The Porsche 919 LMP1 Hybrid cars finished first qualifying for the 2014 Le Mans 24 Hour at the top of the timesheets. Who would have predicted that?!
This was the second of today’s track sessions, both of which were interrupted by red flags due to accidents on track. Today’s free practice was interesting for the 919s, which spent quite a bit of time testing cooling setups. Starting at 16:00hrs in high-20s ambient temperatures, Marc Lieb was first out in the number 14 car, with Webber taking the early laps in the number 20. Tandy took the number 91 911 RSR to start, with Marco Holzer running number 92.
As Toyota topped the times in their super quick TS040s, Audis followed on and Porsches brought up the rear of the LMP1 hybrid class. The Weissach prototypes were in and out of the garage, engine covers on and off and noses being swapped. Holzer’s 911 slung a driveshaft after less than half a lap, and was soon back in the pits. Quick Nick “Mr T” Tandy seemed to have no trouble, going second fastest in class as the session progressed.
The big news from practice was a huge accident for the number 1 Audi of Loic Duval. Eurosport’s pictures briefly showed the wreckage at the start of the Porsche Curves: it looked properly destroyed from the angle we saw. Spectators reported the car flying through the air and hitting the armco roof-first: yet to be confirmed. Audi has just confirmed that Loic has grazed his leg but is otherwise said to be OK, and the number 1 Audi should be rebuilt by tomorrow. Amazing!
At the halfway point in tonight’s two-hour qualifying session, the course was closed yet again by red flag, as Stéphane Sarrazin’s number 7 Toyota – third quickest overall – stopped early on a lap straight out of the pits. Stephane was refusing to get out of the car, but the tractors have now lifted it off the track, so I presume they crowbar’d him out of it.
While this was going on, Fernando Rees’ Aston had a big smash – again in the Porsche Curves – which completely destroyed one side of his car and damaged the barriers too heavily for the session to continue. Qualifying was cut short, and the Porsches finished on top.
The quickest Toyota has clocked a 3:25.313 in this night time session, but the Porsches are flying. Number 20 (Webber/Hartley/Bernhard) tops the times on a 3:23.1 (woohoo – great job by Brendon who is bloody amazing) with the 14 car up its chuff, eight tenths behind. Tomorrow is another day, but what a perfect start!