Friday 14 June 2019

Le Mans: Thursday Qualifying

Qualifying Session 2 of 3.

Track temp 27.2C Air temp 20.6C

In the opening laps after the green flag at 7pm, under clear sky and sunshine, Toyota discovered some pace, with Kobayashi lapping in 3:15.497 in the #7 Toyota and 3:15.908 for Nakajima in #8 Toyota. At the same time the #11 SMP with Aleshin at the wheel, did a lap of 3:16.953 and Sarrazin in the sister car #17 SMP 3:17.437. 

At 7:20pm there was a spin for Laurent in #3 Rebellion at Dunlop he rejoined but it was not the end of his problems. Jani put in a flying lap of 3:19.748 in the #1 Rebellion, but at the same time, Laurent in the #3 Rebellion gave out heavy smoke then dropped oil around the circuit and came to rest just after Mulsanne corner. The clean-up brought out a Red Flag at 7:27pm.

During the Red Flag period, the #4 ByKolles was being worked on in pit garage, reported to have brake problems. The #99 Porsche was seen in pitlane but evidently Tracy Krohn will not drive after his accident on Wednesday and the car was withdrawn. 

The session restarted at 7:50pm after a 23 minute stoppage. Jani in #1 Rebellion did a time of 3:17.313 on his first flying lap after the restart, putting the car in 4th place overall behind the #11 SMP.

At 8:07 the #3 Rebellion was being pushed down the pitlane by pit crew and was swiftly back into pit garage for repairs. At 8:11pm Konopka the #49 ARC Bratislava Ligier went into gravel at Mulsanne corner but rejoined.

Spin for Vanthoor at Mulsanne corner in the #92 Porsche at 8:20pm brought a brief local yellow. A moment later Flohr in #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari had a similar exit in the same place. We suspected that maybe some residue from the oil from earlier could be catching drivers out.

Going into the final 30 minutes, there was activity in the #36 Signatech Alpine garage as the Gibson engine appeared to be worked on. At 8:31pm, Ben Keating in the Ford GT #85 was another visitor to the gravel at Mulsanne corner and rejoined. At 8:38pm the #70 Ferrari was given a 3 minute stop and hold penalty for constant abuse of track limits. 

At 8:50pm Christensen in the #92 Porsche went quickest in GTE Pro with a lap of 3:49.388. At the same time, Antonio Garcia in the #63 Corvette improved to 3:49.424 putting it 2nd in GTE Pro. At 8:53 Dillmann in the #4 ByKolles improved the time for the car by 2 seconds with a lap of 3:23.726, but remained 8th in LMP1. Bruni in #91 Porsche put in a lap of 3:49.921 in the closing minutes taking the car to 5th in GTE Pro from 7th.

At the chequered flag of qualifying session 2.

GTE Am: 1st #88 Proton Porsche 2nd #56 Team Project 1 Porsche 3rd #54 Spirit of race Ferrari 
GTE Pro: 1st #92 Porsche  3:49.388 2nd #63 Corvette 3rd #67 Ford GT  
LMP2: 1st #31 DragonSpeed 3:26.490 2nd #38 JCDC Racing 3rd #36 Signatech Alpine 
LMP1: 1st Toyota #7 3:15.497 2nd #8  Toyota  3rd #11 SMP_Racing.

Qualifying Session 3 of 3.

Track temp 22.8C Air temp 17.7C

In the break we learned that the #86 Gulf Porsche needed a gearbox change and aimed to be ready by end of the session.

The final qualifying session went green at 10pm on a dry track. There was a flurry of purple sectors and quickest lap times in the first 15 minutes. In their first flying laps there was a 3:16.159 for Orudzhev in SMP #17 and 3:16.858 for Vandoorne in sister car #11. At the same moment also 3:25.503 for Duval in TDS #28 quickest in LMP2. Sorensen in #95 Aston 3:48.000 quickest GTE Pro and Cairoli in #88 fastest in GTE Am 3:51.439.

Catsburg in BMW #81 went off into the gravel at Ford chicane bringing out a slow zone and a temporary halt to quick lap times. The car was craned out of the gravel and the track went green again at 10:16pm.

There was a Full Course Yellow at 10:29pm to replace the flexible bollards known as 'floppies' at the Indianapolis / Arnage complex. We went green again at 10:33pm.

At 10:39, Lamy in #98 Aston Martin got stuck in the gravel at the 1st chicane on the Mulsanne after (we suspect) being caught out by cold tyres after pitstop. Meanwhile, Senna in the Rebellion #1 was stopped at Arnage with engine failure and evidently oil left on track. A red flag was called at 10:40pm to recover the #95 and clean up the oil from #1. The track went green at 10:56pm. Shortly after the green flag, Menezes put in a lap of 3:16.404 in #3 Rebellion to put the car up to 4th overall.

Maldonado in #31 Dragonspeed stopped at Mulsanne corner at 11:03pm causing a local slow zone. He got going again and returned to pits. At 11:17 the #86 Porsche was back out as predicted after gearbox change with Preining at the wheel.

By 11:30pm, all drivers had now done their night laps. Hedman in #10 was the last to do so.

With 16 minutes remaining Garcia put in a lap of 3:48.830 to put the #63 Corvette 3rd quickest in GTE Pro. Five minutes later Preining in #86 Gulf Porsche moved up to third in GTE Am with a time of 3:51.944. At 11:50 there was an improvement for Christensen in #92 Porsche 3:49.196 6th fastest in GTE Pro.

At 11:51 Lapierre set a lap of 3:25.874 #36 Signatech Alpine at 11:51 4th fastest in LMP2. Meanwhile, a lap of 3:49.116 for Muller put the #68 Ford GT up to 6th in GTE Pro.

At the chequered flag:

In LMP1 the #7 Toyota Hybrid takes overall pole with #8 Toyota Hybrid 2nd and  #17 SMP_Racing in 3rd.
In LMP2 #39 Graff Racing on pole from #28 TDS Racing with #31 DragonSpeed in 3rd 
In GTE Pro #95 Aston Martin on pole from #67 Ford GT and #63 Corvette in 3rd.
In GTE Am #88 Dempsey Proton Porsche on pole from #77 Dempsey Proton Porsche with #86 Gulf Racing Porsche in 3rd.

Text: Dave Davies
Pictures: Kristof Vermeulen & JellyBaby.Media

Postscript: The LMP2 pole-sitting #39 Graff Oreca had all its times deleted for the 3rd session because Capillaire ignored the light on the weighbridge at pit entry. This will put them 14th in class on the grid on Saturday.