Loic Duval said he was delighted to secure his first pole position at the Circuit de la Sarthe after mainting his place at the head of the field following final qualifying for the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The 31-year-old had set the best time for the #2 Audi R18 e-tron Quattro in the early stages of the opening qualifying session on Wednesday evening, dipping below the benchmark time set to secure pole for the race twelve months earlier.
Despite a further four hours of qualifying then following on Thursday, a combination of red flags and poor weather conditions ensured that Duval's time would remain unbeaten to put the car he will share with Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish at the head of the 56 car field.
“Yesterday's lap time was enough to defend the pole position,” Duval said following Thursday's final session. “That's why we scored a Championship point that may be decisive at the end of the year. It's always better to start from the pole position even though that doesn't really mean a lot at such a long race. Still, we're happy about the top spot on the grid.
“Yesterday, we weren't completely satisfied with the balance of our cars yet, but today the set-up was much better. As the track at the end was faster today than it was yesterday I was a bit worried that we might still lose the pole position. But in the end, we made it. Everything went according to plan. That's why we're very happy with the result.”
The #1 Audi of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler will start from second on the grid after Lotterer was able to improve in the final 20 minutes of qualifying to move from third on the grid onto the front row.
“A brilliant result for the whole team,” he said. “I'm personally very pleased too because we improved by another position. But more important was the fact that our Audi felt quite a bit better than yesterday. I didn't expect us to have such a speed even on used tires. We'd saved the new ones for Ben because we were hoping for the track to dry off some more. Our second place is a superb starting base for the race.”
With the #3 car completing an Audi lock-out of the top three places, team boss Wolfgang Ullrich said he was delighted with the qualifying performance, with the team now seeking to drive home its advantage on race day.
“This is a nice way to start the weekend,” he said. “Especially as all three cars set their fastest times during the normal preparation for the race. This is what we concentrated on in all the practice sessions so that all the drivers would be one-hundred-percent happy with the car. The first three positions on the grid are a nice reward for the whole team but, as always at Le Mans, not really crucial.”