Tom Kristensen topped the times for Audi on Sunday, as the new Audi R18 TDI enjoyed a successful public at the Le Mans 24 test day.
Almost 25,000 spectators flocked to the circuit to get a preview for the 2011 endurance classic, which will take place in seven weeks time. In the end Kristensen was quickest in the #3 Audi R18, he will share with Dindo Capello and Allan McNish, his best lap a 3 minute 27.687 seconds, just under 8 seconds slower than last year's pole.
“It was perfect for the whole team to complete the test day with the new car,” said the eight-time Le Mans 24-Hours winner. “For me it was the first time since 2003 that I've sat in a Coupe. The efficiency and the work of Audi have really impressed me. You can really feel the aerodynamics and the car is very comfortable. Already now we have gathered valuable information.
“As a driver, I very much appreciate the six-speed gearbox. It fits well to the engine with its down-sized cubic capacity.”
“We have found a good base set-up,” McNish added. “Admittedly the circuit will change between now and June. But we have found a good starting point and a good confidence level. The chassis has been pretty consistent, the tyres have been very good. We are on target but until we get to the race in June we are not going to see what everybody has got.”
“We have worked very well for eight hours without a single problem,” Capello chipped-in. “We have completed every aspect of our plan. We have learned many small things which will help us again in the next test. This was really very, very positive.”
Mike Rockenfeller meanwhile was second quickest in the #1 Audi R18, less than two tenths slower on a 3m 27.815s: “It is great to come back to Le Mans after last year's success. It's nice that a pre-test is back and that we have the chance to test the Audi R18 TDI,” he continued. “For a driver, it's also about getting used to the track again. It is fantastic to have this feeling of the speed through the fast corners. For us it was a good day. We've generated much data. This will be analysed to improve further. Then we should be well-prepared for the race.”
Stéphane Sarrazin meanwhile denied Audi a perfect 1-2-3 sweep and put in a stunning lap – a 3m 27.876s effort - to go third in the dying seconds to show the potential of the new Peugeot 308, just two thousandths up on the #2 Audi R18 TDI of Marcel Fässler, André Lotterer, and Benoît Tréluyer.
The first of the petrol-engined cars was the #16 Pescarolo-Judd driven by Emmanuel Collard in eighth – his quickest time a 3m 36.583s.
The form of the Aston Martin AMR-ONES was deeply disappointing. Indeed the two cars did just twelve laps between them due to engine problems.
In the LMP2 class, Franck Mailleux at the wheel of the #26 Signatech Nissan led the way on a 3m 42.992s (13th overall), while in the GTE Pro category the Hankook-Farnbacher Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Allan Simonsen was best on a 3m 59.966s (30th overall).
“We prepared a comprehensive test program for all three cars. The weather conditions allowed us to complete all our schedules and we have achieved very good results,” summed-up Audi boss, Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. “I think that we can put that to very good use in the Le Mans race.
“It was important to do a lot of kilometres here with the all-new car before the race weekend in June comes up."