Spectators around the Silverstone circuit this afternoon saw one of the most exciting qualifying sessions of the season. The battle raged at all levels. The rain that had disrupted the start of qualifying in LMGTE, also spiced-up the prototype qualifying session with a gradually drying track.
Fri 31.08.12, 5:05PM
Nicolas Lapierre was the first to set the reference time with the Toyota TS030 No.7 of Toyota Racing, before being dislodged by Allan McNish and Audi R18 Ultra No.2. The French driver came back with a lap 2.7 seconds ahead of his closest pursuer. With a drying track, the leading driver changed every time an LMP1 prototype crossed the finish line.
First Neel Jani in Lola-Toyota No.12 of Rebellion Racing and then Danny Watts in the Strakka HPD-Honda No.21 followed by Andrea Belicchi in Lola-Toyota No.13 of Rebellion Racing found themselves at the top of the timing screen until Allan McNish recorded a seemingly unbeatable time of 1:43.673, but this was not counting on Benedict Tréluyer, pole position man for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, who positioned the Audi R18 e-tron quattro in the first place of the grid by a hundredth of a second. Nicolas Lapierre could not improve his time and finished third in 1:44.411.
It was Danny Watts who made the best time of LMP1 private teams with a lap of 1:46.160 and, despite a spin in the last corner at the beginning of the session, in a place where the track was still wet. He beat both Lola-Toyotas of Rebellion Racing, Neel Jani getting the better of Andrea Belicchi by only 27 hundredths.
LMP2 was the scene of an epic battle between former team-mates at Peugeot Sport Nicolas Minassian (Zytek-Nissan Jota No. 38) and Stéphane Sarrazin (HPD-Honda No.44 of Starworks Motorsports). The two French drivers gave their best, but could not resist, young Alex Brundle on his home track, despite their experience. The young Briton, son of Martin Brundle was exceptional and completed a lap in 1:49.964, 0.33s ahead of Stéphane Sarrazin. John Martin and the Oreca-Nissan No.25 of ADR-Delta took the third position on the grid, just ahead of Nicolas Minassian.
The session was breathless from beginning to end and the differences between competitors tight in all classes. The drivers now have an appointment tomorrow (Sunday) for a 20 minute warm-up at 8:55 before the race which will start at noon local time. A race that should keep all its promises!