Special to Highlands Today
The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón continued to represent the Stars and Stripes well in France, as Flying Lizard Motorsports claimed the GTE Am pole for the 80th 24 Hours of Le Mans. The California-based team earned the provisional pole during the first official qualifying session on Wednesday and could not be topped in two subsequent qualifying sessions on Thursday.
Driver Patrick Pilet scored the pole time, a 3:57.594 in the No. 79 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which he shares with Seth Neiman and Spencer Pumpelly. The time was 0.444 seconds clear of the nearest GTE Am challenger.
"It's all looking good," Neiman said. "All the drivers are doing good and the car feels great. "I think we have a good opportunity."
Though Corvette Racing lost the provisional GTE Pro pole it earned on Wednesday, the team is still confident for a strong result in today's race. Drivers of the No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 – Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Richard Westbrook – were unable to improve on Gavin's fast time from Wednesday, a 3:55.910. As a result, the team slipped to third on the grid. Jordan Taylor, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia will start the No. 73 Corvette fifth in class.
"Confidence is creeping up as the week goes on," Westbrook said. "We've got ourselves a really good race car. We don't have the fastest car over one lap, but that doesn't matter in a 24-hour race. All three of us have a car we like in the night and the day.
"We never expected to get pole. We know the Ferrari and the Aston Martin are too quick over one lap, but over a race distance we've got a lot of confidence."
The No. 80 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Flying Lizard Motorsports' GTE Pro entry, qualified seventh.
"There were some problems with that car that we were able to fix, so I will be surprised if they remain there," Lizards driver/owner Neiman added.
In the highly competitive P2 category, Level 5 Motorsports was unable to participate in Thursday's first qualifying session due to continued repairs on the No. 33 HPD ARX-03b. Returning to the course for the final two-hour qualifying session, Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Luis Diaz were unable to improve upon Bouchut's quick lap from Wednesday, a 3:42.224. The team will start 13th in class.
"I felt a lot better with the car and the track," Le Mans rookie Diaz said. "I'm just taking it time by time because it's a very dangerous track. I think we have a good car. We need to make a couple adjustments for the race, but I think we'll be in good shape and as long as we keep working like this it will be good."
Running in the "New Technology" category, the Nissan DeltaWing will make its race debut from 29th overall. The Highcroft Racing entry did not improve on its Wednesday qualifying lap of 3:42.612.
The No. 1 Audi R18 E-Tron Quattro improved on its provisional pole time to retain the overall pole for today's race. Andre Lotterer clocked a 3:23.787 in the final qualifying session to secure the spot. The German will shares driving duties with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler. The trio won last year's race.
The front row will be all Audi, with the No. 3 Audi R18 qualifying second at the hands of Loic Duval.
Today's race begins at 9 a.m. and SPEED network will begin its coverage at 8:30 a.m.