Qualifying for a 24-hour race isn’t particularly important, but the pride of being on pole position still matters. For three manufacturers, they have that honor for the 90th Anniversary 24 Hours of Le Mans.
To no-one’s great surprise, Audi has scored the overall pole with the No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro co-driven by Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Loic Duval. Duval’s lap set Wednesday held as the fastest overall at 3:22.349 around the 8.469-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. Audi has the top three spots in LMP1 and overall, with the No. 1 second (Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler) and the No. 3 third (Lucas di Grassi, Marc Gene, Oliver Jarvis).
Nissan captured the pole in LMP2 with OAK Racing, and French driver Olivier Pla in the No. 24 Morgan Nissan. Mike Conway’s No. 26 G-Drive Racing Oreca Nissan is second on the grid ahead of the No. 38 Zytek Nissan fielded by JOTA Sport (Simon Dolan, Oliver Turvey, Lucas Luhr). Pla co-drives with Danish programming whiz David Heinemeier Hansson and Martin Brundle’s son Alex, while Conway co-drives with John Martin and Roman Rusinov.
Aston Martin has completed a lockout of the GTE Pro and GTE Am class poles with 2013 and 2012-spec Vantages. Fred Makowiecki has the GTE Pro class pole in the No. 99 entry, which he’ll co-drive with Rob Bell and ex-Williams F1 driver Bruno Senna. Allan Simonsen set the mark in GTE Am, for year-old spec cars. Makowiecki’s best lap was 3:54.635 with Simonsen at 3:57.776.
As for the highlights of teams and drivers from the ALMS and GRAND-AM:
- ALMS team Rebellion Racing’s No. 12 Lola Toyota dropped one spot from Wednesday, and will start the 24 Hours sixth overall (and LMP1). ALMS regulars Nick Heidfield and Neel Jani are joined by Nicolas Prost this weekend in the prototype. Rebellion’s No. 13 entry, co-driven by Andrea Belicchi, Mathias Beche and Cong Fu Cheng, qualified right behind, in seventh.
- The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, co-driven by Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Pedro Lamy, qualified fifth, in GTE Pro.The No. 77 Dempsey Del Piero-Proton Porsche 911 GT3 with Patrick Long, Joe Foster and Patrick Dempsey driving, will start seventh in the LM GTE Am class.
- The sole GRAND-AM team competing, 8 Star Motorsports, has a Ferrari F458 Italia going off ninth in GTE Am. Owner/driver Enzo Potolicchio is joined by co-drivers Rui Aguas and Jason Bright.
- The three teams featuring GRAND-AM Corvette DP standouts Richard Westbrook, Jordan Taylor and Ricky Taylor – all in Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1s – will start deep in their respective classes. Westbrook’s team starts eighth in GTE Pro; Jordan Taylor’s team starts ninth in GTE Pro, and Ricky Taylor’s team starts 12th in GTE Am.
- And Ryan Dalziel, a Le Mans champion last year in LMP2, will co-drive the No. 53 SRT Motorsports Viper which will grid 10th in GTE Pro.
The race begins at 3 p.m. local time Saturday (check local listings).
1996 Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill believes that Nico Rosberg will be “more formidable” in 2016 following his back-to-back title defeats to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg took the title race down to the final race of the year in 2014 before losing to Hamilton, and proved to be the Briton’s closest rival again in 2015, albeit losing the championship with three rounds remaining.
Rosberg endured a five-month winless streak last season that led many to question his ability to battle with Hamilton for a championship, only for the German to answer by winning the final three races of the year.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Hill said that Rosberg showed his true strength with this trio of victories, signalling that he could put up a greater fight to Hamilton for the title in 2016.
“I think he is a little bit more formidable now,” Hill said. “I think after the Austin defeat, that day when he lost the championship and Lewis infamously tossed the cap and he tossed it straight back, there was a moment where Nico said ‘OK, I am not going to take this anymore’ and he did go ahead and win all the remaining races.
“He can go on ahead and become the other world champion’s son [Keke Rosberg won the F1 title in 1982] to become a world champion himself.
“He probably knows time is running out and when you get all those ingredients together you maybe get a little bit of a hardening of the determination. Maybe he will be more determined this year and harder to beat.”
The FIM has confirmed that a new, dedicated stewards’ panel will be created for the 2016 MotoGP season following the controversy between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez at the end of last year.
Rossi and Marquez became embroiled in a tense rivalry that saw them clash in Malaysia, with Rossi appearing to raise his leg and cause his adversary to fall from his bike.
Rossi was handed a penalty that dropped him to the back of the grid for the championship decider in Valencia, where Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo clinched a third world title.
The incident did little good of the reputation of the drivers involved nor MotoGP as a whole, prompting officials to create a new stewards’ panel for 2016 that will deal with similar affairs.
Previously, race direction has also dealt with stewarding matters, but these responsibilities will now be split for 2016.
“We want to let race direction focus on managing the races because there are a lot of responsibilities and delicate matters to do,” FIM president Vito Ippolito said.
“We want to let them be free to manage the race but not to involve them anymore with the task of penalizing riders. It needs more time and special dedication.
“On the other side we will have the panel of three stewards. It will be the current race director who is Mike Webb and two more stewards from the FIM.
“One of them possibily also a permanent steward as we think with this structure, with this panel of stewards completely dedicated to judge the behaviour of riders during the races and practice, we can achieve a very high level of decisions.”
Newly-appointed Renault Sport racing director Frederic Vasseur claims that the French manufacturer considered signing GP2 champion and McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne for its comeback season in Formula 1.
Renault will return to F1 this year with a works team for the first time since 2010, and unveiled its driver line-up of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer at an event in France on Wednesday.
Magnussen was drafted in to replace Pastor Maldonado after the Venezuelan driver’s financial backing fell through and negotiations with the team broke down.
Speaking to DH.be, Vasseur revealed that Vandoorne was considered for the seat before Renault ultimately signed Magnussen for 2016.
“We had to put a cross next to Stoffel. He is under contract with McLaren and the team did not want to part ways,” Vasseur said.
“So we needed someone who was available and our choice was therefore focused on Kevin.”
Vandoorne is set to race in the Japanese Super Formula series in 2016, having tested a car over the winter. Despite winning the 2015 GP2 title in record-breaking fashion, the Belgian is not yet able to make the step up to F1, but looks set to do so with McLaren when either Jenson Button or Fernando Alonso leave the team.
BUENOS AIRES – Sebastien Buemi felt content with his performance in Saturday’s Buenos Aires ePrix after bouncing back from a mistake in qualifying to finish second and extend his lead at the top of the Formula E drivers’ championship.
Buemi locked up during his 200kW lap in qualifying at Puerto Madero to resign himself to 18th position on the grid, handing his rivals an opportunity to overhaul him in the title race.
The Renault e.dams driver produced a spirited display to pick through the order during the race before coming into contention for the win late on after a safety car period.
Although Buemi could not overhaul DS Virgin Racing’s Sam Bird at the front of the pack, he remained happy with second place in light of his qualifying error.
“The mistake in qualifying was very annoying, because when you have such a good car and such a good team, you want to reward them with the best possible result,” Buemi told MotorSportsTalk.
“But in the end I did my best to come back. I think I did a good job. 18 points are better than zero so happy with that.”
Buemi is now targeting an error-free weekend at the next race in Mexico City as he looks to extend the four-point gap to Lucas di Grassi at the top of the standings.
“Clearly [the result] shows that we have a very strong car and we just need to make sure from now on we don’t miss any points,” Buemi said.
“Putrajaya, the team made a mistake, the car didn’t finish the race. But today obviously I made one [in qualifying] and I tried to work the car to catch it back.
“We’ve seen today that it’s easy to leave the weekend with zero points. I have only four points advantage in the championship, so I’m going to try to expand it as much as possible.”