British LMP2 team JOTA Sport have claimed second place in class during qualifying for the 82nd 24 Hours of Le Mans. The #38 Zytek Z11SN-Nissan fell just 0.065 seconds short of the top spot, taken by Thiriet by TDS Racing in a battle for the pole on Thursday evening. Le Mans debutant Harry Tinknell set the fastest time for the JOTA squad on just the second lap of an extended final qualifying session.
The 3m 37.674 second lap of the Circuit de La Sarthe brought the car from 20th place overall in qualifying 1 to eleventh in a field topped by nine LMP1-H and LMP1-L contenders.
Along with Harry Tinknell the JOTA Sport Zytek will be driven by JOTA Aviation and JOTA Sport owner Simon Dolan and Oliver Turvey who joined the squad a short notice. The all British crew had originally been slated to contain Marc Gene but the Spaniard was called up to replace Loic Duval in the #1 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro after a horrific accident in free practice on Wednesday. Turvey, who raced with JOTA Sport in 2013 was called to fill in and set his night qualifying laps during the final session.
Simon Dolan, the team’s gentleman driver, is looking for his first podium finish at Le Mans after a pair of DNFs and a seventh place. He said, “The last couple of days were a bit of trial for us – it hasn’t been easy – but by the end of Thursday night we’ve got the Zytek to where we want it to be. Harry has shown we’ve got good pace, Oliver settled back in quickly with us on Thursday so by the finish I’m pretty happy and looking forward to a good race.”
Harry Tinknell added, “My fastest lap was a good one – one of the rare, traffic free laps over the last two days – but there was certainly more to come. It was the first time we actually went for a time and it was a very good feeling for me considering it’s my first time here. We’ve laid the foundations for a good race.”
“Simon and Harry along with Marc have laid the foundations for a really solid and fast race car. I got back into a good rhythm pretty quickly despite the stoppages. It’s fantastic to be back here at Le Mans – it’s an amazingly fast, challenging circuit,” Turvey said.
Sam Hignett, who is a partner in the JOTA Group and drove during Team JOTA’s Le Mans debut in 2005 finished by adding, “We’ve got ourselves a nice, consistent and fast race car with all three drivers performing well and pretty close together in terms of lap times which bodes well for the weekend.
“In general it was a tough couple of days and we’ve of course also had to make a driver change. Harry did a great job to put it on provisional pole which ultimately became the second fastest LM P2 time by just 0.065secs.”
In addition to the 24 Hours of Le Mans JOTA Sport are contesting a full season in the European Le Mans Series and will run the Mazda UK entered MX-5 race car at the ADAC Zurich 24 Hours Race at the Nurburgring next weekend.