Le Mans Series, round 3 in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
The Porsche RS Spyder debut on the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit has succeeded. Jos Verstappen (Netherlands) secured his third pole position in the LMP2 class at the third round of the Le Mans Series (LMS). Belgium’s Didier Theys qualified the 476 hp RS Spyder sports prototype fourth on the gird, Casper Elgaard (Denmark) claimed eighth starting position for the Danish Essex team. In the near-standard GT2 class, the German Porsche works driver Marc Lieb narrowly missed out on the pole position by one and a half tenths of a second. The qualifying on the 7.004 kilometre Ardennes circuit was red-flagged three times due to accidents.
“I had to fight hard for this pole position,” said Jos Verstappen after his hat-trick. “Our car had excellent balance yesterday and earlier today in free practice, but in qualifying after the red flag I suddenly experienced heavy oversteering in the fast corners. Because of this the car was not easy to drive. I’m confident our team will find a good set-up and good balance again. Then the track is easy to drive by comparison. The RS Spyder handles perfectly in the infamous Eau Rouge. I go flat out every lap.” The ex-Formula 1 pilot competes with team owner Peter van Merksteijn (Netherlands) for the Van Merksteijn Motorsport team.
The interruption to the LMP2 qualifying also dashed Horag Racing’s hopes for a better result. “It was chaotic,” said Didier Theys. “Otherwise it would have been possible to claim at least third.” As a result, the team has changed its race strategy. Instead of Theys, Jan Lammers from the Netherlands will start the race. The ex-Formula 1 driver and Le Mans winner is regarded as the fastest pilot in the team. Fredy Lienhard from Switzerland is the third driver for Horag.
The Essex team experienced a difficult start to the weekend. “We hardly got to drive yesterday and in today’s free practices,” said John Nielsen, who shares driving duties with his compatriot Casper Elgaard. “Every time Casper or I went out on the track a car drove into the rear of our RS Spyder or there was a red flag. We really needed the track time in practice as we are driving with Dunlop tyres instead of Michelin and we don’t have a lot of experience with them. We need every minute for our set-up work. We have already shown how good the Dunlop tyres are when we get to practice. In Monza we won. Still, a 1,000 kilometre race is long and sometimes full of surprises. We will fight!”
In the GT2 class, a mere 0.156 seconds separated the second-placed Porsche works driver Marc Lieb in his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from the pole-sitter. “It’s never been as close as this,” said the German Felbermayr-Proton team pilot. “We almost caught the fastest Ferrari. I’m confident for the race. Our pace is great and we have a car that reacts very positively on this track. In the second sector of the circuit the Ferrari has a slight advantage but in sectors one and three we are better off. As a race driver it is naturally a bit annoying to miss out on pole position by such a narrow margin.” Lieb forms a strong team with the German-resident Alex Davison from Australia.
Porsche works driver Richard Lietz (Austria) qualified the 911 of the French IMSA Performance Matmut team fourth. His team mate is Frenchman Raymond Narac. With fifth, works driver Richard Westbrook (Great Britain, Farnbacher Racing) rounds off the three fastest Porsche in the class. Westbrook, as the double Supercup overall winner, was also satisfied. “We further developed our car from session to session and are now very happy with the set-up. It’s always a huge pleasure to compete here in Spa and it’s even better with such great weather.”
The race takes off tomorrow with a flying start at 12.50 hours and is contested over 143 laps or a maximum of six hours. Eurosport broadcasts the beginning phase of the race live from 12.45 hours and televises highlights from 22.45 hours. Apart from a one-hour pause, the pay-TV station Motors TV broadcasts the entire race live. The race can also be seen per live-timing on the official website www.lemans-series.com. Race images are not available on the website but an interesting commentary and interviews can be heard on Radio Le Mans.
Qualifying result LMP2
1. Jos Verstappen (NL), Porsche RS Spyder, 2:05.841 minutes; 2. Andrea Belicchi (I), Lola B08/80, 2:05.880; 3. Michael Vergers (NL), Zytek 07 S – Zytek, 2:06.349; 4. Didier Theys (B), Porsche RS Spyder, 2:06.955; 5. Tommy Erdos (BR), MG Lola EX 265-MG, 2:07.539; 6. Joey Foster (GB), WF01-Zytek, 2:08.047; 7. Olivier Pla (F), Lola B05/40-AER, 2:08.224; 8. Casper Elgaard (DK), Porsche RS Spyder, 2:08.322.
Qualifying result GT2
1. Gianmaria Bruni (I), Ferrari F430 GT, 2:21.205 minutes; 2. Marc Lieb (D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 2:21.361; 3. Pierre Kaffer (D), Ferrari F430 GT, 2:22.314; 4. Richard Lietz (A), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 2:22.332; 5. Richard Westbrook (GB), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 2:22.569.