Audis First-Session Time Stands Up, For Pole PositionRebellion Racing Will Start 6th-7th In LMP1 Class, OverallAuberlen/Dalla Lana Aston Martin Starting 5th In LM GTE Pro LineupWednesdays qualifying frustration was replaced by Thursdays concentration, as drivers and teams attacked the last two sessions that collectively finalized the field for Saturdays 90th anniversary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.After the opening qualifying session on Wednesday night was red-flagged and then halted early after an accident that damaged a Mulsanne Straight barrier, drivers eagerly returned to the legendary 8.469-mile (13.629 kilometers) course. That included 33 drivers from the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) presented by Tequila Patrn and the GRAND-AM Rolex Series. Eagerness was tempered though when another wreckthis one by Matt Downs in the No. 40 Oreca LMP2 entryagain damaged a barrier, necessitating repairs and stopping the first session a half-hour early. That led to adding a half-hour to the events final qualifying session, making it a two-hour, 30-minute affair.When it was doneafter yet two more red flags due to accidentsthe lap of 3 minutes, 22.349 seconds (150.68 mph/242.4 kph) by Loic Duval on Wednesday night had held up, giving the overall and LMP1 class pole to the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro of Audi Sport Team Joest. The No. 2 Audi R18 is favored to say the least, with Duval joined by eight-time Le Mans champion Tom Kristensen and two-time champion Allan McNish.
As for the highlights of teams and drivers from the ALMS and GRAND-AM: ALMS team Rebellion Racings No. 12 Toyota/Lola dropped one spot from Wednesday, and will start the 24 Hours sixth overall (and LMP1). ALMS regulars Nick Heidfield and Neel Jani are joined by Nicolas Prost this weekend in the prototype. Rebellions No. 13 entry, co-driven by Andrea Belicchi, Mathias Beche and Cong Fu Cheng, qualified right behind, in seventh. The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, co-driven by Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy, qualified fifth, in LM GTE Pro. The No. 77 Dempsey Del Piero-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 with Patrick Long, Joe Foster and Patrick Dempsey driving, will start seventh in the LM GTE Am class. The sole GRAND-AM team competing, 8Star Motorsports, has a Ferrari F458 Italia going off ninth in LM GTE Am. Owner/driver Enzo Potolicchio, Rui Aguas and Jason Bright are the drivers. The three teams featuring GRAND-AM Corvette DP standouts Richard Westbrook, Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylorall in Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1swill start deep in their respective classes. Westbrooks team starts eighth in LM GTE Pro; Jordan Taylors team starts ninth in LM GTE Pro, and Ricky Taylors team starts 12th in LM GTE Am. And Ryan Dalziel, a Le Mans champion last year in LMP2, will co-drive the No. 53 SRT Motorsports Viper which will grid 10th in LM GTE Pro.