Qualifying for the Petit Le Mans race at Road Atlanta just took place, and it was an exciting session, in very good (warm) weather conditions.
The first session that took place, is GT qualifying. After only a few minutes on track, almost the entire GT2 field smashed the lap record by seconds compared to last year. At that moment it could already be expected to have an entire new set of lap records in all classes.
Dirk Werner in the Farnbacher porsche didn’t want to be easy on the throttle from the beginning and improved dramatically lap after lap. He immediately left massive high speed tire tracks by pushing the car to the max on cold tires.
In the end, his impressive demonstration wasn’t enough to keep Melo from taking over pole position in the number 62 Ferrari, although Melo’s fastest lap was only .057 seconds faster.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the two Corvettes made it to the top 2 spots on the GT1 grid, and the gap between winner O’Connell and Beretta was only .047 seconds. Again an incredibly small margin between the top qualifiers. Eventually GT qualifying ended in an even mix of Ferrari’s and Porsches, with Ferrari in front.
Right after this session, the prototypes went to the track.
After green flag, Dumas is flying immediately in the Penske Porsche, very late on the brakes and carrying the aerodynamic discs on the wheels. A 1:08 ios his first flying lap, therwith smashing the LMP2 record by 1 second. Just after that McNish already set a 1:07 and 1 lap later a 1:06,6, although it should be claer we are talking about an LMP1-2 difference here of only 1 second.
Drivers were taking lots of risks this qualifying, really pushing the cars to the limit. McNish was even going airborne in the Audi.
McNish sets a 1:06,3 after only 6 minutes. And after 8 minutes Sarrazin closes the gap to less than 2 tenths of a second with a 106,5. It seems to become a pole position for Audi.
Sarrazin though keeps pushing hard, and eventually, when McNish already went back into the pit hearing the team say that he had pole and Peugeot have had their chance, he improved his time and got to a 1.06,242, beating Allan´s time by a small margin. Incredible performances in the last seconds of this exciting qualifying session leading to a Peugeot pole.
Before the session, Oliver Gavin mentiones that he holds his breath for the race, when talking about the speed differences between the slower GT2’s and the fastest prototypes. We are looking at differences of up to 17 seconds…Especially on this short and fast track, there will be lots of overtaking and at Road Atlanta there is no possibility leaving your line at high speed. This lead to incidents last year (Corvette-Audi) and has again been seen this event. Let’s hope that lessons have been learned.
Update: because of the fact that live timing showed the second-last lap situation and not the final standings, the results were corrected in this updated report. So no more Acura in the top 3 and no Audi on pole.
1. 07 – Stephane Sarrazin – Peugeot 908 HI FAP – Equipe Peugeot Total – 1:06.242
2. 1 – Allan McNish – Audi R10 TDI – Audi Sport North America – 1:06.327
3. 2 – Marco Werner – Audi R10 TDI – Audi Sport North America – 1:06.818
1. 5 – Ryan Briscoe – Porsche RS Spyder – Team Penske – 1:07.061
2. 7 – Romain Dumas – Porsche RS Spyder – Team Penske – 1:07.149
3. 6 – Sacha Maassen – Porsche RS Spyder – Team Penske – 1:07.401
1. 3 – Johnny O`Connell – Corvette C6-R – Corvette Racing – 1:16.542
2. 4 – Olivier Beretta – Corvette C6-R – Corvette Racing – 1:16.589
1. 62 – Jaime Melo – Ferrari 430 GT – Risi Competizione – 1:19.399
2. 87 – Dirk Werner- Porsche 997 GT3 RSR – Farnbacher Loles Motorsports – 1:19.456
3. 71 – Dirk Müller – Ferrari F430 GT – Tafel Racing – 1:19,885