Posted by: porschebahn | April 10, 2010

Qualifying for Le Mans Series round 1 at Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France

Lietz qualifies Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on second place

The title defenders of the Le Mans Series have secured a good starting position for the season-opening race. Porsche works driver Richard Lietz (Austria) planted the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which like in 2009 he shares with Marc Lieb (Germany), on second position in the GT2 category. The winning duo again drives for the German Felbermayr-Proton team. “We’re not unhappy with second place, although we are of course a little annoyed at narrowly missing out on an extra point for pole position,” says Lietz. “We see our chance mostly over the distance where it’s important to drive consistently and without error.” The other three 911 take up the race from eighth, tenth and twelfth position on the 5.791 kilometre Circuit Paul Ricard in southern France. The race starts tomorrow at 11.00 hours and runs over eight hours.

As the most successful GT2 pilot in the Le Mans Series with three drivers’ titles, Marc Lieb is optimistic. “Mostly, it was difficult to find the right balance in the extremely long corners. But we did it. The GT3 RSR is good to drive whether the tyres are new or used. Paul Ricard is a technical circuit where you have to drive very precisely and smoothly – also because the stresses on the tyres are huge in the long sweeping corners.” His teammate Lietz adds: “Luckily for us the track is long and wide and offers many chances to overtake. The fast prototypes can get past which isn’t the case on the more twisty tracks. We have many strong rivals in our class – but we’ll give everything we’ve got. Marc is the best teammate you can have which already gives me an advantage over our opponents!”

Patrick Pilet: “We were concentrating on the race set-up”

The French works driver Patrick Pilet, who shares the cockpit of the IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche (France) with team owner Raymond Narac, is critical of his eighth starting position at his home race: “We made a change to the set-up between practice and qualifying but it was a mistake. Afterwards our balance wasn’t as good. The car was oversteering, and on top of that I experienced a lot of traffic in my flying lap. But it doesn’t matter. Our strategy is the same as in 2009. We’re not concentrating on our grid position but on the race set-up. We need our car to be easy to handle – and we’ll achieve this by tomorrow.” Raymond Narac adds: “We’ll increase the downforce somewhat for the race, which should help me feel better particularly in the quick corners over the distance. We’ll lose a little top speed on the straights but we’ll be easier on the tyres.”

With race experience in Le Castellet under his belt, former Porsche junior and newcomer to the Felbermayr team, Martin Ragginger (Austria), qualified the sister 911. Ragginger shares the cockpit with Porsche works driver Patrick Long (USA) and team owner Christian Ried (Germany). “Tenth in qualifying is a little disappointing,” said Ragginger. “We went in the wrong direction with our set-up during free practice. So we have some work to do to sort out the 911 for the race. But the team is super. I’m very happy to have the chance to drive for the Felbermayr squad and I’m very much looking forward to an exciting season.” His teammate Patrick Long beamed: “I have the very best memories of Paul Ricard. It was here at a test that Porsche first noticed me!” The LMS season-opener, however, is the first race for the American on the circuit in the Provence. “I reckon it’ll be the classic fight between Porsche and Ferrari – and that’s just fine,” he smiled.

Richard Westbrook: “We are new here and have a lot to learn”

For Prospeed Competition, the eight hour event is a test under race conditions. The Belgian outfit won the drivers’ title of the FIA GT Championship with Richard Westbrook (Great Britain) in 2009 and for this year has made the switch to the Le Mans Series. Westbrook shares driving duties this year with Porsche Junior Marco Holzer. The two have already contested the final of the FIA GT together, where Westbrook secured the title with a victory. “We’re new here and have a lot to learn,” said the Briton. “By now we’ve only driven two hour races. A six or eight hour race needs a totally different strategy. The most difficult factor for me personally is getting used to completely different tyres.” The double champion of the Porsche Mobil1 Supercup is annoyed at a mistake he made in qualifying: “I left the track slightly and that ruined my fast lap.” 21-year-old Junior Holzer was relaxed: “We aim to keep out of any duels and see the finish line. For us we can notch up experience from every race kilometre. It’ll be a huge challenge as GT drivers not only to race against twelve strong class rivals but also to constantly keep an eye out for the faster prototypes so as not to be in their way when they overtake.”

TV station Eurosport broadcasts the race live on Sunday, 11 April, from 11.00 to 12.00 hours and from 14.00 to 14.30 hours and televises the final phase delayed from 19.00 to 19.30 hours. On Tuesday after the race, a 30-minute summary of the race will be shown from 23.45 hours. On the official website viewers can witness the race via live-timing with an English commentary.

Result Qualifying GT2 class

1. Gianmaria Bruni (ITA), Ferrari F 430 GT, 1.57.850 minutes
2. Richard Lietz (AUT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, + 0.366 seconds
3. Tim Mullen (GBR), Ferrari F 430 GT, + 0.625
4. Toni Vilander (FIN), Ferrari F 430 GT, + 0.695
5. Robert Bell (GBR), Aston Martin V8 Vantage, + 0.699
6. Matias Russo (ARG), Ferrari F 430 GT, + 0.857
7. Pierre Kaffer (DEU), Ferrari F 430 GT, + 1.171
8. Patrick Pilet (FRA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, + 1.185
9. Jeroen Bleekemolen (NLD), Spyker C8 Laviolette, + 1.327
10. Martin Ragginger (AUT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, + 1.597
11. Dominik Farnbacher (DEU), Ferrari F 430 GT, + 1.630
12. Richard Westbrook (GBR), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, + 1.689
13. Jörg Müller (DEU), BMW M3, + 1.743

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