Team Peugeot Total has locked out the front of the Le Mans grid with the car due to be driven by Anthony Davidson starting in second place after a storming qualifying performance from his co-driver Alex Wurz.
Ahead of them, on pole, will be Sebastian Bourdais’ number three car after the former F1 pilot produced a lap lap of three minutes 19.711 seconds around the 13.6km circuit. The number 2 Peugeot is third.
Following the session, Davidson said: “The experience from last year is very useful because Le Mans is a high-speed circuit, especially for LMP1 cars. The Lola-Aston Martin was close enough to feel the speed.
“The difference between diesel and petrol cars is actually not so huge. You must have a slightly different driving style, but this is very close in feeling. The biggest difference is in high speed corners that you can take much faster.”
He said that, while he was the new guy in his team, he did not feel like a rookie: “Sebring was a good boost for me because I won for my first race with Peugeot, but I still feel underprepared.
“I was a little concerned before yesterday evening because when I first got into the car, the track was full of dirt and then it rained, so I didn’t have too many laps in dry conditions. Fortunately, the track got dry before the end of the session and I could have about ten quick laps and learn the sound of the engine.”
“I think that second on the grid is perfect and that we will be able to catch up very quickly. Le Mans always means traffic. You can gain or lose time with traffic. I drove GT1 cars a few years ago, and I am very happy to be in a LMP1 car now because it is much more fun.”
Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport Technical Director, said of the achievement: “Obviously we’re pleased to have our three cars in the first three places. And given their speed and motivation, pleased also that they achieved their times without incident.
“Sebastien reckons he could have gone quicker, but not by very much. If it rains tomorrow we are in a good position, but we can’t relax vis a vis the competition, I think they didn’t show their full potential.”
The three Audis were cowed by Peugeot’s performance with the Audi Sport North America entry in fifth place behind French LMP1 entrants Team Oreca. Allan McNish’s Audi Sport Team Joest car is due to start sixth.
Following the session, McNish said: “Between yesterday and today everybody worked hard to use the three programmes and bring together some big improvements on the set-ups and the balance of the car.
“Overall Dindo, Tom and I got a bit more of a feeling of what we wanted for a race car in the 24 Hours – which, in our opinion, is more important than the qualifying.”
In seventh and eighth are Aston Martin, with the slower of the two the car that will be piloted by Darren Turner and Sam Hancock. Andy Meyrick’s AIM Team Oreca is tenth and Oliver Jarvis’ Kolles is in 13th.
The all-British Strakka Racing entry is the highest-placed LMP2 car in 14th place with qualifying star Danny Watts saying: “The [LMP2] pole is fantastic and I am really pleased, but this is a very small part of it.
“I had a bit of traffic, but there is always here at Le Mans. The good thing is that the car is easy and very comfortable to drive. I think that we have a very good package for the race.”
LMP1 entry Drayson Racing is in 15th following an engine change, Guy Smith’s Rebellion Racing entry in 16th, Marino Franchitti’s Highcroft Racing in 17th and Beechdean Mansell in 18th. In LMP2, Jonathan Kennard’s KSM car was eighth of 12 in class and 26th overall.
Paul Drayson said: “The team did a great job getting the engine changed and the car ready for qualifying today. We knew we only had a few laps in which to get a time and Jonny did a superb lap just as the light was fading and rain coming in.”
Jonny Cocker added: “We’ve had our issues over the week. We made some good adjustments and we had to quantify them to see how much difference we made so we had a go with a lower fuel load and new Michelin tyres.
“I managed to get one reasonable lap in. We haven’t really shown our hand. It’s a long race. It’s a shame we didn’t have a chance to have a proper go and be up there with the other petrol cars.
“Pace is not the number one priority in this race. We need to concentrate on having a good race car; something we can drive confidently for 24 hours. I feel like we have that.”
In the GT2 class Oliver Gavin’s Corvette will start second in class, behind its team-mate, after the fastest entry from Risi Competizione was disqualified for a wing infringement. Andy Priaulx, driving BMW’s 17th Art Car, is 43rd overall or sixth in class with Scuderia Italia’s Richard Westbrook one place behind him.
The Jaguar RSR entry that includes Ryan Dalziel was the slowest car overall and will start the race from the back.
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