Peugeot beats Audi in LeMans test Peugeot Sport leaves Le Mans pleased with the amount of work it was able to accomplish in the course of the preliminary test day organized by the ACO upstream of the forthcoming Le Mans 24 Hours.
The team's satisfaction stems not only from the fact that Sébastien Bourdais and his 908 HDi FAP succeeded in posting the fastest lap of the day but also because it managed to work through the complete program planned for its maiden visit to the French venue without suffering the slightest mechanical problem.
The N°8 car covered a total of 60 laps, while the N°7 sister car completed 79 laps. Le Mans rookies Jacques Villeneuve and Marc Gene both got in the mandatory minimum of ten laps demanded by the organizers for all first-time visitors to the circuit. Sébastien Bourdais went out at the back end of the day and posted a series of very quick laps on race tires after fine-tuning the set-up of his 908 HDi FAP: "We had a copious program to get through and we practically succeeded in ticking everything on the list. The car is fantastic to drive. It is nicely balanced and if we succeed in putting in the same sort of performance in a fortnight's time, then we could possibly end up springing a surprise. We didn't run on qualifying tires and I wasn't far off the car's maximum potential. I've got a busy Champ Car schedule over the coming days including a race at Portland next weekend, and then it'll be back to Le Mans for the real thing…"
Jacques Villeneuve emerged as the fastest rookie after carefully stepping up his pace: "I started with a couple of laps aimed primarily at learning the track which has got quite a few interesting corners. I then went back out later in the day to do a series of long runs to see how the tires evolved but my biggest concern was the amount of traffic about. That's something new to me, especially since certain cars were taking some pretty bizarre lines! Sharing a car with other drivers isn't a problem and we weren't looking for the absolute fastest time here so I didn't get involved in any setting up work. My team-mates are far more accustomed to the car than I am!" Peugeot Sport's other rookie this weekend was Marc Gene: "It's been a very rewarding experience driving here today. The first thing that strikes you is how long the circuit is; it takes so long to cover just one lap! My initial objective was to learn the circuit and find my marks as I completed my ten mandatory laps. I followed the advice not only of my team-mates but also that of my brother Jordi who knows Le Mans well. I was impressed by certain turns, including Indianapolis, and the speeds involved are very reminiscent of Monza."
During the eight hours available, Audi Sport Team Joest fully concentrated on reeling off the testing program that had previously been defined in detail. As usual with Audi Sport, the tasks were clearly divided: The Audi R10 TDI car number 2 (Dindo Capello/Allan McNish/Mike Rockenfeller) was fitted with additional data acquisition equipment in the morning. In the afternoon, the team in car number 2 ran tire tests. Last year’s winners Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner (car number 1) compared various suspension set-ups. The R10 TDI bearing number 3 in the race (Mattias Ekström/Lucas Luhr/Alexandre Prémat) was equipped with various aerodynamic variants.
"We had a very extensive program on our agenda, which we managed to work through almost completely," Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang summed up the positive outcome of the tests. "In the end, we were lacking merely ten minutes, otherwise we could have even completed the final tire test we’d been planning to do. I think we’ve worked out a good base for the race today."
A strong impression was left by the four newcomers to Audi Sport Team Joest. In his Le Mans début at the wheel of an LM P1 sports car, Mike Rockenfeller (23) set the third-best time of the day behind Sébastien Bourdais (Peugeot) and Frank Biela (Audi). Lucas Luhr (27) was the quickest driver of the number 3 Audi R10 TDI, while his team-mates Alexandre Prémat and Mattias Ekström – both Le Mans rookies – were only slightly slower.
Frank Biela – at 3m 28.277s (237.362 kph) – managed the fastest lap so far of an Audi R10 TDI at Le Mans. That last year’s lap times were clearly beaten, however, cannot only be attributed to the evolution of the cars: With 13.629 kilometres, the circuit is 21 meters shorter than before and – particularly due to a modification in the "Tertre Rouge" sector – almost two seconds faster, as data logs have shown.
More than 20,000 spectators witnessed the test day at Le Mans, which took place without record winner Tom Kristensen. The Dane continues to recover from the injuries he sustained in the serious accident during the DTM season opener. Whether or not Kristensen will be able to compete at Le Mans on 16/17 June will be decided, at the latest, at the beginning of the race week.
To be optimally prepared even in the event that Kristensen should not be fit for racing, Audi Sport Team Joest changed the driver teams before the test day: Mike Rockenfeller and Mattias Ekström swapped cars because Rockenfeller, in terms of body size, is better matched with Dindo Capello and Allan McNish, while Ekström is more compatible with Lucas Luhr and Alexandre Prémat.
Up to the race, the three Audi R10 TDI cars will stay at Le Mans for trackside preparation for the week of the race by Audi Sport Team Joest. The race week will start for Audi on Tuesday afternoon with the public Technical Scrutineering on the Place des Jacobins. The first qualifying practice is scheduled to start on Wednesday (13 June) at 7 p.m. (local time).
Result of the test day
1 Bourdais/Lamy/Sarrazin (Peugeot) 3m 26.707s (60 laps)
2 Biela/Pirro/Werner (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 28.277s (92 laps)
3 Capello/McNish/Rockenfeller (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 28.406s (76 laps)
4 Bouillion/Collard/Dumas (Pescarolo-Judd) 3m 28.574s (77 laps)
5 Gene/Minassian/Villeneuve (Peugeot) 3m 30.314s (79 laps)
6 Ekström/Luhr/Prémat (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 30.613s (81 laps)
7 Bleekemolen/Hart/Lammers (Dome-Judd) 3m 34.035s (75 laps)
8 Chilton/Johansson/Shimoda (Zytek) 3m 34.340s (38 laps)
9 Campbell-Walter/Nakano/Oritz (Creation-Judd) 3m 34.398s (64 laps)
10 Primat/Tinseau/Treluyer (Pescarolo-Judd) 3m 34.941s (85 laps)