As we learnt at the Dubai 24 Hours, stacking your car into the wall in free practice doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out for the count. Loic Duval was understandably a bit sheepish when he put the #2 Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron he was sharing with Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish into the wall early doors during Le Mans Test Day.[Not a valid template]
Fortunately for the Frenchman said sheepishness soon gave way to the red mist, the “qualifying lap” at the end of the eight-hour test netting Duval his fastest time of the day at his final attempt – a 3m 22.583s – and a time nearly three seconds faster than Oliver Jarvis in the sister #3 R18 e-tron.
Duval – who netted victory with Kristensen and McNish at the opening round of the 2013 World Endurance Championship at Silverstone – admitted his relief, and not just because this year he replaces long-time Audi driver Rinaldo ‘Dindo’ Capello:
“It’s not easy to succeed Dindo who was a very important person in the team, but the chemistry is good in our crew. Fortunately my accident caused me more fear than harm. We wanted a ‘qualifying’ type run to see what the Audi has in the tank. I went with some low fuel and I enjoyed a ride without traffic. I had a lot of fun.”
Nailed into third place, the #1 Audi of reigning Champions André Lotterer, Benoît Tréluyer and Marcel Fässler completed an Audi cleansweep ahead of Anthony Davidson – his first time at Le Mans since his scary mid-air flight last year – Red Bull Formula 1 reserve driver Sébastien Buemi and Stéphane Sarazin in the #8 Toyota Racing TS030 Hybrid and Marco Bonanomi in the fourth Audi R18, which was conducting 2014-tyre tests. The Rebellion Racing Lolas of Nicolas Prost, Neel Jani and Nick Heidfeld, and Mathias Beche, Andrea Belicchi and Cong Fu Cheng ended up just behind the second Toyota of Alexander Wurz, Nicolas Lapierre and Kazuki Nakajima, whose gap to the front was over seven seconds.
Oliver Pla in the Oak Racing Morgan topped the LMP2 class, despite disrupted running during the rain-affected session. His 3m 51.053s best laptime elevated teammates Alex Brundle, David Heinemeier-Hansson and himself above the Signatech Alpine duo of Nelson Panciatici, Pierre Ragues and Paul-Loup Chatin and Tristan Gommendy.
Aston Martin Racing meanwhile reigned supreme in the LM GTE class, Peter Dumbreck, Stefan Mucke, Darren Turner and Johnny Adam topping the Pro category just over three-tenths of a second quicker than teammates Fred Makowiecki, Bruno Senna and Rob Bell in the sister Vantage V8. Jamie Campbell-Walter, Roald Goethe and Stuart Hall took LM GTE Am honours in the #96 Vantage V8 just ahead of Danish trio Allan Simonsen, Christoffer Nygaard and Kristian Poulsen in the sister #95 Vantage.
That leaves just twelve days before the green flag drops for the 2013 24 Hours of Le Mans. Check out action from last year’s event to get yourself pumped.