LE MANS, France – Teams from the American Le Mans Series won two class pole
positions Thursday as qualifying concluded for this weekend’s 71st
running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, while many other ALMS teams turned
competitive speeds in their respective classes. Both poles came in the
classes for production-based cars.
The Ferrari 550 Maranello of Veloqx Prodrive Racing was the fastest
qualifier in the GTS class, turning the 8.625-mile Circuit de La
Sarthe in 3:53.278. Tomas Enge of the Czech Republic and Peter Kox of
The Netherlands, who will share the Prodrive Ferrari when the American
Le Mans Series resumes at Road Atlanta later this month, and Jamie
Davies of England will pilot the pole-winning car at Le Mans.
“Our battle with the Corvettes didn’t seem to happen today, which is a
shame because we really wanted to have a close qualifying session,”
said Enge. “We have found a good tire for the weekend, as well as an
excellent race setup, so we are all looking forward to a really
Winning the GT class pole by a very narrow margin was the Porsche 911
GT3 RS of Alex Job Racing, the defending GT class champion of the
ALMS. The Job team is running a combined effort at Le Mans with White
Lightning-Petersen Motorsports, a team which also regularly competes
in the ALMS. Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr of Germany, co-champion
drivers in the ALMS GT class last year, will drive the car along with
Emmanuel Collard of France.
“We improved our lap time by one second (from Wednesday), which is
fantastic,” said Luhr. “I am enjoying the drive so far and now we just
need to stay focused for the entire 24 hours. I’m going to get much
sleep over the next two days.”
Less than a tenth of a second behind was The Racers Group Porsche,
winner of the GT class last year at Le Mans as well as in two ALMS
races. Team owner/driver Kevin Buckler of Sonoma, Calif., will compete
along with Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister of Germany.
Twenty-one racing teams that regularly compete in American Le Mans
Series events are among the 50 cars slated to start the world’s most
famous endurance race at 4 p.m. (France time) on Saturday. There are
19 Americans among the 150 drivers (three per car) participating in
the event. Race fans in North America can watch 17 hours of live event
television coverage on the SPEED Channel beginning at 9 a.m. (U.S.
Eastern) on Saturday. Radio Le Mans will have an English language
broadcast of the entire race that can be heard online at
Leading the field from the overall pole position will be the Bentley
Speed 8 Prototype driven by Tom Kristensen of Denmark, the 2002 ALMS
driving champion, along with Rinaldo Capello of Italy and Guy Smith of
England. Kristensen won the overall pole with a lap time of 3:32.843
and is gunning for his fifth Le Mans win and fourth in a row.
The team Speed 8 completes an all-Bentley front row, with the car to
be shared by Johnny Herbert and Mark Blundell of England and
Australian David Brabham. The Audi Sport UK Audi R8 of Frank Biela,
Perry McCarthy and Mika Salo will start third. Biela is a three-time
Le Mans winner and was in the winning Audi in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours
of Sebring that opened the 2003 ALMS season earlier this year.
The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8, based in Pompano Beach, Fla., starts
sixth and was the highest-qualifying car that will run the full ALMS
schedule this year. Drivers will be Emanuele Pirro of Italy, Stefan
Johansson of Sweden and JJ Lehto of Finland. Another American team,
Riley & Scott Racing of Indianapolis, qualified its R&S MkIIIC-Ford in
seventh spot with drivers Jim Matthews of Boca Raton, Fla., Marc
Goossens of Belgium and Christophe Tinseau of France.
Completing the top 10 was JML Team Panoz of Braselton, Ga., running a
Panoz LMP01 for Gunnar Jeannette of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Olivier
Beretta of Monaco and Max Papis of Italy. A second Panoz entry will
In the LMP 675 class, Intersport Racing of Dublin, Ohio, with
defending ALMS LMP 675 driving champion Jon Field will start second in
class, 17th overall. Field will co-drive with Duncan Dayton of West
Salem, N.Y., and Rick Sutherland of Los Gatos, Calif., in the team’s
Team Bucknum Racing of Lake Havasu City, Az., LMP 675 class winner in
three ALMS races last year, starts sixth in class with drivers Chris
McMurry of Phoenix, Bryan Willman of Kirkland, Wash., and Jeff Bucknum
of Lake Havasu City, Az.
Veloqx Prodrive Racing took the top two spots in the GTS class. The
second Ferrari of Anthony Davidson, Kelvin Burt and Darren Turner was
second, followed by the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of
Oliver Gavin of England, Andy Pilgrim of Aventura, Fla., and Kelly
Collins of Corona del Mar, Calif.
The Corvette of Ron Fellows of Canada and Johnny O’Connell of Flowery
Branch, Ga., winner of the GTS class the past two years, starts fifth
in class. Franck Freon of France will join Fellows and O’Connell. The
three scored the GTS class win earlier this year at Sebring.
Other American Le Mans Series teams qualifying in the GTS class
included Konrad Motorsport, seventh with a Saleen S7R, and Carsport
America, ninth with a Pagani Zonda.
Qualifying third in the GT class was another American-based team,
Orbit Racing of Jupiter, Fla., with a Porsche for Leo Hindery of New
York City, Marc Lieb of Germany and Peter Baron of Deerfield Beach,
Fla. The PK Sport Porsche, also a regular in ALMS racing, was fourth.
Fifth in GT went to the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Terry
Borcheller of Phoenix, Ralf Kelleners of Germany and Anthony Lazzaro
of Acworth, Ga. The Houston-based ALMS team is also assisting with the
ACEMCO Ferrari, which qualified eighth in the GT class for drivers
Shane Lewis of Jupiter, Fla., Johnny Mowlem of England and Butch
Leitzinger of State College, Penn. ALMS team Seikel Motorsport
qualified seventh in the GT class with its Porsche 911 for drivers
Tony Burgess and David Shep of Canada and John Lloyd of Boston, Mass.
NOTES FROM THURSDAY
BIG CRASH FOR LISTER – The British Lister Storm LMP 900 machine, which
competed at Sebring earlier this year, was heavily damaged in an
accident in the first qualifying practice session Thursday. Driver
Jamie Campbell-Walter impacted the barriers after a long high-speed
slide just after the Dunlop Bridge. Campbell-Walter was examined and
released from a local hospital and the team reported that the car is
too damaged to repair in time for the start of the race.
QUICK NOTES – Butch Leitzinger, who normally races Prototypes for
Dyson Racing in the ALMS, is driving a GT car at Le Mans for ACEMCO
Motorsports. Leitzinger had an adventure on the track Thursday,
spinning at the Ford Chicane and then limping back to the pits with
minor left-front body damage to the Ferrari 360 …. There is no track
activity on Friday and all Le Mans drivers will be appearing in the
official Parade des Pilotes in the center of Le Mans at 6 p.m. “The
parade is always a buzz,” said Gunnar Jeannette of JML Team Panoz.
“Having 200,000 people chasing autographs is a real thrill.”
AutoRacing1 is an
independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed
by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA, FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published,
broadcast, or redistributed without permission. User agreement