Le Mans: Favourites amongst the lesser classes
As well as the LMP1 contestants, it is also worth mentioning the lesser categories and picking out a few hot tips amongst them. The entrants for the Le Mans 24-hour race are allocated to four separate classes. LMP1 is intended for works teams, whilst the somewhat slower LMP2 category is more suitable for privateers. The GT1 class was established to accommodate series sports cars such as Aston Martin (the DB9), Lamborghini and Maserati. Meanwhile, the likes of Porsche and Ferrari battle it out in GT2.
In the LMP2 category, it was Team Strakka Racing who made the biggest impression in the first timed practice session. Jonny Kane in his HDP ARX.01 clocked the fastest lap time to secure for his team the best provisional result in the class and P14 in the general classification. David Brabham, winner of last year's Le Mans 24-hour race, posted the second-fastest lap. "We were heavily fuelled up and were not driving what you might call a normal qualifying lap," said Brabham, "so I think that is a very encouraging sign."
In the GT1 class, Tomas Enge laid down a marker in free practice, posting the fastest time in his Aston Martin DB9. Then in the first timed evening session, the Czech driver gave a repeat performance. "We knew that our car would be fast on this track, but I never thought it would turn out to be quite as fast as this," said Enge. All the same though, pole position could be hard to defend in rainy conditions, so they are not counting their chickens yet at Team Young Driver AMR.
BMW pulled off a surprise with their win in the Nürburgring 24-hour event. The Bavarian constructor has struggled so far in Le Mans, however, where the BMW Schnitzer team are lining up tenth and eleventh. "We got off to a difficult start with a gearbox problem and a damaged tyre," says team principal Charly Lamm. BMW are more than five seconds off the pace of GT2 leader Pierre Kaffer in his Ferrari. Mario Theissen does not believe that BMW can close the gap on their rivals: "We didn't have enough time for testing. We know that we have a handicap in terms of performance." All the same, he hopes that they can improve their lap time by a couple of seconds. And then the key factor will be luck on the day.