Britain’s Audi “factory” duo Allan McNish and Oliver Jarvis will start their respective Audi sportscars from fourth and sixth positions in the 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours which gets underway in France tomorrow (Saturday).
The pioneering diesel hybrid Audi of Dumfries-born McNish plus co-drivers Dindo Capello (I) and Tom Kristensen (Den) was placed third until the final minutes of the third, two hour qualifying session held on Wednesday and Thursday evenings – each staged in dry conditions and ending at midnight.
The record eight-time Le Mans race winner Kristensen who set the car’s quickest lap, a 3mins 25.433secs, in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro last night (Thursday) – an average speed of almost 148mph around the 8.47-mile track – dropped one place in the dying moments.
Meanwhile the non-hybrid diesel engined Audi R18 ultra of Jarvis, from Burwell near Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, plus co-drivers Marco Bonanomi (I) and Mike Rockenfeller (D), clocked a 3:26.420 (147.71mph) fastest lap earlier in the evening on Thursday in the hands of Bonanomi.
McNish, who bids for a third Le Mans victory, and will start the race, said: “It looks like we will have a tense and close Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend. Audi achieved the first, second, fourth and sixth fastest times while the performance of the competition is close and will definitely be in the mix.
“Last night’s [Thursday] trials were significantly better than Wednesday in part due to the circuit conditions but we also worked on the Audi’s set-up and in my last run, it was reasonably balanced and I believe that through the course of the race it will develop well. Congratulations to André [Lotterer] and to that car crew because that was a superb result.”
Jarvis, who competes at Le Mans for only the second time, said: “I’m quite disappointed that we ended up only sixth – Marco’s time, like TK’s dropping a place in the final minutes.
“We were close to achieving a top-three time on three or four laps only for us to be delayed by slower traffic in the final sector of the track.
“But that’s the name of the game at Le Mans and qualifying isn’t that essential for a 24 hour race. We ran through a good programme over the past two nights and learned a lot about the Audi which should give us a good race car for the weekend.”
In the opening practice session on Wednesday, the McNish and Jarvis Audi sportscars were placed second (3min 26.536) and fifth (3:27.554s) on the provisional grid.
Both the R18 e-tron quattro and the R18 ultra sportscars are powered by single turbo V6, 3.7-litre diesel engines delivering over 510hp (more than 850Nm of torque). The e-tron quattro’s “harvested” hybrid technology momentarily gives up to 200hp via the front axle at seven specific points regulated by the race organisers.
The Audi R18 e-tron quattro of 2011 Le Mans winners Marcel Fässler (CH)/André Lotterer (D)/Benoît Tréluyer (F) starts from pole-position (3:23.787s) – Lotterer’s lap almost two seconds under last year’s pole time set by co-driver Tréluyer.
The Audi R18 ultra of Romain Dumas (F)/Loïc Duval (F)/Marc Gené (SP) completes the front row (3:24.078s).
The 80th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours is schedule to start at 2pm (UK time) on Saturday and features a capacity grid of 56-cars.