Official test (PM): Capello throws down gauntlet

Works Audi driver Rinaldo Capello comfortably set the fastest time at the end of today's (Sunday's) official test session for this year's Le Mans 24 hour race, giving rivals a clear reminder that the Ingolstadt marque is gunning for glory for a second consecutive year in June's race

Official test (PM): Capello throws down gauntlet

Audis scored a dominant one-two-three at Le Mans last year and look set to be the cars to beat again this year after Capello smashed the 2000 pole time by almost four seconds in his Joest Audi Sport R8. His team mate Tom Kristensen was within a tenth of the Italian.

"The car's running beautifully," said Kristensen. "I think we went better [than last year's pole] partly because of the weather - we had the wind behind us on the Mulsanne - but also because we've found some little improvements in the car since last year."

Audi would have monopolised the top three again today, if it weren't for an impressive performance from Le Mans returnee Bentley, which is competing at La Sarthe after an absence of more than 70 years.

Former Grand Prix driver Martin Brundle took over from team mate Stephane Ortelli during the afternoon session and times tumbled as teams bolted on softer race rubber towards the end of the day. But Brundle managed to give the team a huge boost by putting in a best time of 3m34.050s, just over a second shy of Capello's time.

In second place came the Champion Audi squad and despite Johnny Herbert being the team's quickest driver for much of the day, it was Ralf Kelleners who capitalised on the cooler evening conditions and soft rubber to put in the quicker time.

A mightily impressive performance from the privateer Racing for Holland team put Jan Lammers in fourth spot and with an unmatched straight line speed, the squad's Judd-powered Dome chassis is clearly promises great things.

Frank Biela took fifth spot in the second Joest Audi while Stefan Johansson, who had topped the morning time in his Gulf-backed car, made it four R8s in the top six.

MG enjoyed a slightly more prosperous afternoon after completing very few laps during the morning session. Jonny Kane managed to complete a handful of flying laps in the impressive looking Lola EX257, albeit almost 10 seconds off the pace - early days for the Chamberlain-run team.

In the GTS class, it was all about Saleen, and Oliver Gavin just pipped Johnny Mowlem to the top spot in his Speed lab car. Mowlem put in an impressive performance to lap his RML-run car to within just 0.024s of Gavin's time.


Rinaldo Capello, Joest Audi Sport, Audi R8, 3m32.742s
Ralf Kelleners, Champion Racing, Audi R8, 3m33.205s
Martin Brundle, Team Bentley, Bentely EXP Speed 8, 3m34.050s
Jan Lammers, Racing for Holland, Dome-Judd, 3m34.883s
Frank Biela, Audi Sport, Audi R8, 3m34.915s
Stefan Johansson, Johansson Racing Gulf, Audi R8, 3m35.124s
Andy Wallace, Team Bentley, Bentely EXP Speed 3m36.329s
Yannick Dalmas, Oreca, Chrysler LMP, 3m36.988s
Sebastien Bourdais, Pescarolo Sport, Courage-Peugeot C60, 3m37.542s
Werner Lupberger, Ascari, Ascari-Judd, 3m38.399s

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Official test (AM): Johansson leads early running
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