The qualifying sessions were a blast to listen to yesterday and today. If you fortunate enough to listen in and hear the moment when Patrick Long went 3:58, you probably got the same chills we did! Joerg Bergmeister and the #80 Flying Lizard Motorsport 911 GT3 RSR had pole until those moments. He was very anxious to break the 4:00 mark but team orders thought differently.
911 GT3 RSR, IMSA Performance Matmut: Raymond Narac, Richard Lietz, Patrick Long
Porsche sets the tone in Le Mans: At the qualifying for the Le Mans 24 hour race, both the RS Spyder and the 911 GT3 RSR were clearly the fastest vehicles in their respective classes. The top time in the LMP2 class was posted by ex-Formula 1 driver Jos Verstappen (Netherlands) in 3:32.301 minutes at the wheel of an RS Spyder fielded by the Van Merksteijn Motorsport team. Second fastest on the 13.629 kilometre circuit with a gap of just 1.1 second was Porsche works driver Sascha Maassen (Germany), who supports the Danish Essex team in Le Mans. Jos Verstappen put three seconds between himself and the Zytek and Lola opponents in the LMP2 class. Porsche also secured the top times in the near-standard sports car category. Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) turned the fastest lap in 3:58.152 minutes ahead of fellow works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany, 3.59.072 minutes). The 76th edition of the Le Mans 24 hour race takes off on Saturday (14th June) at 15.00 hours with a flying start.
‘The car became faster lap by lap,’ said an enthusiastic Jos Verstappen. ‘And I was able to get more and more familiar with the track. I’m sure I could have driven a bit faster but I was held up twice during my flying lap.’ Verstappen contests the Le Mans marathon for the first time. Both of his two Dutch team mates, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Peter van Merksteijn, have already contested the 24 hour classic twice.
Sascha Maassen, who was involved in the development of the RS Spyder from the first tests, was also enthusiastic: ‘It’s huge fun to drive on such a demanding circuit with a sports prototype. Particularly in the fast passages of the Porsche Curves, you can feel how balanced our car is. You approach them at around 290 kph, brake to 230 to take the curves in fifth gear. The RS Spyder handles beautifully there.’ Maassen provides back-up to the two Danish regular pilots at the Essex team, John Nielsen and Casper Elgaard. The German set his top time in the first qualifying session on Wednesday evening. During Thursday’s session from 19.00 to 21.00 and 22.00 to 24.00 hours, the Essex squad concentrated primarily on finding a perfect set-up for the race. ‘This worked well,’ said a convinced Elgaard. ‘Our car is optimally prepared for the race.’
The fastest man in the GT2 class at the wheel of a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was Porsche works driver and last year’s winner Patrick Long (USA, IMSA Performance Matmut), sharing the car with Frenchman Raymond Narac and works driver Richard Lietz (Austria). ‘It was a tough fight against the other Porsche drivers and our rivals from Ferrari. So this makes it even more wonderful to come out on top when in fact our focus was on finding a good race set-up. You notice the positive further developments of the 911 mostly in the fast Porsche Curves, where the car is much calmer compared to last year,’ summarises Long.
Second position in the GT2 class went to Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) driving for the German Felbermayr Proton team. He shares driving duties with Australia’s Alex Davison and Horst Felbermayr sen. (Austria). Porsche works driver Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) qualified his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by the American Flying Lizard Motorsports on fourth place behind a Ferrari. His team mates are the two Americans Johannes van Overbeek und Seth Neiman.
Eurosport broadcasts the entire race alternately with its Pay-TV subsidiary Eurosport 2, with half the race covered on free TV by the main broadcaster. The warm-up will also be televised. Live race coverage begins on 14 June at 14.30 hours.
Qualifying result LMP2
1. Verstappen/Van Merksteijn/Bleekemolen (NL), Porsche RS Spyder, 3:32.301 minutes
2. Nielsen/Elgaard/Maassen (DK/DK/D), Porsche RS Spyder, 3:33.441
3. Barazi/Vergers/Moseley (DK/NL/GB), Zytek 07S, 3:35.344
4. Pompidou/Belicchi/Zacchia (F/I/I), Lola Judd, 3:35.401
5. Hughes/Kane/Foster (GB), Embassy Zytek, 3:39.926
6. Wallace/Newton/Erdos (GB), Lola MG B05-40, 3:40.027
7. Pla/Amaral/Smith (F/P/GB), Lola AER B05-40, 3:41.193
8. Ragues/Lahaye/Cheng (F/F/CHN), Pescarolo Judd; 3:42.545
9. Ojjeh/Gosselin/Sharpe (SAU/F/GB), Zytek 07S, 3:43.148
10. Devlin/Rostan/Jeanette (GB/F/USA); Radical AER SR9; 3:46.631
Qualifying result GT2
1. Lietz/Narac/Long (A/F/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 3:58.152
2. Davison/Henzler/Felbermayr sen. (AUS/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 3:59.072
3. Bell/Sugdon/Mullen (GB/GB/GB), Ferrari F 430 GT, 3:59.820
4. Bergmeister/Van Overbeek/Neiman (D/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 4:00.106
5. Kaffer/Ehret/Nielsen (D/D/DK), Ferrari F 430 GT, 4:01.464
6. Bruni/Melo/Salo (I/BRA/FIN), Ferrari F 430 GT, 4:01.598
7. Malucelli/Ruberti/Babini (I), Ferrari F 430 GT, 4:02.080
8. Aucott/Ferté/Daoudi (GB/F/F); Ferrari F 430 GT, 4:03.293
9. Vasiliev/Kelleners/Dumbreck (LAT/D/GB), Spyker C8; 4:03.641
10. Montanari/Biagi/Vilander (I/I/FIN), Ferrari F 430 GT, 4:03.810″