Aston Martin Racing: Fastest of the Petrol Runners on the Le Mans grid

Friday, June 11, 2010

Qualifying for the 78th Le Mans 24 Hours took place tonight from 19:00 to 21:00 and then from 22:00 to midnight. Following some rain during the day, the track was largely damp throughout both sessions, making the 13.4-kilometre circuit extremely slippery.

This meant that the times established during yesterday evening’s qualifying session still stand. Aston Martin 007 was the fastest petrol runner and will start from eighth on the grid for the weekend’s race, thanks to a qualifying time of 3m26.680s set by Stefan Mücke yesterday.

The sister 009 car will line up directly behind it, by virtue of Darren Turner’s benchmark of 3m26.747s, also set yesterday.

Completing Aston Martin’s strong performance in the unofficial petrol class was the 008 car run by French team Signature Plus, with which Franck Mailleux set a time of 3m29.774s yesterday that will put the crew 11th on the grid. For much of the session the 008 car was classified just behind the two Works cars, until it was edged out of 10th in the closing minutes.

Although start position is not so critical in a 24-hour race, during which the cars are expected to cover more than 5000 kilometres in about 360 laps, all the teams are eager to benefit from the prestige of pole position. Once more, the diesel cars enjoyed a significant advantage, although the Aston Martins were still quicker than two of the diesel runners.

Aston Martin’s achievements were not just confined to the premier LMP1 category. Tomas Enge claimed his sixth Le Mans pole position in GT1, at the wheel of the Young Driver AMR DBR9.

The Vantage GT2 run by JMW Motorsport also qualified successfully for the team’s Le Mans debut, and will line up on Saturday’s grid 14th in the class.

“With the drying conditions we had today, the grip was variable and there was no point in taking any risks,” said Stefan Mücke, who set the quickest time in 007. “We were all able to take advantage of the situation to get in some running time in these conditions, in case this is what we experience in the race. But mostly the session allowed us to complete some set-up work and run through some more preparations. Our aim was to be the quickest petrol car and I’m very happy that we’ve achieved this objective so far.”

Darren Turner, who qualified the 009 car, was also pleased by the work the team carried out. “It was very slippery when I first got in this evening, particularly around the Porsche Curves,” he said. “It got a little bit better as more cars dried the track out, but the most important thing was that everyone had more time in the car and so we were able to focus on the race. We really needed the mileage and so it’s great to have as much time as possible in the car in a wide range of conditions.”

Frenchman Franck Mailleux is also feeling confident after going quickest in the 008 car. “Obviously, the conditions tonight meant that we couldn’t improve but it definitely helps us to run with different levels of grip so that we can build up more experience,” he said. “It’s disappointing to just miss out on 10th, but that makes little difference in the overall scheme of things.”

Team Principal George Howard-Chappell concluded: “Really there’s no change from yesterday, but all the drivers did a good job, and there’s no damage to the cars – which have been reliable throughout the sessions held so far. I think all the drivers are well-prepared now, so we’re looking in good shape.”

The 78th Le Mans 24 Hours will get underway at 3pm on Saturday 13 June, with Aston Martin aiming to defend the honour it claimed last year of being the fastest petrol car at the La Sarthe circuit.
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