|June 14, 2001
Audi Claims Top-three Positions in Le Mans Practice
Le Mans, France -- Good start for Audi at Le Mans: After first qualifying, three Audi sportscars finished in the top-three positions on the provisional starting grid. On Wednesday night, Tom Kristensen set the quickest lap in the Infineon Audi R8 with a time of 3:32.458, the Danish driver topped last year's pole position time by 3.6 seconds.
Rinaldo Capello finished second in the companion Infineon Audi R8 for Team Joest, completing an all Audi front row on the provisional grid. Setting third best time in the Champion Audi R8, Ralf Kelleners confirmed that the two Audi customer cars are serious contenders for overall victory as well. The Gulf R8 of Johansson Racing qualified for a preliminary eighth position.
The grid for the 2001 Le Mans 24 Hour race will be decided during the final qualifying on Thursday night when weather may play a role. The Le Mans race will start on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. EST, with the entire 24 hours to be carried live on Speedvision.
Quotes after Wednesday Qualifying:
Frank Biela (#1): "When I was driving with a full fuel load and used tires during the night, the car oversteered. But I think the track was very dirty and slippery at the time although this will be the case during the race, so we have to work to make the car more comfortable to drive."
Tom Kristensen (#1): "Frank and Emanuele dialed the car in very quickly. I had a few runs on new tires. The best one was the one just after 10:00 p.m. It was my first flying lap and it was almost clear. That does not happen often at Le Mans so I am very pleased."
Emanuele Pirro (#1): "I am very happy with the time Tom set because we concentrated on the set-up for the race. We can still improve the car, but the time was already very good."
Laurent Aiello (#2): "We had a small problem with the steering. We solved about 60 percent of it during the second session. In the night the car was a little bit difficult to drive. It was the qualifying set-up of Dindo. It was good information for us for the race, we will try something different for tomorrow."
Rinaldo Capello (#2): "In general I'm happy. The potential of the car is very high. I set my own fastest time on race tires and I am hoping that I'll be in a position to fight for pole position tomorrow night on qualifiers."
Christian Pescatori (#2): "I am starting to get a feel for the car and get comfortable with my teammates. I keep running with a lot of fuel and race tires, because for me it is important to get into the right rhythm for the race."
Johnny Herbert (#3): "We are in good shape. Ralf did a good job setting up the car. I ran in the dark tonight and look for ward to driving when it's light tomorrow."
Ralf Kelleners (#3): "We had gear box problems at the beginning but were soon able to continue with our program. We focused on a qualifier at the beginning of the second session. "
Didier Theys (#3): "Getting into the car for first time at night is not easy. I wasn't going to take any risks."
Tom Coronel (#4): "It's my first proper run in the car and it leaves a good feeling - I'm very optimistic. I was getting used to driving in the dark and gradually improving my pace."
Stefan Johansson (#4): "The car is not as quick as it was at the pre-test last month and so we'll check the data overnight to determine why this is so that we can improve on Thursday."
Patrick Lemarie (#4): "I am not comfortable in my seat while two slow punctures disrupted by runs."
Reinhold Joest (Team Director Audi Sport Team Joest): "We are even faster as in the pretest despite the grip level was quite low today. I think, it could even be possible to go under 3:32 on Thursday. The little problems we had today do not make us nervous. We will sort them out until Saturday."
Thierry Boutsen (Team Champion Racing): "We are pleased with the balance of the car. We were trying some things and made good progress. I have a lot of confidence in the team, the drivers and the car."
Mike Earle (Team Director Johansson Racing): "An interesting but disappointing session. We had a brake balance problem initially. We will be aiming for a top-four place in the grid."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich (Head of Audi Sport): "If you see the weather forecast, it was important to be fast already today. We were setting our fastest times exactly in the right moment, tried different things and went through our program."
Results From First Qualifying:
1. Biela/Kristensen/Pirro (Infineon Audi R8) 3:32.458