Same again for Audi in session two

Audi continued its domination of Le Mans qualifying in the second, dusk-to-night session held on Wednesday evening. The order swapped round, with Rinaldo Capello putting his R8 on provisional pole, but it was still business as usual when the silver machines took another one-two-three at a seeming canter

Same again for Audi in session two

Audi set its times early in the session on an extremely slippery track, the Joest-run squad switching to fine-tuning its race set-ups after less than 30 minutes of the two-hour session had been completed, but the message was obvious: there's more to come if necessary. But with its nearest rival, the lead Panoz of Brabham/Magnussen/Andretti, some 1.633s off the pole pace, it's unlikely that Audi will have to unleash its real qualifying firepower.

"I don't think I've ever had such a clear lap of Le Mans," said Capello. "There was one car at the last corner, so hopefully Ican go even quicker tomorrow."

If its rivals are looking for chinks in the Audi armour, then a morsel was thrown to them late in the session, when the Capello Audi suffered an engine failure. And if a precedent is required to further raise hopes, Toyota's domination of testing and qualifying in the 1999 24 Hours made them odds-on favourites too, but was followed by heartbreak and failure in the race itself.

Second fastest of the Audis was the Pirro/Biela/Kristensen machine, a miniscule 0.072s from Capello's time. Allan McNish, fastest in the third session, took his R8 to third, a further 0.058s adrift.

"I reckon my fastest lap was even better than my fastest lap in pre-qualifying," said McNish, "but the track's just so slippery, even now as it's cooled down. We started the session at 10 o'clock and we've basically been looking at our race set-up since 10.15. We made a lot of progress on the car and we can take the pole tomorrow."

Panoz played the numbers game, putting four of its cars in the top 10, with two Lolas and a single Reynard completing the makes in the top 10. Panoz team leader David Brabham stressed that, like Audi, it would be putting the bulk of its efforts into its race set-up.

"We had a better balance on the car than we had in testing," said Brabham, "however there are still a few areas that we need to work on. I bolted on a set of qualifying tyres, but it didn't really matter because we were mainly working on race set-up. I don't think we'll close the gap to Audi, but we're definitely the next best, which is where we were aiming for."

In the other classes, the ROC Reynard-Volkswagen of Deletraz/Kelleners/Terrien was fastest of the LMP675 runners; the ORECA Chrysler Viper of Beretta/Wendlinger/Dupuy took provisional GTS honours, and the Dick Barbour Racing Porsche GT3 R of Muller/Luhr/Wollek claimed top spot in the GT Class.

Two more two-hour qualifying sessions take place today (Thursday) at 1900 -2100 (1800 - 2000 BST) and 2200 - 2400 (2100 - 2300 BST) to determine the final grid for the 2000 Le Mans 24 Hours.

Pos No Driver Car Time

7, Michele Alboreto, Christian Abt, Rinaldo Capello, Audi R8, 3:37.523
8, Frank Biela, Tom Kristensen, Emanuele Pirro, Audi R8, 3:37.595
9, Laurent Aiello, Allan McNish, Stephane Ortelli, Audi R8 3:37.653
11, David Brabham, Jan Magnussen, Mario Andretti, Panoz Spyder LMP, 3:39.156
12, Hiroki Katoh, Johnny O'Connell, Pierre-Henri Rapanel, Panoz Spyder LMP, 3:41.359
21, Mimmo Schiattarella, Didier de Radiguez, Emanuele Naspetti, Lola-Judd B2K, 3:42.188
20, Jan Lammers, Peter Kox, Tom Coronel, Lola-Ford B2K, 3:43.584
24, Stefan Johansson, Jim Matthews, Guy Smith, Reynard 2KQ, 3:44.012
23, Takaji Suzuki, Masahiko Kageyama, Masami Kageyama, Panoz Spyder LMP, 3:44.599
22, Takeshi Tsuchiya, Masahiko Kondoh, Akira Iida, Panoz Roadster S, 3:44.627

Full results to follow.

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