American Le Mans Series

Peugoet And Audi Top Petit Le Mans Qualifying

3 Mins read

While the diesel giants unsurprisingly took the first two rows for Petit Le Mans, it was the minnows of the lone GT class who were the story of the Friday's qualifying session.

After a week of practice and testing dogged by rain, it was relief as the first competitive running took place in dry conditions, with the track reaching temperatures over 40oC presenting very different conditions.

It was the pair of Peugeot 908s that dominated the P1 field, the #07 car shared by Nicolas Minassian and Pedro Lamy took pole in the hands of the Frenchman completing the 2.54mile lap in 1:06.937.

“It’s a big thrill to have secured a pole position at last!” said Minassian, who also beat the Audis to pole in 2006 with the Creation Autosportif. “I got in two clean laps in qualifying which allowed me to push hard and make the most of my tyres.”

With Minassian alone in the 1:06 bracket it was the second Peugeot prototype, this one in the hands of former Andretti Green Acura driver Franck Montagny who will line up second, with a best lap of 1:07.160.

Both were over a second clear of the cars expected to be their main rivals during the race, with the Audi R15s locking out the second row, Dindo Capello in the #2 car outpacing Lucas Luhr.

Meanwhile, the main highlights of the P1 qualifying were the attempts of Simon Pagenaud in de Ferran Motorsport's Acura to try and split the two Ingolstadt backed machines.

This was the team who, with Scott Dixon, surprised everyone in March by taking pole at Sebring. First Pagenaud needed eight-tenths to split the Audis, the half a second. As the fuel load went down the car found chunks of time, with the team eventually having to warn their driver that it might run out of fuel half way round a final, flying lap.

Instead, it found itself caught behind a debuting Drayson Racing Lola suffering fuel pump failure, stopping any last lap heroics from Pagenaud, who will line up fifth, the fastest petrol powered car and just over a single tenth from the pace of Luhr's Audi.

Behind him were the ORECA, the Intersport Lola, with the Drayson Lola ninth overall, behind P2 polesitter Marino Franchitti. “The balance was right there, right away when we started practice this week,” said Franchitti. “The guys have done their homework.”

P2 qualifying was a quite affair, with the Van der Steur Radical one of many predictable absentees and the Dyson Lola-Mazda of Guy Smith and Chris Dyson (ineligible for points due to the car running using a BP developed fuel which is a mix of normal petrol, ethanol and biobutanol) opting to save the car for the race. So a three way fight between the remaining Dyson entry, the Cytosport Porsche Spyder and Fernandez's Acura finished in that order, with Franchitti clear by over a second.

“The balance was right there, right away when we started practice this week,” said Franchitti. “The guys have done their homework.”

However, the story of the session (if not the season) unfolded in the GT2 class.

In a category dominated by the factory efforts of Corvette and BMW and the GT2 stalwarts of the Risi Ferrari’s and the Flying Lizard Porsche’s it was the tiny privateer teams who stole the show.

The start of the surprises came very early in the 25 minute session, with Jaime Melo in the Risi car suffering a puncture at the end of the back straight after completing only 2 laps, knocking them out of contention for pole.

It was then the least likely pole contenders came to the fore. First came David Murry in the Piloti backed Ford GT, the he was overtaken by the Corvette.

The Corvette of privateer LG Motorsports, that is.

The team, and car, last seen at Long Beach when Boris Said had to bail from a flaming car, lapped in 1:20.887. Jubilation in the LG pit followed, as media flocked down to interview Tommy Sutherland.

But Murry had other ideas. With a final effort he took his Doran built, Dunlop shod car, pipping the LG machine by only six-hundreths. The jubilation switched pits, the Ford driver greeted by applause and congratulations as he climbed from the car that had just claimed Ford's first GT2 pole.

All this time, back in the paddock, the Patron Highcroft team, toiled to prepare for tomorrow's race. After Scott Sharp's enormous accident yesterday, and having a brand new tub flown in from California, the team looks set to compete tomorrow.

The other notable absentee, the Rocketsports Jaguar also showed glimmers of hope. Just as the team were pushing the pole winning Peugeot back into the paddock, a tantilising flash of black-and-green- toured down the pitlane under it's own power and towards the track, and with a GT2 class that had already delivered the biggest surprise (perhaps) of the season, the future of the ALMS looks bright.

The nearest future, the 12th running of Petit Le Mans, get underway tomorrow at 11am local time.

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