Guessing game begins at LeMans It wasn’t long after the conclusion of Saturday morning’s 45-minute warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans that the guessing game began and the entire paddock turned into weather forecasters. The last session before the 75th running of the endurance classic began with showers, saw the sun peek out and finished under grey skies.
American Le Mans Series drivers and teams were fully entrenched at and near the top of the standings. Sebastien Bourdais went quickest in one of the pole-sitting Peugeots but Audi sat second and third as the diesel showdown grew closer.
The first Audi R10 TDI of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello was the field’s fastest car, save the Peugeot, at 4:03.46. Marco Werner in the sister car took advantage of the drying track and turned in the best time for the third-place Audi with a 4:04.809.
A crystal ball would suit the grid with rain likely to fall off and on during the course of the race. That meant race strategies will not be full entrenched until shortly before the start at 3 p.m. local time.
“Nobody knows what it is going to do,” said Frank Biela, who will team with Werner and Emanuele Pirro as the trio tries to repeat last year’s win. “It may be wet and it may be dry. Finding the right tires will be the biggest key. Some parts of the track are dry and some are wet. We will have to compromise.”
Corvette Racing headed the field in GT1 for the first time this week with the Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis setting the pace of 4:26.278. Following an Aston Martin and Saleen, the sister car of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen were fourth.
“You have to be careful of puddles,” Fellows said of the wet track. “You’re going 170 mph and it’s very treacherous on sections of track that are normally the public roads. The physical loads are much lower when you are driving in the rain but you hold your breath a lot more. There is no time to relax.”
American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long went quickest in GT2 for the IMSA Matmut French entry at 4:37.268. Next was the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Seth Neiman, Johannes van Overbeek and Jörg Bergmeister, who didn’t drive in the session.
This week marks the first time the California-based team has driven the new Porsche 997 RSR on a wet surface. But Neiman said there isn’t that much difference from the earlier 996 version.
“The car is fine in the wet,” Neiman said. “Because of the extra weight, when you do slide you slide for awhile. But when there is grip, it is fine.”
Third fastest was the Panoz Esperante GTLM of defending class champion Team LNT. The car of Tom Milner, Tom Kimber-Smith and Danny Watts was just 0.3 seconds behind the Lizard Porsche.