Final qualifying: Kristensen holds pole
Tom Kristensen's flying lap from Friday stayed unbeaten after the final qualifying session for the Le Mans 24 hours. This ensured an all-Bentley front-row for Saturday and Sunday's 71st running of the famous endurance race
The Dane's brilliant 3m32.843s lap kept the number seven car over two seconds ahead of the number eight sister car. No Audi ever looked able to threaten the leading Bentley time, although they were all within two seconds of the second British machine.
The pole lap (about three seconds slower than Rinaldo Capello's Audi R8 pole from last year) was of great satisfaction for Kristensen: "I've lost the pole late in qualifying in the last two years, so its great to qualify on pole. But, like everyone, we forget about grid positions come 4pm on Saturday."
Significant improvements in the final two hours came only from the Audi UK car with a lap set in virtual darkness by Frank Biela, which shot them into third. Jan Lammers continued to spoil the VW Group party by taking his much-improved Dome-Judd to fourth, ahead of the two R8's that didn't improve in a quiet last session. Thus the Audi Japan and Champion Racing cars were left with fifth and sixth spots.
"We can't compete with the Bentleys in qualifying," said JJ Lehto of Champion Racing, speaking for many frontrunners who settled for working on race setup in the late session. The main question in the race will be the balance between Bentley's outright speed and Audi's better fuel and tyre mileage.
Ferraris continued to rule the roost in the GTS category, although there were a few fears when timing monitors mistakenly credited one of the Corvettes with a time good for ninth on the overall grid. As in the top class, the leading car didn't need to improve, with Tomas Enge's lap in the 550 Maranello comfortably quickest in class.
Although the works Corvettes will be third and fourth behind the red cars, their times were not far off those of the Ferraris. While the Maranellos may be marginally faster, the relatively undeveloped machines will be up against the trusted and strong Corvette machines.
The DBA-Zetec had no trouble holding on to the LMP 675 class pole, in spite of throttle linkage troubles keeping them in the pits for a long while. However, nearest rival Lola-MG did significantly close the gap to two seconds.
Porsche 911 GT3-RS's are first, second and third in the Gtcategory, comfortably ahead of the Ferrari 360 Modena challengers.
As the session closed the pole winning car appeared in the pits with evidence of a close call out on the track. Stripes of blue, possibly Porsche, paint could be seen down the off-side of the green machine, the team has made no comment about how it came to be there, so far...
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