Audi Sport Team Joest will tackle the 75th running of the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours from the front row of the grid. Heavy rain showers on Thursday evening prevented improvements over the times from Wednesday’s first qualifying session. The starting grid thus remained unchanged.
Fastest on the rain-soaked track on Thursday was Allan McNish who set the best time of the day in 4m 01.257s shortly before midnight. 24 hours before, the Scotsman at the wheel of the number two Audi R10 TDI, had lost the exciting battle for pole-position against the best Peugeot by just 0.572 seconds.
Tom Kristensen set almost an identical time as Allan McNish on Thursday evening. The Le Mans record winner proved as in the previous day that he is in a good shape following his accident-enforced break.
On Saturday, Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello will start from second on the grid with their Audi R10 TDI. The two other diesel-powered sports cars from Ingolstadt will go into the race from the second and the third rows of the grid. Last year’s winners Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner qualified fourth, the “rookie” team of Lucas Luhr, Alexandre Prémat and Mike Rockenfeller fifth.
With positions two, four and five, Audi has achieved a very good basis for the “race of the year”. The three Audi R10 TDI sports cars also ran without major problems on Thursday evening. All three cars were disassembled and rebuilt after the first qualifying session on Wednesday. In the second qualifying session they were already running in their race configuration.
Similar changeable weather conditions as during the two days of qualifying are forecast for the race which will start on Saturday at 3 p.m.
Quotes after qualifying
Dr Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Motorsport): “The feedback of our drivers was only positive: We found a good set-up for all three cars for both wet and dry conditions. We are quite satisfied and worked as concentrated as possible for the race. Looking at the drivers and the many fans around the track we are definitely not hoping for rain – but if it comes we are well prepared.”
Dindo Capello (Audi R10 TDI #2): “Over the past two evenings we have tested our car in every type of weather and track condition. We have experienced our car in the dry, on a damp track and on a very wet surface so I believe we are well prepared for all eventualities in the race regarding the weather and this makes me quite confident. Personally I’d prefer a dry race as Le Mans is already difficult and challenging in dry conditions but if it is wet, especially at night, it can become very dangerous. We have a good car for the race and are a strong team and I’m really looking forward to the challenge again.”
Tom Kristensen (Audi R10 TDI #2): “We’ve had mixed weather over the past two days in qualifying but we have been fast throughout. Well done to Allan on Wednesday shortly before midnight. Our car has been good in all conditions including tonight. We are therefore well prepared and well motivated and know we have a strong, fast and reliable race car and know we can take the fight to anyone while hoping that ‘Lady Luck’ will help us on our way. But for me it’s just great to be back here at Le Mans and with the Audi team and in the Audi R10 TDI cockpit.”
Allan McNish (Audi R10 TDI #2): “Tonight’s session remained wet throughout as predicted and this allowed us to complete many ‘wet’ combinations on our car while importantly all three drivers accumulated a good number of laps tonight. The car was very well balanced and felt nice allowing us to be consistently quick in those varying conditions. Ultimately I ended up fastest in the session and we are all eagerly looking forward to the race with a lot of optimism of continuing Audi’s success here at Le Mans. I would like to add my congratulations to Stephane Sarrazin for his pole-position.”
Frank Biela (Audi R10 TDI #1): “Owing to the weather we were qualifying in conditions that we haven’t seen for a long time. Hence we were not able to improve on the second day. On Thursday, the track was permanently wet to some degree. But it was very important to find a decent set-up also for these conditions as it is very likely that the conditions will be similar during the weekend. There were no changes to the previous overall classification in qualifying. The car runs well and I am pleased with the set-up as well. Now we have to wait how the weekend evolves.”
Emanuele Pirro (Audi R10 TDI #1): “Today has been a good day for us. We did a few changes to the car, and now our R10 TDI is very easy and fast to drive under all conditions. I am satisfied with the work done so far and confident for the race.”
Marco Werner (Audi R10 TDI #1): “Due to the fact that rain at Le Mans is more or less new to me, today’s qualifying session under these circumstances was very important for me. It would have been nice to test also some time in the dry to work on a perfect set-up for dry conditions. For the forecasted weather, however, we are very well prepared and we expect a tough fight with Peugeot during the race.”
Lucas Luhr (Audi R10 TDI #3): “It was very interesting. Due to the weather situation we could not improve our times of yesterday. That was a little disappointing, because we would have liked to be a little further towards the front. This would have been possible. But it was very important to drive in the wet, in heavy rain and on a drying track. We have learned a lot for the race and we did a lot of set-up work. We are now looking forward to the start of the race.”
Alexandre Prémat (Audi R10 TDI #3): “I am very pleased. Lucas, Rocky and myself are fifth on the grid. We got to know the circuit really well. We weren’t able to do a single typical qualifying lap as it was raining and dried out only slowly. We have gathered a lot of experience. We are the youngest Audi driver line-up and are gaining more and more confidence.”
Mike Rockenfeller (Audi R10 TDI #3): “We can be very happy. Alexandre was driving a lot, after that I could drive a lot in the dark. The track was wet all the time, so we could not improve our lap times from yesterday. But it was important that we all got a lot of laps and experience also in the rain. We are well prepared for the race. I am very happy and I hope that all will work very well.”
Ralf Jüttner (Technical Director Audi Sport Team Joest): “All nine drivers are happy with the set-up of their cars and are able to do fast lap times under all conditions. Today we have learned a lot about rain set-up for our R10 TDI. And if you believe in the weather forecast, this will be of good use during the race. We also learned that Peugeot is fast under all circumstances as well. So the fans can look forward to an exciting race.”
The starting grid
1 Lamy/Sarrazin/Bourdais (Peugeot) 3m 26.344s
2 Capello/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 26.916s
3 Gene/Minassian/Villeneuve (Peugeot) 3m 27.724s
4 Biela/Pirro/Werner (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 28.301s
5 Luhr/Prémat/Rockenfeller (Audi R10 TDI) 3m 29.736s
6 Collard/Boullion/Dumas (Pescarolo-Judd) 3m 33.590s
7 Gounon/Moreau/Johansson (Courage-AER) 3m 35.171s
8 Barbosa/Hall/Short (Pescarolo-Judd) 3m 35.559s
9 Lammers/Hart/Bleekemolen (Dome-Judd) 3m 35.660s
10 Campell-Walter/Ortiz/Nakano (Creation-Judd) 3m 36.279s
- Audi Media