P2 K.Ojjeh, C.Y.Gosselin, A.Sharpe Trading Performance Zytek 07S/2 3:46.773 0.107 28.260
30. 44 LM P2 J.de Pourtales, H.Noda, J.-F.Yvon Kruse Schiller Motorsport Lola B05-40 Mazda 3:47.802 1.029 29.289
31. 26 LM P2 B.Devlin, M.Rostan, G.Jeannette Team Bruichladdich Radical Radical SR9 AER 3:47.935 0.133 29.422
32. 63 LM GT1 J.O'Connell, J.Magnussen, R.Fellows Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R 3:49.406 1.471 30.893
33. 64 LM GT1 O.Beretta, O.Gavin, M.Papis Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R 3:50.766 1.360 32.253
34. 50 LM GT1 C.Bouchut, P.Bornhauser, D.Hallyday Larbre Competition Saleen S7R 3:50.920 0.154 32.407
35. 55 LM GT1 P.Kox, R.Rusinov, M.Hezemans Interprogressbank Spartak Lamborghini Murcielago 3:52.175 1.255 33.662
36. 00 LM GT1 D.Brabham, D.Turner, A.Garcia Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9 3:52.266 0.091 33.753
37. 00 LM GT1 H.-H.Frentzen, A.Piccini, K.Wendlinger Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9 3:52.527 0.261 34.014
38. 22 LM P1 T.Suzuki, M.Kageyama, H.Kurosawa Tokai University-YGK Power Courage-Oreca YGK 3:53.143 0.616 34.630
39. 72 LM GT1 L.Alphand, J.Policand, G.Moreau Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.R 3:53.990 0.847 35.477
40. 73 LM GT1 P.Goueslard, J.Blanchemain, L.Pasquali Luc Alphand Aventures Corvette C6.R 3:55.736 1.746 37.223
41. 23 LM P1 M.Lewis, B.Willman, C.McMurry Autocon Creation CA07 Judd 3:56.108 0.372 37.595
42. 53 LM GT1 A.Negrao, P.Hardman, N.Leventis Vitaphone Racing Team Aston Martin DBR9 3:57.371 1.263 38.858
43. 59 LM GT1 J.Menten, C.Fittipaldi, T.Borcheller Team Modena Aston Martin DBR9 3:58.193 0.822 39.680
44. 80 LM GT2 J.Bergmeister, J.van Overbeek, S.Neiman Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4:00.106 1.913 41.593
45. 76 LM GT2 R.Narac, R.Lietz, P.Long Imsa Performance Matmut Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4:00.793 0.687 42.280
46. 96 LM GT2 T.Mullen, R.Bell, T.Sugden Virgo Motorsport Ferrari F430 GTC 4:01.293 0.500 42.780
47. 82 LM GT2 M.Salo, J.Melo, G.Bruni Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GTC 4:01.598 0.305 43.085
48. 97 LM GT2 F.Babini, P.Ruberti, M.Malucelli BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari F430 GTC 4:02.080 0.482 43.567
49. 77 LM GT2 A.Davison, W.Henzler, H.Felbermayr Team Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 4:02.517 0.437 44.004
50. 99 LM GT2 B.Aucott, S.Dauodi, A.Ferte JMB Racing Ferrari F430 GTC 4:03.293 0.776 44.780
51. 85 LM GT2 P. Dumbreck, R.Kelleners, A.Vasiliev Spyker Squadron Spyker C8 Laviolette 4:05.096 1.803 46.583
52. 90 LM GT2 L.-E.Nielsen, P.Ehret, P.Kaffer Farnbacher Racing Ferrari F430 GTC 4:05.098 0.002 46.585
53. 78 LM GT2 T.Biagi, C.Montanari, T.Vilander AF Corse Ferrari F430 GTC 4:05.660 0.562 47.147
54. 83 LM GT2 T.Krohn, N.Jonsson, E.van de Poele Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GTC 4:07.978 2.318 49.465
55. 94 LM GT2 A.Chiesa, B.Leuenberger, I.Alexander-Dav Speedy Racing Team Spyker C8 Laviolette 4:11.564 3.586 53.051

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