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June 9th, 2010
The three works Peugeot 908s and the factory-supported ORECA entry held the top four positions at the end of the opening practice session ahead of this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
Audi’s R15 Plus is a clear improvement over last year’s car but it has yet to equal the Peugeots’ pace around the Circuit de la Sarthe, with the Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello, Allan McNish car best of the rest in fifth.
After the drama of the opening hour, as the Peugeot drivers outdid one another with a string of ever faster times, the session settled down with the majority of teams content to work through their pre-planned programmes.
Loic Duval kicked off the final hour by breaking into the 3m21s bracket, half a second under the previous quickest time. The ORECA Peugeot topped the list for another three laps before Franck Montagny led the factory’s response, finally delivering a sizzling 3m20.034s on the last lap of his stint – a second and a half faster than Duval.
Montagny subsequently revealed that he had been using the same set of tyres over three stints.
With 15 minutes to run, Stephane Sarrazin took over from Montagny, and Sebastien Bourdais got in the #3 car in a final battle for the top, but although Bourdais improved his car’s time it was not enough to clinch the number one spot.
Nicolas Lapierre completed the session in the ORECA Peugeot but did not beat Duval’s time. The Wurz/Gene/Davidson car which set the initial pace ended the session in fourth.
The best Audi could manage was 3m23.935s, nearly four seconds off the quickest lap of the day.
Aston Martin’s Lola-based coupes finished best of the petrol-powered cars, behind the factory Audis. The Hancock/Turner/Barazi and Fernandez/Mucke/Primat entries ended the session eighth and ninth.
Greg Mansell took six seconds off the previous fastest time set by the Beechdean Ginetta-Zytek he shares with father Nigel and brother Leo. 3m35.500s was quick enough to lift the car from the bottom of the LMP1 list.
David Brabham was the class of the field in LMP2. Even his own team-mates couldn’t match his fastest time of 3m38.691s in the Highcroft HPD ARX-01c. Danny Watts and Jonny Kane ran Brabham close in the rival Strakka entry, which finished one position behind in 19th overall, on 3m38.825s, but team-mate Nick Leventis spun and damaged the car slightly on his out-lap after the session was restarted.
Aston Martin remained untouchable in GT1. No other car came close to the 3m56.839s set by the #52 DBR9 shared by Peter Kox, Tomas Enge and Cristoffer Nygaard. The #72 Luc Alphand Aventures Chevrolet Corvette C6.R was 2.913s behind and the Ford GTs suffered all manner of problems: Rahel Frey spun and damaged the rear of the #61 car against the barriers and the de Doncker/Leinders/Palttala entry continued to suffer electrical problems.
Chevrolet topped the closely contested GT2 category. The #64 Corvette shared by Emmanuel Collard, Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin led by a good margin on 4m00.888s. The #63 Magnussen/O’Connell/Garcia sister car was beaten to second in class by the #77 Lieb/Lietz/Henzler Felbermayr Porsche. Just four seconds separated the top 10 in the GT2 class.
Times to follow