Qualifying 2012: The Speed Chills Report

After two days, six grueling hours at full speed and plenty of action, the grid for the 24 Hours of Le Mans 2012 has finally been decided; it’s a predictable Audi pole, but with a few surprises thrown in.

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Andre Lotterer built on last year’s victory by putting in an absolutely storming lap at the start of the third qualifying session; a time of 3:23.787 which was pretty much unbeatable. But while the sister R18 Ultra of Dumas, Duval and Gene managed to make it into second, Anthony Davidson was busy spoiling Audi’s ideal start to the weekend.

In a thrilling final 15 minutes, Toyota brought the Brit in and gave him a brand new set of slicks, which he then used to put in a 3:24.847; a monumental effort for an otherwise struggling team. Tom Kristensen piloted the other Audi hybrid to fourth, while Kazuki Nakajima also put in a great lap late on to steal 5th from the other Ultra of Bonanomi, Jarvis and Rockenfeller.

In the unofficial privateer class Danny Watts led the all-British Strakka Racing to a brilliant pole which broke the 3m30 barrier, but the car ended the session with front wing damage after Seiji Ara’s Pescarolo Dome drove into it at the Porsche Curves. When we popped into their garage halfway through the last qualifying session they told us that they were very happy with their performance, and that they weren’t particularly worried about a challenge from one of the Rebellions. When asked if they thought the privateers should have their own recognized class at LM24, one of their engineers gave a resigned shrug and said “It’s Le Mans”.

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The ADR-Delta Oreca Nissan stole pole for the P2s, with Olivier Pla driving the wheels off his Oak Racing Morgan Judd to claim second, and the #26 Signatech Nissan coming in third. The Greaves Zytek Nissan, driven by the Brundles and Lucas Ordonez, ended up about half way up the class in 11th, 24th on the grid.

GTE Pro lived up to its promise, with three different manufacturers in the top three positions separated by just half a second; the Luxury 458 on pole with the Vantage V8 second and works Corvette third. In the GTE Am class the Flying Lizard #79 beat the other Aston Martin by more than a second, followed by the second Luxury 458. An Aston Martin mechanic said:

“We’re relieved to see that everybody wasn’t sandbagging when we were heading the timing sheets in free practice, we’re pretty happy with how we’ve done”.

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Speed Chills’ favourite Krohn Racing in the awesome looking green 458 seemed to be having a troubled qualifying, but we dropped by and found out what they were doing to make sure their race goes as well as possible :

“We’re playing the long game, we’re just going to put in lap after lap after lap and hope that our reliability jumps us ahead of the drop outs”

Although the Deltawing won’t be classified in the race it did manage to grab the 29th spot on the grid with a 3:42.6, beating a number of the P2 cars in the process. It also managed to use very few sets of front tires, so it looks good for some long stints during the race.

The grid promises a great race; the chequered flag for the Le Mans 24 Hours drops in just over a day’s time.

Jamie Snelling is a freelance motorsport journalist and 5-time Speed Chills veteran.