No disrespect to Toyota but it was somewhat of a given that Audi would be at the top in most sessions leading up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Wednesday’s qualifying session was quite eventful and we did see the two petrol powered Toyota TS030 Hybrid on pace but it was the new Audi R18 e-tron quattro on provisional pole.
The 2011 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, Andre Lotterer, set a time of 3:25.453s late into the first qualifying session last night. This time was slower than his 3:25.163 earlier in the practice session but was .285s faster than last years pole. Lotterer will share the no1 Audi R18 e-tron quattro with Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer.
“On the whole, we had a very productive day,” said Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich. “Finding a good set-up for the unusually cool temperatures in the night session wasn’t easy because the grip level on the track was pretty low. In the end, we managed that quite well on new tires. I do think, though, that even faster times will be driven tomorrow. But we’re fully concentrating on the race anyway because the pole position is not of decisive importance for the outcome of the race at Le Mans.”
Tom Kristensen had the fastest time for a while but was demoted to second after Lotterer’s time. Kristensen nailed a 3:26.536 in the no2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro. Dindo Capello and Allan McNish will share driving duties with Kristensen.
Qualifying third was Loic Duval in the no3 Audi R18 ultra with a time of 3:26.694. The no7 Toyota TS030 Hybrid was fourth (3:27.191) with Nicolas Lapierre at the wheel. Mike “Rocky” Rockefeller pulled up in fifth with a 3:27.554.
“It was incredibly difficult to find a free lap,” said Mike Rockenfeller, who drove at Le Mans for the first time again after his serious accident a year ago and lost more than a second behind a slower GT car on his fastest lap. “Of course that was a shame – but it’s a lot more important that our car felt very good in the end and was comfortable to drive. That’s what counts at Le Mans.”
All twelve Audi racers completed the mandatory laps at night which are prescribed for qualifying. The four Audi R18 cars were running without any technical problems and reeled off a total of 330 laps. Before the final qualifying session on Thursday night, the cars will be completely prepared again from scratch and fitted with the engines and components intended for the race. The ultimate decision of the grid positions will be made on Thursday night from 1900 to 2100 hrs and from 2200 to 2400 hrs.