Road Atlanta: Peugeot qualifying report
Since Peugeot Sport's arrival in the United States at the beginning of the week, it is the team's two Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs that have clocked up the highest number of laps during the squad's preparations for the third longest race of the 2009 ...
Since Peugeot Sport's arrival in the United States at the beginning of the week, it is the team's two Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs that have clocked up the highest number of laps during the squad's preparations for the third longest race of the 2009 endurance racing calendar, namely tomorrow's Petit Le Mans. Qualifying practice saw the two 908s emerge at the top of the timesheets, with pole position going to Nicolas Minassian in the No.07 car ahead of Franck Montagny in the No.08 machine.
Team Peugeot Total was greeted by an enthusiastic welcome from the American spectators and the North American endurance fraternity following its one-two finish in last June's Le Mans 24 Hours. The team then knuckled down to working through its established programme, with the two cars covering the equivalent of a full race distance i.e. close to 1000 miles in the course of the four free practice sessions and this afternoon's qualifying run. "We have covered more laps than any other team," reports Technical Director Bruno Famin. "Apart from a brake problem on the No.07 car during the opening session, we succeeded in working through our programme as planned, including the fine-tuning of our aero set-up, tyre testing and fuel consumption evaluation ahead of the race. Rain is expected tomorrow, and we haven't been out in the wet yet, but I'm not unduly concerned about that."
The two Peugeot 908 HDi FAPs lined up for the qualifying session in searing heat, with the thermometer reaching 33o.C as the track temperature soared to 40o.C. Franck Montagny and Nicolas Minassian spearheaded the team's bid for pole over five flying laps, with Minassian finally taking the spoils at third attempt with a time of 1m 6.937s; compared with a best of 1m 7.351s for his team-mate.
"It's always nice to get both cars on the front row, but that can't in any way be taken as a pointer for how tomorrow's race will go, especially here in the USA where the show for the spectators is so important," stresses Peugeot Sport Director Olivier Quesnel. "The way qualifying unfolded mirrored what we saw during the other practice sessions. Our two cars were extremely consistent and succeeded in lapping in practically identical times from their first to their 50th lap, and that's what endurance racing is all about. We've got a tough task ahead of us, though, especially since a combination of heat and wet weather is expected for the race. Our aim is to reach the finish with both cars. Road Atlanta is a full- scale dress rehearsal for the team as we prepare for 2010."
Pedro Lamy will start the race in the No.07908 HDi FAP car, while Stephane Sarrazin will line up on tomorrow morning's grid in the sister machine. The 2009 Petit Le Mans will last 1,000 miles or 10 hours, with the start scheduled at 11:20am local time (GMT-5) for the 30-strong field.
"It's a big thrill to have secured a pole position at last! Road Atlanta has always tended to be a good race for me. In 2006, I qualified on pole with the Creation ahead of the Audi R10s. We have gone well all week, even though we have had our work cut out for us because the other 908 was the faster of the two cars. We have been able to make good progress thanks to a free exchange of information between the two crews. I got in two clean laps in qualifying which allowed me to push hard and make the most of my tyres. Since the beginning of the year, everyone one at Peugeot Sport team has made progress and I am sure that our prototype is the best in the world! Wet weather is predicted for tomorrow, so race strategy is likely to play a key role as usual."
"I am pleased to see that the front row is an all-Peugeot affair, although I'm obviously a little disappointed with the way qualifying went for me. I was caught in traffic on two of my five flying laps, but that's part and parcel of the job! This was my first qualifying run with the Peugeot this season."
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