The final night of qualifying action for the 82nd running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans has yielded seventh in class for the LMP2 protagonists KCMG. The KC Motorgroup Oreca 03R-Nissan fell just a second short of the top time for P2 round the eight mile Circuit de La Sarthe after Alexander Imperatori took his turn in the #47 during the specially extended third qualifying session.
Stoppages during night qualifying on Wednesday and the afternoon session on Thursday meant that the ACO and FIA decided to allow an additional 30 minutes of qualifying time during the last chance session.
The Chinese P2 car had held third in class overnight from Wednesday but dropped four places in the final sessions of qualifying. Imperatori did the heavy lifting in the car he shares with Richard Bradley and Matt Howson.
The afternoon action was disrupted heavily by red flags due to accidents for other competitors. The evening session wasn’t without its problems either and Imperatori’s final shot at the top spot in class was curtailed by a ‘Slow Zone’ intervention in the final sector of the race track, preventing any further improvements. The Swede had just left the pits with low fuel and new tyres when the safety measure was put into place between Arnage and the Porsche Curves.
The team however have taken heart from their raw pace and apparent reliability in the run up to the race. Imperatori commented, “I’d say we’re feeling satisfied even though we might have done a bit better. Because of the late accident I couldn’t really go for the lap I wanted at the end, which had the potential to put us in the top four or thereabouts. But the most important thing is the race, and in that regard we’re well prepared. We haven’t had any problems and can be confident in the car’s pace as well.”
Richard Bradley however bemoaned the lack of clear running, saying “We were unlucky in qualifying as each time one of us went out to set a proper lap someone else seemed to be having an accident! But that’s the way it goes. The grid position doesn’t reflect our true pace, but the great thing is that a lot can happen over 24 hours. You can start last and still come through, so I’m not concerned at all.”
“We’re actually a little bit disappointed to have qualified seventh after being in the top three or four over the last couple of days,” Howson observed. “The number of red flags and Slow Zones meant we probably didn’t have the optimum set-up for qualifying. However, we do know the car will be very good in race trim, which is much more important over a 24-hour race. So yes, we’d like to be a bit further up the grid but our attention is firmly on this weekend’s race.”
The team are taking further heart from the fact that while they are placed only seventh in the P2 class as a whole, they hold second in class from an FIA World Endurance Championship point of view. Only the #26 G-Drive Racing Morgan-Nissan which starts in fifth in class placed better from the WEC contingent at Le Sarthe. The 24 Hours of Le Mans is a double points paying round of the World Endurance Championship.