Wednesday qual: Kristensen heads Audi 1-2-3

Audi failed in its quest to totally dominate the first evening of qualifying for the Le mans 24 Hours - but only just... With Thursday's two sessions still to run, a trio of the German marque's R8s fill the top three places on the grid, with the fourth still in touch in eighth

Wednesday qual: Kristensen heads Audi 1-2-3

The works car of Tom Kristensen/Emanuele Pirro/Frank Biela sits on provisional pole, just ahead of the sister entry of Laurent Aiello/Rinaldo Capello/Christian Pescatori, but both suffered niggles during the second session.

Kristensen set a lap time of 3m32.458s early in the second, cooler two-hour session, but was prevented from dipping further below last year's pole of 1m36.124s by an electrical misfire.

"The chassis balance was good," said Kristensen, "but I saw a flash on the dash. Maybe it was the electrics, but they'll track it down, no problem."

Capello put his silver machine 1.056s further back and handed over to Pescatori. However, a power steering problem prevented much running in the final hour of the session.

Those niggles are unlikely to knock the Ingolstadt steamroller out of its stride. And with rain showers forecast for tomorrow evening, Wednesday's provisional grid may soon take on a more definitive feel.

"Okay it's provisional pole. I hope it snows tomorrow," said Kristensen. "But Dindo has pointed out that he's pretty quick in the snow..."

Champion Racing's R8 grabbed the third spot, with Ralf Kelleners setting the time. Later in the session, Johnny Herbert got a taste of the car, which is to the same 2001-spec as the factory-entered duo, in the darkness.

Jan Lammers' Racing for Holland Dome-Judd kept its best of the rest status, but dropped a position to fourth. The Dutchman tried for an improvement in the opening minutes of the session, knocking off three tenths, but stopped after the Dunlop Bridge with an hour of the session to run.

The Oreca-run Chrysler-Mopar LMPs showed potential, with fifth and 10th on the grid, and relegated the Bentleys to sixth and seventh on the grid. It was a disappointment for the British Racing Green machines, especially since they'd worked on the assumption that tomorrow would be wet - meaning Wednesday was the night for sticky rubber and a shot at pole.

Brundle went out early in the second session, but punctured on the Mulsanne and spun into the gravel at Mulsanne Corner (see separate story). The car was out later in the session, but with the track cooling rapidly and darkness fallen, its first session time would stand.

Stefan Johannson's Gulf Audi was eighth, ahead of the Jerome Policand/Anthony Beltoise/Philippe Gache Courage.

MG's excellent speed in the first session came to a juddering halt in the second, with Anthony Reid stopping out on the circuit with suspected fuel pressure problems and seeing the car slip to 14th in the order. There was better news for the second of the Chamberlain-run machines, which managed to put in enough of a run to grab 17th.

"It was pretty frustrating," said Reid. "Suddenly we didn't seem to have any petrol. Pity, really, because the car feels superb."

Oliver Gavin took the provisional GTS Class pole in the Saleen-Allen Speedlab-entered S7R, a full 1.362s faster than the Corvette C5R of Ron Fellows, which was badly damaged in an accident at the second chicane, but should be back in full working order for Thursday.

The sole Callaway C12-R of Vic Rice, Shane Lewis and Bob Mazzuoccola clung on to take the provisionla pole in the Porsche-dominated GT class and could be another to benefit if the forecast showers materialise tomorrow evening.


1 (900) T Kristensen, E Pirro, F Biela, Audi R8, Joest Audi Sport, 3m32.458s
2 (900) R Capello/L Aiello/C Pescatori, Audi R8, Joest Audi Sport, 3m33.514s
3 (900) J Herbert/R Kelleners/D Theys, Audi R8, Champion Racing, 3m34.349s
9 (900) J lammers/V Hillebrand/D Crevels, Dome-Judd S101, Racing For Holland, 3m36.031s
16 (900) O Beretta/K Wendlinger/P Lamy, Chrysler-Mopar LMP, ORECA Chrysler, 3m36.155s
7 (GTP) M Brundle/S Ortelli/G Smith, Bentley EXP Speed 8, Team Bentley, 3m36.535s*
8 (GTP) E van der Poele/A Wallace/B Leitzinger, Bentley EXP Speed 8, Team Bentley, 3m37.408s
4 (900) T Coronel/S Johansson/P Lemarie, Audi R8, Johanssen Racing (Arena), 3m37.451s
19 (900) Ph Gache/A Beltoise/J Policano, Courage-Judd C60, SMG Racing, 3m38.746s
(900) Y Dalmas/F Montagny/S Sarrazin, Chrysler-Mopar LMP, ORECA Chrysler, 3m38.814s

Fastest class times
No, Drivers, Car, Team, Time

1 T Kristensen, E Pirro, F Biela, Audi R8, Joest Audi Sport, 3m32.458s

7 M Brundle/S Ortelli/G Smith, Bentley EXP Speed 8, Team Bentley, 3m36.535s*

33 A Reid/W Hughes/J Kane, MG-Lola EX257, MG Sport (Chamberlain), 3m42.065s*

60 F Konrad/O Gavin/T Borcheller, Saleen-Ford S7R, Saleen-Allen Speedlab, 3m54.190s

70 B Mazzuoccola/V Rice/C Wagner, Callaway C12-R, Michael Colucci Racing, 4m13.063s

*Time set in first session


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