Surprise pole for Strakka at Hungaroring
Oreca hoped to put the disaster of Le Mans behind them and edge closer to the title by securing pole for their Peugeot 908.
During the free practice sessions at the Hungaroring on Saturday, only the LMP2 Acura of Strakka was able to match the LMP1 entries for pace. That Danny Watts` qualifying time (01:32.431 minutes) should ultimately put him in pole nevertheless comes as a shock.
The first big surprise came in the third free practice session yesterday evening when the two Rebellion coupés from Switzerland posted the fastest times. This morning, Jean-Christophe Boullion was a mere tenth of a second faster than Neel Jani, which should in theory have been good enough for Lola to shut out the front row of the grid. But right at the last moment, Watts pulled the biggest sensation of the weekend out of the bag.
So the highly fancied Peugeot 908 of Oreca goes into the 1,000km race from fourth and will find itself being chased by the Lola-Aston Martin of Signature driven by Vanina Ickx. The Mansell family comeback today saw son Greg qualify sixth overall. Nigel won't be joining his two lads until the grand finale to the season in Silverstone. Applewood is the unofficial best qualifier in Formula Le Mans ahead of Dams and Hope Polevision.
The qualifying session for the two GT classes was brought forward and was dominated by the GT2 entries. Felbermayr Proton sent Romain Dumas out on track straightaway in his 911GT3 to claim provisional pole, from which he was soon ousted by the sister car driven by Richard Lietz. Ferrari initially seemed less strong than in yesterday's free practice until CRS and the two AF Corses eventually cracked the 01:47 minute mark. In the end, though, it was the less fancied AFC driven by Parente and Barba that topped the time sheet, with Alvaro Parente lappingthe Budapest circuit one tenth of a second faster than the celebrity trio of Toni Vilander, Jean Alesi and Giancarlo Fisichella. Andrew Kirkaldy claimed third spot in his CRS-F430 to complete a fabulous session for the Italians. The best that Porsche could manage was seventh, with the Zuffenhausen-based manufacturer lining up in this order: Prospeed, Felbermayr #77, IMSA and Felbermayr #88.
In the sparsely populated GT1 category – only two cars this year – the advantage goes to Larbre Equipe who qualified fourth in the overall GT class. So in today's race, the French outfit could wrap up what is likely to be the last title in the larger GT class which is omitted from ACO 2011. Although Arbre's time of 01:47.005 was slower than the three fastest GT2s, their only rival in the GT1 class, Atlas Fx from Austria, didn't even send their vehicle out onto the track during qualifying.