Peugeot beats Audi on LeMans test day There have been three main stories here at testing. The first has been the weather, the second the battle between Peugeot and Audi and thirdly two accidents that resulted in drivers having to go to hospital.
The weather has been difficult with the day started cool and damp and then was punctuated by some long periods of heavy rain followed by a drying track. This made life difficult for the teams since this is the time when they would normally be testing various settings prior to the race. It was also hard for the teams to plan how to get their drivers qualified. The weather did disrupt proceedings but not before the various teams had had a chance to show us what they might be capable of during the race.
It was Peugeot that set the pace just after lunch when Stephane Sarrazin put in a series of incredibly quick laps. His really fast lap was four seconds inside last year’s pole position time. The car was no doubt on soft qualifying tires but the fuel load must have been quite heavy because it allowed Sarrazin to do four very fast laps immediately after his record lap. Audi really didn’t have an answer to this but at least they now know how quick the Peugeot can be when required. Audi did put in a few quicker laps with McNish but the feeling was that these were ‘race pace’ laps to see how the car would perform in the race. By the end of testing Peugeot were lying 1st and 2nd with Audi 3rd. However Peugeot have not had a particularly good day because Gené crashed the #7 car heavily, so heavily that it may well not be available for the race. This will put pressure on the team to rebuild one of the other cars. Audi will not have this problem. The quickest ‘petrol’ powered cars were 6th and 7th fastest, these are both Pescarolo Sport Judds. The #17 car which was 6th and the #16 car 7th fastest. However they were 5.5 secs a lap slower that the 5th placed Diesel Audi.
In LM P2 the new Porsche RS Spyders did not show their speed straightaway but it didn’t take long for them to get to the front of their class and stay there. At the end of the day they did lead LM P2 with the # 34 van Merksteijn Motorsport ahead of the #31 Team Essex car. However the #32 Barazi Epsilon Zytek 07S was only 0.184 secs behind them.
The Corvette team could not match the pace of the Aston Martins
In LM GT1 the leading #009 Aston Martin Racing Aston Martin DBR9 finished ahead of the #50 Larbre Competition Saleen S7R. Then the two Corvettes were 3rd and 4th . The Corvette team did this last year only to show that they were very quick in race trim.
In LM GT2 the fastest car was the #82 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT and was ahead of the #80 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 997 GT3 RSR and third was #97 BMS Scuderia Italia Ferrari 430 GT. This would seem to indicate that the Porsches will have a battle on their hands when it comes to the race since they are outnumbered by the Ferraris.
It was a bad day for accidents with two drivers being taken to hospital for further observation. The first impact involved the #83 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 driven by Tracy Krohn. He put a wheel on the grass just before the pit entrance and hit the wall hard. The car was extensively damaged and may not be repaired in time for the race. However Tracy Kohn was not seriously hurt and was taken to hospital for further checks. The second major accident involved the #7 Peugeot driven by Marc Gené. He was starting a very quick lap, he had been fastest in the two sectors and then he also put a wheel on the grass and spun hitting the wall at speed while going backwards. It was a major impact and the medical staff were on the scene rapidly and took the driver to the medical centre and then on to hospital for further checks. We gather that he may not have broken a toe as first reports suggested but he did bruise his elbow badly. Marc Gene is staying in hospital over night. The car however is a write off and Peugeot will be asking the Organizers if they can use another chassis for the race.
The day was interrupted by several ‘red flag’ stoppages but all the cars involved made it back to their pits and carried on later in the day.
The day has turned out much as expected with the diesel teams way ahead in LM P1 and as expected the Porsche Spyders are showing their pace in LM P2. In LM GT1 the Aston Martin .v. Corvette battle has yet to begin but they will both have been surprised by the pace of the Saleen. In LM GT2 the Ferraris appear to have the edge on speed but will Porsche succeed because of their legendary reliability? Everything will become clear in 10 days when the 76th Le Mans 24 Hours gets underway. .
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