Peugeot ensured it was a case of 'business as usual' on its return to the Le Mans Series after locking out the front row of the grid for the second round of the year at Spa.
Having elected against a full season campaign this year as it focuses on fighting for victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours, the French team made the decision to enter the Spa race as part of its preparations for La Sarthe – running a pair of cars as opposed to the three initially planned.
Despite the focus being on Le Mans preparations as opposed to fighting all out for victory, it was still the two factory 908 HDis that will line-up on the front row, with newcomer Simon Pagenaud – who will drive the Pescarolo-entered 908 at Le Mans – posting a quickest time of 2min 01.056secs at the wheel of the #7 car to edge out Alex Wurz in the sister car by just 0.026secs.
“We did a good job with the team and the car is just incredible to drive,” Pagenaud said. “I went as fast as I could, but it wasn't that straightforward: we only did one timed lap and, even though I tried to make sure I got a clear lap, I was still held up by an LMP2 car. After testing the car at Le Castellet a few days ago, and driving it here, I think I've got to grips with the car. It's an amazing machine, although I'm still getting used to having a windscreen, which slightly interrupts my vision.”
Team boss Olivier Quesnel was pleased to see his two cars out front, although he reiterated the fact that the aim is to collect information and prepare for Le Mans.
“I'm satisfied with our positions – but more so with the way we achieved them,” he said. “I never doubted we'd set the fastest times, but I was delighted with the team's rigour and professionalism. Our priority tomorrow is to look after the cars and give the team practice in race conditions, particularly in terms of refuelling and tyre changes. We may not start with the same settings on both cars. Our main objective is to prepare for Le Mans and to give our drivers equal mileage in the car.
“We also wanted to prepare our reserve driver, Simon Pagenaud. He did a good job, settled in well and adapted to the car. We're on track and, if we have a chance to win, we'll take it. But I want to stress that we won't be taking any unnecessary risks. We don't, in any circumstances, want to build another car before Le Mans.”
Behind the diesels, it was Aston Martin Racing who emerged as quickest of the petrol runners, with Darren Turner posting the third quickest time at the wheel of the #009 – albeit nearly a second and a half behind the diesels.
It was however a mixed session for the team as the sister Lola-Aston Martin will be forced to start from the back of the field after technical issues led to the car stopping on track on its out lap.