LE MANS 24 HOURS - QUALIFYING
With a lap time of 3:38.089, the Alpine A450b was fifth-quickest amongst the LMP2 contenders during qualifying for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hours.Partnered by Paul-Loup Chatin and Oliver Webb, Nelson Panciatici posted the team’s best effort – less than half-a-second shy of the class benchmark.The start of the Le Mans 24 Hours will take place on Saturday, June 14 at 15:00 local time.
As it prepares itself to go twice round the clock, the Signatech-Alpine outfit took advantage of ten hours of track time spread over two days.
Beginning on Wednesday, Paul-Loup Chatin, Oliver Webb and Nelson Panciatici took it in turns to get to grips with the legendary La Sarthe circuit. On a track that had been largely cleaned by showers earlier on in the week, they made consistent progress with the Alpine A450b with the initial objective of prioritising race set-up.
Despite numerous stoppages and delays to the session, Chatin concluded the opening practice session placed second in the LMP2 class, with a lap time of 3:39.490.
On Thursday, the Alpine trio switched their focus towards extracting more performance from the car. Chatin and Webb improved upon their lap times from the previous day before handing over to Panciatici, who had been chosen to set the qualifying lap.
On his first flying effort at nightfall, Nelson posted a lap of 3:38.089. After setting off again just before midnight in the quest of bettering his time around the 13.629km circuit, he unfortunately found his bid scuppered by a yellow flag that prevented him from trying to move up the starting grid.
Bernard Ollivier, Alpine Director: “This track time has been extremely useful in terms of continuing to learn and prepare ourselves for the race. We weren’t quite able to carry out our strategy to its conclusion in qualifying, but our motivation remains firmly intact!”
Philippe Sinault, Signatech-Alpine Team Principal: “The practice and qualifying sessions were particularly eventful, and I must congratulate our three drivers, none of whom made even the slightest mistake. We endeavoured to improve upon our grid position just before midnight, but the yellow flag spoiled Nelson’s run. Even so, that was never our primary objective. We are beginning to get a good handle on the Dunlop tyres, the drivers are performing consistently and the Alpine A450b is suiting them well. We are on the right track.”
Nelson Panciatici: “I never got a clear lap in to see how quick we could truly go. It was a shame, but we have some good pace and that is the most important thing, even if I am disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to properly show it.”
Paul-Loup Chatin: “We can be very satisfied with both the performance and balance of the car. The whole team has worked extremely well together. There is obviously a touch of frustration at the end of qualifying, but now it’s up to us to reveal our full potential during the race!”
Oliver Webb: “We had a genuine chance there to set the LMP2 class pace. Personally, I’m feeling good in the Alpine A450b. It was important for me to continue to learn the circuit and to get plenty of laps under my belt. I can already see just what a special and unique event the Le Mans 24 Hours is – and the race hasn’t even started yet!”
On Friday, the Signatech-Alpine team will be available to speak to the media from 10:30 during a ‘working breakfast’ in its hospitality unit in the heart of the paddock. At 17:30, Panciatici, Chatin and Webb will participate in the famous drivers’ parade through the streets of Le Mans.
The Alpine A450b will return to the track at 09:00 on Saturday for the 45-minute morning warm-up session, ahead of the start of the 82nd edition of the Le Mans 24 Hours at 15:00.KCMG qualify seventh for Le Mans 24 Hours