Le Mans »

'Rocky' comes out fighting to give Audi early edge

Defending Le Mans 24 Hours race-winner Mike 'Rocky' Rockenfeller has started as he means to go on in practice for the 2011 edition of the La Sarthe classic - by putting Audi on top of the timesheets
Audi drew first blood in the opening practice session for this weekend's 2011 Le Mans 24 Hours – the 79th edition of the round-the-clock La Sarthe classic – as defending race-winner Mike Rockenfeller put the #1 Audi Sport Team Joest R18 TDi at the top of the timesheets...but there was, in truth, little to choose between the German manufacturer and fellow powerhouse Peugeot.

'Rocky' became the first driver to dip beneath the 3m28s barrier in the four-hour session's dying moments, joining team-mate André Lotterer in breaking the erstwhile Peugeot hegemony at the head of the timing screens, with the two countrymen separated by just over three tenths of a second.

Local hero Sébastien Bourdais ultimately led the Peugeot charge in third – albeit half-a-second adrift of Rockenfeller's late flyer – with Alex Wurz putting the #7 908 fourth, narrowly ahead of Allan McNish in the third of the works Audis. The leading five cars all concluded the session blanketed by less than three-quarters of a second. The all-French #8 Peugeot wound up sixth, with the early pace-setting Oreca Peugeot seventh.

The first of the petrol entries – the #16 Pescarolo – was almost five seconds further in arrears still in eighth, making something of a mockery of the ACO's recent engine-equalisation regulations, with the Rebellion Racing Lola and the best-placed of the two Oak Racing machines rounding out the top ten. The two factory Aston Martin Racing AMR-Ones, meanwhile, languished in the region of 20 seconds shy of the outright pace, down in 21st and 24th places.

Strakka Racing set the pace in LMP2 – placing 15th overall – ahead of the Nissan-powered Team Oreca Matmut entry. LM GTE Pro was an all-BMW affair up at the front, the Augusto Farfus/Jörg Müller/Dirk Werner car pipping the sister machine piloted by Andy Priaulx/Dirk Müller/Joey Hand by just under four tenths of a second. Initial LM GTE Am honours went the way of the Gulf AMR Middle East Aston Martin Vantage.

The major drama of the session was suffered by Raymond Narac at the wheel of the #76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, when – just over an hour into practice – the Frenchman went off at the Porsche Curves and backed the LM GTE Pro car heavily into the tyre barriers, leaving debris strewn across the track and bringing out the red flag.

There were other – albeit far less serious – issues for the Proton Competition Porsche 997 GT3 RSR, which Horst Felbermayr Jnr beached in the gravel trap with just over 20 minutes to go, whilst a rubbing tyre on Oliver Gavin's Corvette was the catalyst for brief flames beneath the wheel arch of the LM GTE Pro machine. There were punctures, finally, for the #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari, #71 AF Corse Ferrari and #79 Jota Aston Martin.

The first two-hour qualifying session will get underway at 10pm local time (9pm BST), but in the meantime, to see the full list of practice times, click here

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
P. Lamy / S. Bourdais / S. Pagenaud Peugeot 908
P. Lamy / S. Bourdais / S. Pagenaud Peugeot 908
Fassler/Treluyer/Lotterer Audi R18 TDI
Fassler/Treluyer/Lotterer Audi R18 TDI
T. Bernhard / R. Dumas / M. Rockenfeller Audi R18 TDI
Bernhard/Dumas/Rockenfeller. Audi R18 TDI. Le Mans test day 2011 [Pic credit: Audi]
Nissan GT-R LM NISMO, Le Mans 24 Hours [Credit: Nissan]
Nico Hulkenberg - Porsche
Gustavo Yacaman G-Drive Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan
Alexander Wurz Toyota Racing Toyota TS040 Hybrid
Race Start, Timo Bernhard / Mark Webber / Brendon Hartley Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid leads
Mark Webber Porsche Team Porsche 919 Hybrid
Oliver Webb Team Sard Morand Morgan Evo SARD
Benoit Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Benoit Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Benoit Treluyer Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Harry Tincknell Jota Sport Gibson 015S Nissan
Harry Tincknell Jota Sport Gibson 015S Nissan

Start the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.

© 1999 - 2015 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.