Audi Clinch Spa Front Row Start

by James Broomhead

Timo Bernhard set the second fastest time in qualifying for the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps to line his Audi R15 TDI on the front row alongside the pole-sitting Peugeot 908 of Sebastien Bourdais.

“I am satisfied with my performance,” said Bernhard, who lapped the 7.004km track in 1:58.519 – 0.635 seconds slower than Bourdais. “For the team it is a small success to start from the front row tomorrow. We see the race here in preparation for Le Mans. Such a feeling of success helps the entire team to find even more confidence. It was a good debut. So far the weekend for the No. 9 crew was very good.”

The Audi Sport Team Joest team, which is responsible for all three Audis in the field for the race spent the earlier practice sessions improving the handling of the cars, which are running in full Le Mans-spec in preparation for nest month's 24 Hours. This spec sees the cars running less downforce than is normal around Spa, it is also in opposition to decision taken by the Peugeot team.

“We are racing here with a little handicap because we do not drive with the down force which you would normally use here,” explained Ralf Juttner the team’s Technical Director. “But that is part of our Le Mans preparation. We're making progress. Also qualifying was a good step forward.”

“I had expected a gap of more than a second,” said Allan McNish. “That gives us confidence for the race.”

The no.7 car the Scot shares with Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen will start tomorrow's race sixth, after the Dane completed qualifying in his forst race coming back from a pre-season sporting injury. However, Kristensen's session was entirely positive, running into slow traffic around the tight La Source hairpin on a flying lap, losing part of the R15's front bodywork. In a separate incident he would be forced to abandon a fast lap due to yellow flag.   

Kristensen's best time of 1:59.795 puts him one place behind the final R15 in the field, the no.8 which was qualified by new recruit Andre Lotterer, who described himself as doing “his best” after not running lap during Saturday morning's warm-up session, due to fuel leak.

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