Kristensen and co in confident mood

Last year's winners of the Le Mans 24 hour race, Tom Kristensen, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, are in confident mood after the Audi trio set the pace in Wednesday's first qualifying session

Kristensen and co in confident mood

The Audis have never looked like they were going to surrender their position at the top and although Kristensen attributed his fastest lap to steering clear of any traffic, that perhaps masks the true pace of the car. The Dane's benchmark time, was some 3.6s faster than last year's pole.

"Frank and Emanuele dialled the car in very quickly," said Kristensen. "I had a few runs on new tyres. The best one was just after 10pm. It was my first flying lap and it was almost clear. That doesn't happen often at Le Mans, so I am very pleased."

With the Joest team fitting both cars with their race engines for the second set of sessions on Thursday evening, the times are unlikely to improve, in spite of cooler conditions. But Rinaldo Capello, who shares the second works R8 with Christian Pescatori and Laurent Aiello believes they may yet be able to challenge for pole.

"The potential of the car is very high," said Capello. "I set my own fastest time on race tyres and I'm hoping that I'll be in a position to fight for pole position on Thursday."

Pescatori has joined the Joest team late, and replaces the late Michele Alboreto. The Italian has only driven the car once before, but is tapping into a wealth of experience, including two previous appearances at Le Mans, to settle into the team.

"I am beginning to know the car better and already feel very comfortable," said Pescatori. "I ran with a lot of fuel on Wednesday and race tyres because for me it is important to get into the right rhythm for the race."

Johnny Herbert is hoping for greater things from his Champion Racing privateer Audi, which he shares with Ralf Kelleners and Didier Theys. Kelleners set the fastest time to put the Champion car third, but Herbert is set to go faster in the daylight on Thursday.

"I was only driving during the night time this evening (Wednesday)," said Herbert. "But it was very good and I'm confident that in the daylight on Thursday, it will be even better."

The Gulf-backed car run by Johansson Racing was the disappointment of the session. Former Formula 1 man turned sportscar team owner Stefan Johansson set the fastest time in the morning session of prequalifying in May, but is hoping to improve from eighth place on Wednesday. Team mate Tom Coronel set the fastest time while Patrick Lemarie was thwarted by both seat problems and two slow punctures.

"The car is not as quick as it was at the pre-test last month," said Johansson, "so we'll check the data so we can improve on Thursday."

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Thursday first qual: No change at the top
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