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Qualifying Begins In Le Mans

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 13 2012

The Flying Lizards' Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Le Mans. (Photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)


The 80th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans got under way with the first of three qualifying sessions at the 8.469-mile circuit in the Sarthe region of France.

The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón was well represented, with two teams on the provisional pole position in their class.

Defending 24 Hours of Le Mans GTE Pro winner Corvette Racing topped the category in Wednesday evening’s two-hour qualifying session. Olivier Gavin entered a lap of 3:55.910 shortly before handing over the No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 to Tommy Milner, who was part of Corvette’s winning trio in 2011 but has moved to the No. 74 car to partner with Gavin and Richard Westbrook.

“It’s great to finish P1 and I’m really delighted with that,” Gavin said. “It’s great momentum, but I’m also happy we got Tommy some more time in the car. It’s always nice to throw a lap down like that in qualifying. We’ve still got tomorrow and it depends on which weather forecast you look at, whether it’s going to be raining or dry. We’ll put it in the bank now and see what happens tomorrow.”

The No. 73 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor was third quickest in the session, with Magnussen turning a 3:57.181.

Flying Lizard Motorsports’ No. 80 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR ended the evening a disappointing seventh in the GTE Pro category. The car is shared by Patrick Long, Joerg Bergmeister and Marco Holzer.

“We tried something with the tires which didn’t quite work out as well as we hoped,” Bergmeister said. “Generally, we’re happy with our race balance and pace of the car. We’ll try again tomorrow. It’s a 24-hour race, so qualifying isn’t as important as it is at Long Beach for instance. We’re not too worried.”

While the Lizards’ GTE Pro car hopes to improve at Le Mans, the team’s GTE Am car is the class of the field. The No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Seth Neiman, Spencer Pumpelly and Patrick Pilet outpaced its big brother with Pilet’s lap of 3:57.694.

Defending ALMS P2 champion Level 5 Motorsports are struggling out of the gate at Le Mans. The No. 33 HPD ARX-03b was 13th in provisional P2 qualifying. Christophe Bouchut turned the car’s quickest lap, a 3:42.224, but later came across some gravel at the Ford Chicane, sending the car off course. Bouchut resumed, but immediately came into the garage for a look over. Bouchut shares the car with Scott Tucker and Luis Diaz.

The fastest car of the day and provisional polesitter was the No. 1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro from Audi Sport Team Joest. André Lotterer stole the top spot overall from Audi teammate Tom Kristensen in the closing seconds of the session with a lap of 3:25.453, a full 1.083 seconds quicker than Kristensen’s best time. Lotterer shares the No. 1 Audi with Marcel Fässler and Benoit Treluver in the premiere P1 category – the trio looking to defend their victory from 2011.

The Nissan DeltaWing made its highly anticipated first qualifying run. Running in the “New Technology” category, the No. 56 set a time good enough to put it 14th on the P2 grid – this despite accidentally tripping the car’s fire extinguisher during the session. Marino Franchitti, Michael Krumm and Satoshi Motoyama share the car, with Krumm setting the fastest time of the evening, a 3:42.612.

Qualifying will resume Thursday, at 7 p.m. local time. The three-hour session is immediately followed by one last qualifying session at 10 p.m. Live timing is available on the official Le Mans website: http://live.lemans-tv.com/en/.

The 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans begins Saturday, June 16, at 3 p.m. local time, 9 a.m. ET. For updates, check ALMS.com, @ALMSnotes on Twitter and the Series’ official Facebook page.

| , RacinToday.com Wednesday, June 13 2012
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