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Ferrari Off To Fast Start

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 10 2010

The Risi Competizione Ferrari had a big day Wednesday at Le Mans. (Photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

Risi Competizione’s quest for a third straight victory for Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans is off to a solid start. Gianmaria Bruni set provisional pole position time for GT2 Wednesday with a lap of 3:59.361 over the 8.4-mile Circuit de la Sarthe in France aboard the Ferrari F430 GT he will share with Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer.

Bruni’s time was 30th-quickest overall in a 56-car field that will contest the race’s 78th edition. Risi is on a remarkable run in the world’s greatest endurance race, having won GT2 in 2008 and 2009. Bruni was part of the 2008 squad with Melo and Mika Salo. Given the moderate chance of rain for Thursday’s two qualifying sessions, Wednesday’s times may set the grid for this weekend’s race.

Despite Risi’s current streak, Porsche has claimed the GT2 pole for eight consecutive years. And the Stuttgart, Germany-based manufacturer is marking the 40th anniversary of the first of its 16 overall Le Mans victories this weekend.

Entries from the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón were 1-2-3 in the class. Bruni’s Ferrari was a scant 0.864-seconds ahead of Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and the Corvette C6.R he will drive with Antonio Garcia and Johnny O’Connell. The second factory Corvette of Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Emmanuel Collard was third-fastest in class, with Gavin the quickest of the trio at 4:01.012. This is the first Le Mans for Chevrolet’s straight-line fast Corvette in GT2.

In addition, BMW is competing in GT2 with its V-8 powered M3.

Meanwhile, Highcroft Racing’s Honda Performance Development ARX-01c sat second in LMP2 after a lap of 3:37.202 for the car of David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner. The entry _leading the American Le Mans Series’ LMP championship after two victories in three rounds _ was only 1.034-seconds off the pace of the British-based Strakka Racing HPD prototype. This is the first entry at Le Mans for the Highcroft team owned by Duncan Dayton.

At the head of the grid, the three factory Peugeot 908 HDi FAP diesel prototypes were fastest, led by Le Mans native Sebastien Bourdais’ lap of 3:19.711. Bourdais is teamed with Pedro Lamy and Simon Pagenaud, who drives with Brabham in the Highcroft LMP entry in the American Le Mans Series. Bourdais was just 0.606-seconds clear of the second-place Peugeot of Alexander Wurz, Marc Gene and Anthony Davidson. The trio won the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Florida.

Quickest of the new Audi R15 Plus diesels was the prototype of Mike Rockenfeller and former Series LMP2 champions Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Their car was 3.867-seconds behind Bourdais.

Final qualifying is set for 7 p.m. locally, or 1 p.m. EDT, on Thursday. SPEED will air the start of the twice-around-the-clock classic at 8:30 a.m., EDT, Saturday, with flag-to-flag coverage on radiolemans.com.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, June 10 2010
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