The Audi works teams swept the front three places on the grid for the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps, the reigning Le Mans 24 Hours winners – Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller – leading the trio of R18 on the car's race debut.
“I'm incredibly happy about the result, particularly for the team,” said Bernhard who set the fastest lap of 2:01.502. “We did carry quite a big burden because every new car at Audi has immediately been successful. I think we've squeezed out the maximum today. That I had the good fortune of clinching the first pole position in the Audi R18 TDI fills me with pride.”
Allan McNish, who shares the no.3 car that will start third with Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello, reflected on the best possible start for Audi's new coupe. “1-2-3 on the grid is an excellent result and a first reward for all the hard work Audi has been putting into this project over the past few months – during all the tests but also this weekend. Of course the red flag mixed up the grid a bit. But these things can happen if you don't go out on track early. The engineers have done a pretty good job with the set-up. We've got a well-balanced car now. And we're going into the first race of the Audi R18 TDI with a 1-2-3 on the grid – I don't think there's a better place to start.”
The team, however, were quick to point out that the result was, potentially, unrepresentative of the true pace of the contenders of overall victory.
The three Audi’s were over three seconds clear of the Team ORECA Matmut Peugeot 908 HDI FAP that will line up fourth. The three works 908 cars were caught out by a red flag that brough the session to an early close. Coming out just the three cars were starting their first flying laps of the session the end of the session locked the no.7 and no.9 cars in 13th and 18th place respectively. The no.8 car – with Stephane Sarrazin – at the wheel failed to log a flying lap, and so will start the race from 50th place, Peugeot Sport's technical director Bruno Famin warning that the squad will have to endure a “difficult” start to the race, avoiding contact as the cars move through the pack.
It was the LMP1 class OAK Racing driven by Matthieu Lahaye that brought out the red flags, a massive accident damaging the crash barriers.
The incident, which put Lahaye in hospital (he suffered no serious injuries it was reported later), was just the latest in a series of major accidents around the famous Belgian track. Thursday – the first day of running – included an accident involving the RML HPD and Pedro Lamy's no.9 works Peugeot. While the Peugeot was repaired in time for qualifying the RML squad took the decision to withdraw from the event, shifting their focus to a shakedown for Le Mans at the end of the month.
In the absence of the RML example LMP2 pole went to the Strakka Racing HPD ARX-01, the team – overall race winners at Hungary last season – narrowly beat the Oreca 03 of TDS Racing.
In GTE Pro – the leading GT class in ACO-rules racing – the top three places were taken by Ferrari 458, AF Corse's two entries sandwiching Paul Ricard victors JMW Motorsport with reigning champions Marc Lieb and Richard Lietz fourth for Team Felbermayr–Proton.
In their first race the Lotus Jetalliance squad will line up 45th on the grid with the no.65 car shared by Jonathan Hirschi, James Rossiter and Johnny Mowlem. The sister no.64 car joined the no.8 Peugeot 908 in not setting a flying lap time. Nicolas Armindo and Raymond Narac won the GTE Am pole for IMSA Performance and Neil Garner Motorsports driver Phil Keen logged the fastest time among the spec FLM runners.