Qualifying: Capello nicks pole as Audi rules

Just as works Audi driver Tom Kristensen began to believe his Wednesday qualifying time would be good enough for the pole position for the 69th Le Mans 24 Hours, Rinaldo Capello banged in the time he knew he had been capable of all along and placed the lesser-fancied of the two works R8s on top of the pile for this weekend's enduro classic

Qualifying: Capello nicks pole as Audi rules

Audi had kept its powder dry in the first of Thursday's pair of two-hour timed sessions, but in the opening minutes of the second segment, with cool air, but a fast-cooling track, the Italian fitted the soft Michelins (not a qualifier, he insisted...) and rattled off a lap of 1m32.429s - just 0.029s quicker than Kristensen's Wednesday benchmark.

Kristensen, running nearer to race trim than the Capello car, attempted to counter his team mate's time, but punctured and strayed onto the dirt, before limping back to the pits. Game over for a surprised Dane, who believed that with race engines now fitted, the Joest-run works cars would be looking at race set-ups, not all-out qualifying speed.

A grinning and totally unrepentant Capello maintained that pole should always have been his anyway, saying: "Yesterday (Wednesday) I felt a big potential in my car. I knew I had to try again today.

"I had a problem with an LMP 675 car on my fast lap, and my dash display wasn't working either, but when I saw the time on the big screen as I drove past, I thought 'now my work is done'."

Kristensen, along with car mates Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro, is the defending champion, but Capello believes that he, Laurent Aiello and Christian Pescatori can put up a real fight in the race itself, yet should be watching out for the unexpected.

"We're driving a very quick car - the quickest on the track," he said, "but in a 24-hour race, you never know what can happen. To win the race, you have to finish the race."

Kristensen shrugged off his disappointment, saying: "I had a small off due to the puncture, but I was running in race conditions, so I wasn't really expecting to go for a time anyway."

Four Audi R8s will start the race, with all of them in the top five. The 2001-spec Champion-run car of Johnny Herbert/Didier Theys/Ralf Kelleners starts third, with the 2000-spec Gulf Johansson car in fifth. Between them, the Racing for Holland Dome continued to impress, improving its time to 3m34.838s with team boss Jan Lammers at the wheel.

Before the closing minutes of the first two-hour segment, the Johansson car had failed to better eighth on the grid, but team owner Stefan pulled out the stops and cranked out a lap that pushed it to fifth, despite light rain falling on parts of the Mulsanne Straight.

The Chrysler-Mopar of Wendlinger/Beretta/Lamy failed to improve on its Wednesday time, but clung on to sixth after a night of 'what ifs?' for Martin Brundle and the lead Bentley.

Twice Brundle looked like moving up from an overnight sixth, but twice he was baulked by slower cars on his flying laps and in the end fell to seventh, thanks to Johansson's promotion.

In the second of the two British Racing Green Speed 8s, Andy Wallace fell from seventh to ninth, thanks to Cadillac getting its act together and getting the Bernard/Collard/Goossens car into eighth.

Local marque Courage completed the top 10, with the Peugeot-powered car of Gache/Policand/Beltoise edging out the second of the three Chryslers and the second Cadillac.

In the LMP675 Class, Anthony Reid and the fast, but potentially fragile MG continued to impress. The Chamberlain-run team kept its powder dry in the first two-hour chunk, but let Reid loose after team mates Jonny Kane and Warren Hughes had completed the requisite number of laps to enable them to start.

"I can't tell you how good this MG chassis is," enthused Reid of his Lola-built machine. "It's sensational. This is the first time we've run at proper racing speeds and it's unquestionably the best sportscar I've ever driven."

In the end, Reid was 14th overall, faster than several LMP900 cars and over two seconds quicker than the second LMP675 entry - the second MG.

Oliver Gavin held the provisional pole for the Speedlab Saleen team after Wednesday's sessions, but made sure of it with an improvement early in the Thursday thrash. Ron Fellows' Corvette stayed second in class, despite not improving its time after its Wednesday shunt.

In the GT Class, the lone Callaway among the Porsches improved its time by nearly three seconds, putting over 1.5s between itself and the first of the Porker armada.

Friday is a rest day at the track, with teams honing and double-checking in preparation for Saturday's 4pm (local time, 15:00 BST) start.

For full results click here.



shares
comments
Gavin drops the hammer for GTS pole

Previous article

Gavin drops the hammer for GTS pole

Next article

Warm-up: Pescatori's turn at the top

Warm-up: Pescatori's turn at the top
Load comments
The standout memories of Le Mans 2021 Plus

The standout memories of Le Mans 2021

OPINION: With four of the five Hypercar entries unproven in a 24-hour race, it would not have been unexpected for at least one of them to suffer serious reliability trouble. That they all managed to make it through the race relatively unscathed, says GARY WATKINS, was something of a surprise.

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked Plus

Why Toyota's Le Mans victory was not as simple as it looked

Toyota scored its fourth Le Mans 24 Hours victory and a 1-2, with the #7 car of Kamui Kobayashi, Mike Conway and Jose Maria Lopez beating the #8. But although it looked straightforward from the outside, Toyota faced serious problem that had to be solved with some quick-thinking and ingenuity

Le Mans
Aug 24, 2021
How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks Plus

How overlooked Mazda produced one of Le Mans' greatest shocks

The screaming rotary-engined Mazda 787 is regarded as one of the most popular Le Mans 24 Hours-winning cars, but until its surprise success on this day 30 years ago it was never regarded as a likely victor. But that reckoned without a new technical partner, some canny political manoeuvring and a rival's bizarre self-inflicted weakness

WEC
Aug 22, 2021
Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse? Plus

Can Toyota's #7 crew break its Le Mans curse?

One Toyota, normally with the number 7 on the side, always seems to attract the bad luck in the Le Mans 24 Hours. Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez are hoping for a change in fortune this time around, but face significantly more unknowns than in recent years

Le Mans
Aug 19, 2021
Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow Plus

Why Glickenhaus should be taken seriously on its Le Mans bow

Many were quick to dismiss Glickenhaus when the boutique American sportscar firm's entry into the top class of the Le Mans 24 Hours was announced. It's all-new LMH racer, powered by an engine built by a rally specialist, goes in as the underdog against Toyota but the mathematical odds suggest that it has more than just a faint hope of success

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
The Asian underdog taking on the mighty GT factories at Le Mans Plus

The Asian underdog taking on the mighty GT factories at Le Mans

The rising HubAuto team steps up to GTE Pro at Le Mans this year for an ambitious bid to take on the three works giants – and has every reason to be optimistic of achieving its goal in becoming the first privateer on the podium since 2016

Le Mans
Aug 18, 2021
How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car Plus

How 1971's benchmark Le Mans team lost with the best car

The JW Automotive Engineering team won twice at the Le Mans 24 Hours with ageing Fords and were considered heavy favourites to add more victories to its tally after partnering with Porsche. But despite being armed with the all-conquering 917, this formidable combination was never as successful in real life as on the big screen

Le Mans
Aug 14, 2021
Why Argentina’s current great isn’t motivated by emulating Fangio Plus

Why Argentina’s current great isn’t motivated by emulating Fangio

Having twice missed out on Formula 1 and reinvented himself as a touring car driver, Jose Maria Lopez has had a rocky ride to becoming a four-time world champion. One more would put him level with his nation's favourite son, but there's another prize he would value far more than the honour of matching Juan Manuel Fangio's tally

WEC
Aug 14, 2021