The six hours of qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hours ended with both the BMW Motorsport GTE-Pro entries well placed, but with the Schnitzer run team facing a tough repair job after a crash at the Ford Chicane.
The no.56 BMW of Andy Priaulx, Dirk Muller and Joey Hand had held the provisional class pole overnight, but with Priaulx at the wheel during the opening Thursday session spun on gravel brought onto the circuit and crashed nose first into the tyre barrier, destroying the front end of the car.
“I am so sorry for the team as this is a big shame and gives them such a lot of work,” said the multiple touring car champion. “I was looking forward to having a good go, and was just winding the car up for the start of the lap. I arrived and didn't know there was anything wrong with the corner. There were no flags and just a sea of gravel on the track, which meant one or more cars had already gone off in front of me. Another shame is we have missed tonight's qualifying session.”
The accident came at a time when the BMW team had already lost pole position in class to AF Corse driver Gimmi Bruni, but in the final two hour session, starting at 10pm local time Priaulx's fellow ex-WTCC driver Augusto Farfus put the no.55 half a second clear (1.57.592) to clinch the best time in a highly competitive field.
“I didn't get a run in the first session [on Thursday],” said Farfus, “but knew the conditions at the start of the final session should be ideal for a quick lap. The car felt really good, and so I was able to put together a good lap and was delighted with the time I set.”
“Pole is certainly not vital for a good result in a 24 hour race, but it is a great feeling to know your car is the quickest in its class. Add to this the reliability that it has shown all year and I feel pretty confident ahead of the race.”
Despite missing the entire final session the no.56 held onto third place in class, courtesy of the 3:58.426 lap set in Wednesday night's qualifying session.
The race starts at 2pm UK time, and The Checkered Flag will be covering the entire race live with live comment and hourly updates.