Another long day . . .
schedule for the Algarve 1000 Kilometres
left little time for a break. With three
sessions of practice on Friday, the teams
then faced qualifying, warm-up and a six-hour
race all crammed into Saturday. There was
little margin for error, should any driver
have a significant accident. There was
also the prospect of two late nights for
the crew - especially those with set-up
issues to address on Friday after a hard
day's running, and with mechanical or technical
issues to solve. Luckily, all went well
for RML through Friday, and the team was
packed away in fairly good order after
last Practice, and back at the track keen
and eager on Saturday morning.
it were thought possible - and the facts
suggested it was - they were greeted
by even clearer skies combined with a slackened
breeze and yet greater intensity of sunshine
on Saturday morning. It was going to be
hot in those cars, and the first
opportunity to find that out would come
with qualifying, starting at 09:45.
coverage of the race was originally featured
on this page, but became hugely long, so
has now been moved to a dedicated page
The first twenty minutes of the qualifying was devoted to the GT cars - two GT1 and twelve GT2. To begin with just two cars took to the track; the Spyker #85 and the #89 Hankook Ferrari 430, and each had a couple of laps of the track to themselves before the rest started to trickle out. The cause of the reluctance was unclear, since there was likely to be little track improvement so early in the day.
Peter Dumbreck - he of the famous Mercedes aerobatics squad - enjoyed the responsibility of holding provisional pole for the first ten minutes of the session; his best flyer being a 1:45.526. The final ten minutes saw all that change, however, and the top times tumbled lap-by-lap, with Bruni emerging quickest with eight minutes to go - 1:43.630 making it a first four Ferrari situation.
Bruni lost out to Velander in the #95, but only for one lap, as Bruni came back with a 1:43.310. Also in among the mix was Tim Mullen in the #91 CRS version, holding third with six minutes to go.
In GT1, the #66 Atlas eFX Saleen headed the two-car pack, which came as something of a surprise. The car in question is a venerable beast, having won the GT class at Sebring in 2001, but is now showing some signs of age. Still, it's good to see an S7-R still relatively competitive after so many years. The Larbre Saleen would have been expected to be much quicker, having won the last-ever GT1 category at Le Mans last month, but Gardel appeared to be having problems in the #50, and with two minutes to go, the car was back into the pitlane.
gone through such an exciting two-minute
period with those eight minutes remaining,
the final minutes proved largely uneventful,
and as the chequered flag dropped, the
order remained unchanged, with Bruni (#96)
on pole from Vilander (#95) and Tim Mullen
third. The Spyker closed out in last position,
which seems to suggest a biblical quote,
something along the lines of "he who
shall be first shall be last". (Matthew,
parable of the vineyards I believe!) That
said, though, only two seconds separated
top and bottom in the GT2 grid, such is
the competitiveness of the category this
year. Imagine trying to get twelve (or
fourteen, if you include the two GT1 cars)
across the line at the end of a single
lap and separate them by two seconds. The
blanket needed to cover them would be relatively
small, and the sight would resemble M25
on a Friday afternoon.
Ten twenty, and the green flag dropped. First out, the #24 Oak racing Pescarolo and the #4 Oreca Peugeot, followed by the first of the Formula Le Mans Orecas; the #46. Once again, a lethargic beginning.
Tommy was fifth to join, narrowly ahead of Warren Hughes in the #44 FLM.
Lapierre, in the Peugeot, set a first-lap flyer of 1:31.581, to match last year's pole at his first attempt. He followed that with three new quick sectors and a 1:30.681. A new qualifying record.
opening gambit was a 1:35.858 to stand
second in LMP2, a few tenths behind Lahaye
in the #24, but that was as close as it
was going to get for a while, with a red
flag drawing proceedings to a temporary
close. The clock stopped with 14 minutes
remaining. Some questioned later whether
Tommy's time had been set after the red
flags appeared, but it stood nonetheless,
and would become academic anyway.
time for the #25 of 1:35.016 was enough
to demote the Oak #24 to second. "I
had to back off as there were yellows at Turn
7. The car feels really good!" said the Brazilian.
Several cars had just taken to the circuit as the red flags flew, and would face the prospect of a slow return to the pitlane, and possibly less optimised tyre temperatures and pressures.
session went green again with hardly any
delay. "There's still more in the
car," insisted Tommy, but with few
others yet to set times, it was hard for
the team to judge whether or not to send
the Brazilian out again. In the end, the
decision was taken to hold fire and watch
. . .
minutes remaining, and Danny Watts had
still not made an appearance in the Strakka
#42. Ditto Olivier Pla in the #40 Quifel
ASM, the two main protagonists yet to show
their cards. In LMP1 things were certainly
happening, with both the 008 Aston and
the #12 Rebellion Lola suddenly showing
pace, and almost matching the Peugeot.
With Lapierre back in the garage, it must
have been a nail-biting time for the Oreca
squad, as first Jani and then Mailleux
moved to within three-tenths of the diesel's
to make a move in LMP2, the #41 Ginetta-Zytek
popped into third. Pla then appeared, with
seven minutes to go, and so too Moreau
in the #35, and then Tommy in the #25.
. . but still no Strakka.
six minutes remaining, Danny Watts finally
steered the black and sky-blue Strakka
HPD out onto the circuit. This was like
playing poker with a very straight face.
Then, with four minutes remaining, Pla
snatched provisional pole, posting 1:34.713.
It was a brief moment of glory. Despite
being baulked, Watts crossed the line with
an astonishing 1:33.833. On his next lap
he managed two new best sectors for starters,
and with a clear-ish lap ahead of him,
followed those with a third fastest sector
for the #42. It was another improvement
for the Strakka HPD, clocking 1:33.489.
hadn't given up though, but a 1:34.096
merely added security to an already strong
second place. Tommy, however, was getting
back up to speed. A new fastest first sector
for the RML Lola was followed by a matched
best for the second sector. It was an improvement,
with a 1:34.755, but that was as good as
it was going to get. He backed off, recognising
that looking after his tyres was now a
more valuable exercise than pushing for
a tenth or two. "We're happy with
that, good effort," said Phil Barker,
after Tommy conceded that he didn't think
there was more to come from the current
set of tyres. Setting the improved time
was important though, and avoided any questions
over the valifity of his pre-red flag lap.
So the chequered flag fell on a fairly predictable order, but it had been a fairly thrilling session.
Qualifying - LMP2 Times
|| Erdos, Newton, Collins
|| Lahaye, Nicolet
|| Hein, Moreau
|| Ojjeh, Greaves, Ebbesvik
||Pillon, Capillaire, Verdonck
||Moro, Zacchia, Lombard
||Kraihamer, de Crem, Delhez
||Barlesi, Cicognani, Chalandon
|| Schell, Da Rocha
||Kutermann, Basso, Hartshorne
Manufacturer denoted by:
Post-Qualifying with Thomas Erdos
"That went really well," said Tommy. "I drove the best I could, and I feel it was a fairly good lap, and I'm happy to have set the time without taking too much out of the tyres. I'm confident we can still double-stint that set, which should set us up well for the first third of the race."
"We made a fairly conservative choice on compounds, and set the car up for the race rather than a quick qualifying run, and I think I extracted as much as I dared, and was lucky to find one clear lap."
the first run, I'd lost the best of the
tyres though, and the red flag didn't help.
Without that, I'd have hoped to find another
couple of tenths, but that wouldn't have
been enough to make a difference in the
order. We'd still have been third. My qualifying
lap was actually one of my best laps to
date, I think. I felt I nailed every
corner to the max, and even with a clear
tyre disadvantage against the others, we
managed to post a competitive third-best
time. I was very pleased with that "
"We simply don't have the outright pace here for qualifying, and we've tuned the car for the race, not a single flyer. That's so much more important in a race of this length. We're happy to be where we are, which is ahead of both the Oak Pescarolos, and within sight of Olivier and Danny. I think that's a bonus, and puts us in an excellent position for the race. The first stint will be telling. It will be interesting to analyse qualifying in the light of what the cars can do in the opening hour or so, as this will give us a better indication of what the tyre performance will be like under race conditions."
"We acknowledge that the teams we're competing against here are all very, very good. They're well prepared, serious competitors, and it's going to be very close at the top. Having such a depth of competition is the best way to go racing. It's good for us, it's great for the spectators, and it's excellent for the sport."
Tommy is expected to take opening stint in the race, but is not yet sure whether he'll be able to triple stint, should he be asked to do so. "It's exhausting in the car, in these conditions," he said. "You need to be super-fit to keep going for a double-stint when the cockpit temperature is hovering around the 30 degree mark. Yes, we have air conditioning, but it's not like you'd find in a hotel room, where you can crank it up and get really cold. The system we have just takes the unbearable edge off the temperature, nothing more, and we're working so hard, all the time, in a thick race suit. I'll be happy to do a double, but a triple? We'll see!" Tommy had anticipated this, and has been on an intensive fitness regime for the last three weeks, adding to his routine schedule, which might sap the spirit of a lesser man. He's fit, and he needs to be.
The official warm-up kicked off at 12:10, with a busy track, and the Hankook ferrari immediately in trouble, with smoke reported from the rear-left wheelarch. It returned to the pitlane, but not to the track, so the issue was deemed to be more serious than simply a tyre problem.
took the RML Lola #25 out first, and the
team worked through its usual warm-up routine.
With the car on full tanks, the three drivers
completed a series of out-laps,
single flyers and than back to the pitlane
for a simulated driver change - refuel,
tyre swap and fresh driver on board. Mike
was second in and saw off his laps without
incident, and then handed over to Ben.
Times in warm-up are rarely significant, and today was no exception. No surprise, however, to see the #4 Peugeot quickest, but seeing the #40 as fastest in LMP2 was also not unexpected. In their home race, the ASM squad is always keen to show strongly at the Algarve whatever the session, while the likes of RML and Strakka concentrate on the practicalities of final race prep. Ben Collins and Jonny Kane were circulating in formation for the last couple of laps, with Collins still finding improvements to his personal best. A 1:39.295 on his final lap was one of his best to date, so he returned to the pitlane confident that there will be more to come from the race.
down the pitlane, Ben faced a final simulated
driver change, with everything played for
real. Down the pitlane, removing his drinks
tube, and preparing to slacken off his
belts, then leaping out as quickly as possible,
his seat insert chucked clear as Tommy
clambered in. Ben's duty as departing driver
is also to help the next driver into his
seat, the limits of the regulations preventing
more than two other members of the crew
from "working on the car" at
any one time.
The official autograph session took place at 2:00pm, but the attendance here in the Algarve is so poor that there were not many queues, and anyone wanting to collect signatures from all drivers ought to have had an easy task, except perhaps half of the team's elected not to place their drivers out in the direct sun, and skipped the session. Mike, Tommy and Ben did their bit, and had a good crowd clamouring for autographs and the new-for-Algarve HeroCard.
Our coverage of the full six hours of the Algarve 1000 Kilometres 2010 was
uploaded "live", but resulted in an unmanageably long web page.
This has now been moved to a new and dedicated web page. To read a blow-by-blow
account, please follow this link.
Alternatively, you may read a round-up and short press release here.